This microbook is a summary/original review based on the book: Disruptive Branding: How to Win in Times of Change
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In the words of late great brand expert Wally Olins, not that long ago, brands were nothing more but symbols of product consistency and barely existed outside of packaging. Nowadays, however, in addition to expressing standardized quality, brands express “the authenticity, the relevance and differentiation of entire organizations.”
In “Disruptive Branding,” Jacob Benbunan, Gabor Schreier and Benjamin Knapp – three high-level employees of Saffron Brand Consultants – demonstrate the importance of brands in a rapidly changing business climate and offer guidance on how to define and design powerful brand experiences. So, get ready to learn why brands matter and how to make your brand work!
The first SIM card was developed in Germany in 1991. Three decades later, there are more SIM cards on the planet than people. There can be no better proof of the fact that modern technology is changing the world at breakneck speed. It’s not just that brands face oblivion if they cannot keep up with the pace, it’s also that brands are likely to be disrupted if they are not willing to become disruptors themselves.
“We are at the dawn of a world where all points converge: digital into physical, consumer into producer, global into local,” write Benbunan, Schreier and Knapp. There are two ways for modern brands to navigate these changes – either by embracing them or being their instigator. Either way, they must be “authentic, relevant and differentiating,” and must consider each of the three most important modern convergences:
In today’s competitive world, it is not enough to have an incredible product, world-class customer service, a professionally designed website and a well-oiled supply chain. If you want to really stand out, you need to amalgamate all of these things into a compelling and inspiring narrative and deploy this narrative across the large number of touchpoints your employees and prosumers have with your brand. To do this, you need a brand strategy.
A brand strategy, the authors say, is “an articulation of what a company does particularly well, how it goes about doing it and why it is different to all other companies that do the same or something similar.” This third question – why – is the most important one and should be discussed first. It must lead to the formulation of the brand idea, namely, the “short, clear and compelling narrative that sets forth what makes [your] brand authentic, relevant and different.” Defining a brand idea involves four steps: asking your employees to identify your company’s strength, listening to what others are saying about your brand, thinking through the collected information, and refining the initial brand idea through tests and surveys.
The brand idea should inspire the creation of a list of brand values – that is, truths that express how the company behaves and what it believes in. Consequently, these values must communicate a holistic worldview, simultaneously delimiting the expectations of your customers and steering the behavior of your employees. Like the values a person might have, brand values should be recognizable, differentiating and long-lasting.
The third and final element of brand strategy is the brand personality, which codifies the traits that govern your brand’s communications. The brand personality is the answer to the question what and expresses what your brand is like and what kind of tone and imagery it uses. Are you a serious and conservative company? Or are you a light-hearted and modern brand? This is one of the things your brand personality should communicate with the rest of the world.
Once you’ve defined your brand strategy, it’s time to bring it to life through design. Without making your brand idea visual, no matter how inspirational it might be, it will struggle to clearly communicate the benefits it brings in an engaging way. Only good design can convey good brand messages and define a distinctive brand identity.
Design, write Benbunan, Schreier and Knapp, is “much more than a logo: it is a toolkit of elements, rules and behavior that govern typeface, colors, motion, use of photography and more.” Neglecting these aspects can leave your company vulnerable to disruption; conversely, paying attention to them can turn you into an unlikely disruptor.
Take, for example, British digital-only bank Monzo. Thanks to countless weekly user-testing sessions with customers and an online feedback-gathering forum, it was able to come up with a clean, sleek and intuitive user interface that immediately differentiated it from the competition. As a result, it currently has millions of customers. Owing to this success, traditional high-street banks have recently started redesigning their old, clunky apps. They were forced by Monzo to pay more attention to the convergence of the digital and the physical.
The creative process of making your brand strategy visible can be articulated in the following four phases:
Everything brand-related begins inside your company. That’s why internal engagement is essential to making your brand last. In the words of the authors, “Brand should be a concern for every single member of your organization. Even better, the needs and desires of your employees should be represented in your brand’s strategy.”
To engage your staff with your brand, you must make a concerted effort in the form of an Engagement Program, your “long-term effort to introduce the brand, familiarize staff with it and permanently influence their behavior.” These are just a few hallmarks of an effective Engagement Program:
According to Benbunan, Schreier and Knapp, “brand is the promise of an experience – delivered.” Whether we want to or not, every time we are exposed to a certain brand, the experience leaves a lasting impression on our mind. We don’t even need to be a customer. For example, even if you’ve never bought an Apple product, you’ve certainly experienced the company’s brand strategy, just by browsing the internet or passing by an Apple store.
When designing a brand experience, your brand idea should be your guiding principle. However, designing great experience means considering many other components as well, including business strategy, brand uniqueness and brand touchpoints. Allow us to put the emphasis on the verb “designing” here: brand experience is usually a trial-and-error process before it becomes an identifiable message.
Brand experience can be focused around product, behaviors, customer service, environments or systems. In the most successful examples, it is a combination of all five. To design the perfect brand experience, follow these four steps:
“Disruptive Branding” is a well-researched, well-written and excellently structured guide to both surviving the digital revolution and leaving a mark. As of 2020, it is the final word on the subject of branding.
Your brand should be much more than a logo. It must differentiate you, be authentic, relevant, and express your ideas, values and personality through design, engagement and experiences.
Jacob Benbunan is a British brand expert, the co-founder (with the late Wally Olins) of Saffron Brand Consultants. He is also the company’s c... (Read more)
Gabor Schreier is the chief creative officer at Saffron. He created identities for Daimler and Smart before consolidating Saffron into a leading... (Read more)
Benjamin Knapp is the chief growth officer at Saffron, responsible for corporate strategy, service development,... (Read more)
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