Making Powerful Brands: Congruence in Branding
I think a key aspect of developing branding for a product that is often missed is starting with “WHY”. Too many start with the what then attempt to retrofit the design to create meaning for the brand rather than have the design come from a meaning which is well understood. The result of starting with “what” is a less impactful brand and / or a brand that is incongruent with the characteristics of the product or brand that they communicate. Check out Simon Sinek’s “How great leaders inspire” on you tube for a more detailed perspective of what i am talking about.
Congruence ultimately comes down to a fit in between the values of the company and / or product and the identity of the brand. Think of the brand as a person. For example, would you buy organic food from a chemical shop that also had poisons for sale? Possibly, but if you care for organics, probably not. Surprisingly there are examples where these businesses operate, but they are seldom brand leaders. This is because where there is a conflict in the values of a company or product and the brand, the people who aspire to or associate with what the brand represents become confused, or are put off because it conflicts with their own values. The result commonly is less favourable brand association and at its worst the person will experience a negative feeling when they think about the company or product brand.
This idea of congruence transfers down to subtler levels. I’m a big proponent of the brand advocate “living the brand” as seen in examples such as Virgin where Richard Branson does a heap of crazy fun stunts that are values most would perceive as being congruent with the Virgin brand. This is particularly important for small businesses in wholesale or service industries as it is often the case that the company owner is also the primary sales person in the company, the person who directly engages the end user. In larger companies or where there is an intermediary, there is a different set of challenges that can present themselves (e.g. Is the brand of the place where you sell your product complementary to your product’s brand positioning?).
Knowing yourself, knowing your customer and developing a brand and product offering that has consistent values is in my judgement critical to creating distinctive and powerful brand. Start with the “why”, then “how”, then finally ask that “what”. If you’ve got some time spare, try this exercise: Set your brand up on a date!
Here are the rules:
- * You can’t change the customer, only choose your ideal customer
- * You can create a product and brand to your liking
- * You have to convey the positive elements of your brand to the customer as if it were an internet date before they agree to meeting you.
- * The customer is educated, knows who they are and what they like. They can tell if you are a dodgy person trying to be someone that you are not.
So: Who is your brand? What are your brands values? What do they value most? Family? Integrity? Adventure or Fun? What are you brands characteristics? Is your brand masculine or feminine? Intellectual? Youthful? Reliable or organised? What does your brand look like? What do they wear? Colours? Cool or trendy? Nerdy? Blokey? Refined? Think of a person or celebrity that you would choose as a brand ambassador to best reflect who your band is.
Then having said all that, does what you have described fit with the personal preferences of the customer? Do your answers reflect who you are? Ask a friend and a stranger (be prepared to get some potentially challenging feedback). The greater the congruence between what the customer wants, what you offer and who you are, the greater the efficacy of your brand.
The essence of congruence: Don’t try to make yourself or your brand out to be something that you are not. Try to really understand and get feedback from people out side your circles, first impressions, about who you are and what you represent. Discover the best you, make changes as necessary to best communicate and refine the true essence of your brand and then reflect this as accurately as possible in all elements of your brands appearance and communication. Remember, don’t be afraid to stand for something - attempting to please everyone pleases few.
Happy brand building.
By Nathan Wakeford, Managing Director, Somage Fine Foods.