In the Age of Sensory Overload, How Can Brands Define Their Identity?
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Once upon a time, branding was about an identifiable logo, a name that people can easily recall, and a few product characteristics that stand out. However, over the years, marketers graduated to learn that this was not enough. Today branding is about a spectrum that ranges from visual creation to more intangible things like a brand persona, feelings and emotions that it elicits among consumers. Take brands like Chanel, Nike and Apple. These are brands that have gone beyond their visual identity and are cultural symbols now.
In the day and age of sensory overload from the noise around us offline and online, it is becoming tougher for brands to cut through that noise and present itself in a unique and relatable manner. Indians consume over 1 GB data per day (Nielsen Survey) and this consumption pattern is only set to increase.
Making a Name
How do brands conquer their space and reach out to their consumers in a relevant manner? There is still the old, tried and tested answer. Tell a story that no one has ever heard of and build brands that transcend beyond their tangible qualities and percolate into a cultural/social identity. Let us take the example of a cup of coffee. There are thousands of brands that serve coffee, variants remain more or less the same, then what is different? The answer is the story that each brand tells about it. Consumers may like to know how coffee moves from plantation to their cup, or what gives their coffee their favourite aroma, or maybe how coffee can create memories (remember that one special date over coffee).
We all remember the recent Game of Thrones coffee cup faux pas, and while the coffee wasn’t even from Starbucks, the incident garnered over $2 billion in free advertising. That is the power of building brands that transcend to become cultural icons.
Similarly, characters from the Marvel Cinematic Universe are brands in themselves (Avengers Endgame is potentially one of the largest films revenue-wise, in the history of mankind) They have their own stories, their own persona and looks which has made them attractive amongst their target group, and audiences in general. Care to think if these individual stories were missing, would Avengers be a success? These stories were crafted by getting the right blend of sensory stimulation (even a pinch here or there would have spoiled the recipe). The same analogy applies to any brand around us.
It’s an Ongoing Process
In the age of sensory overload, branding becomes a constant exercise to tell and retell your story and is relevant because there is more competition than ever and each company has to maintain its brand identity and grow its audience base. The idea is not just generating more sales or customers, but create a follower base for your brand. It is like creating a movement, passion for your name and make them entrusted. Such a movement only starts when an organisation is true to its brand ideals and is genuine with their customers.
We see only a few brands cut through the clutter and become iconic. Whether you sell coffee or smartphones, if you would like people to resonate with your brand, you need to connect and communicate. Branding is not just about telling your story anymore. Today’s consumer a myriad variety of products to choose from as well as the most accurate information available at their fingertips. Effective branding includes understanding their needs, genuine communication and making them feel valued, which results in you gaining strong mindshare and loyalty amongst customers, even if you are a premium brand. You may think that you are investing a lot of resources to sustain your brand, but the returns are equally or more noteworthy and add catalytic value to your balance sheet. It is a way to not just win over your customer and stakeholders but also your employees, who feel motivated and proud to be associated with your brand! This is the reason we all to aspire to work at brands like Google or Apple.
The ultimate goal of a brand strategy today is to make your valued customers your brand custodians, who believe in its vision. Effective branding today should be thought on the lines of a cultural or a socio-political movement (although leave the hardcore politics behind, of course). Revenues and sales are just one aspect; a brand will live on even if the products outlive themselves.