Branding for Board-level brand virgins

On one of our big projects in financial services we were struggling to get board level approval to some of the brand strategy work. On discussing this with the project team the scary conclusion was…that this was because they didn’t know what the hell we were talking about when we said "brand". If they got it all, they thought we were talking about a new logo. I know.  Amazing. But true.

So, I pulled together a short presentation on what it means to be brand-led, drawing on some of the posts from WTS? over the last 6 months. Far from exhaustive and apologies but I ended up with one of those bloody acronym type things: the "5 C’s". The overview and the first 2 C’s on cut-through and customer focus are here. The final 3 C’s follow in the next post.

Overall: branding is about changing your business, not just your logo
First thing to clarify off the bat. Summed up with the contrasting examples of 2 banks: Abbey, who have changed logos 4 times in about as many years; and 1st Direct who created the first telephone bank and have continued to invest in service and innovation (e.g. texts to your phone to warn you if you’re going to go over-drawn.)

I know, I know this is soooo basic. But go out of the FMCG world into financial services, IT and telecoms and you’ll be amazed how many companies are coming out of the cave and squinting in the light of branding. Many of these businesses are still technology-led, and just embedding the principles of customer insight is a big step.

Tesco are a good example of being obsessed with customer understanding to drive wave after wave of innovation. They use a mix of in-store assignments for senior managers, qualitative research and mining of their monster Clubcard data-base.

Again, pretty damn obvious (spot a theme here…). But it is shocking in how many markets brands morph into a big blob by adopting the same "codes" (visual imagery, language, symbols etc.). Its cheeky, but I can’t resist showing the example of two brands who should know better: brand identity agencies Landor and Interbrand:

The red used is a bit different, but isn’t that exactly the same typeface?!

Being brave to break some of the market codes allows you to get a much better bang for your branding buck. You’re probably fed up with hearing about the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. Then there’s my other fave the Geek Squad. A more modest example is UK cat food brand Felix. Using a cheeky cartoon character on the pack and in communication helped them differentiate vs. dominant market leader Whiskas, who used perfect, preened real-life cats and a heavy-sell message of "9 out of 10 owners said their cats preferred it". Felix achieved 2-3 times more growth per GRP of media investment, and was able to grow share from 6% to 26% and eventually take market leadership from Whiskas.

The last 3 c’s in the next post.