Branding, both professionally and personally, has engrained itself as one of the most important aspects of all marketing and sales. If you do not think it has had an impact on your decision to buy something, then it has done its job successfully.
In some aspects, perfect branding is similar to CGI effects in your favourite superhero film: if you don’t notice it, it has done its job and fulfilled its intentions. That is, once you click on the link that says ‘buy now.’
Who Am I To Know?
This is an element in my career that I seem to be faced with at the moment. Creating a brand name, logo, reputation, and credibility, is something I do for a living. However, we all do it in our lives. Whether we brand ourselves as competent in a job interview, or appear more confident than we actually are on our first blind date. We build to establish a tone and style for a company — in the hope that one day, we can all sit back and watch the reputation take care of itself.
To some extent, I have never stopped branding myself and my work. As a journalist, I wrote copy and headlines that caused my readers to click on my link. When I crossed the picket-fence into PR — much to the horror of my journalist friends! — my motives changed to branding companies instead of personal stories from local communities. A brief interlude in film allowed me to experience this phenomenon in the trailers, posters, and Q&As I would deliver. I cared about my story — how was I going to show it to my audience?
This question keeps me up at night. As a content manager, I am hired by companies who want answers to this exact question. What I tell them depends on the direction they want their company to take. More often than not, I enter at a time when rebranding, either a company or individual, remains the top priority for the future of said client. This has always been an incredibly exciting time for me. However, with excitement comes nerves, and with nerves come doubt. Doubt, of course, is an unwanted guest at every dinner party, the worst passenger during every car journey. Doubt can defeat instinct and team up with conformity for dreadful results. I am there to keep it at bay and direct teams to their rightful place and create the brand a company wants.
Apple vs. Uber — Branding at its best.
There are two examples that immediately spring to mind, and two companies that have monopolised many hours of my conversations about this matter: Apple and Uber. One company, around for 30 years and once almost faced complete bankruptcy; the other, a small start-up which quickly revolutionised the transport industry.
They appeal to me because their brand intentions can be considered polar opposites of each other. Apple tells you they are different: utopian, creative, unique, and glamourous. With the release of the iPhone 7, they no longer need to convince the millions of people to buy their product. Whether we can afford it or not, and whether it is against our own interests or not, there is a large majority of us who will be saying goodbye to our headphone jacks because a corporation told us to. We want to belong to that gang, after all. We want the glitz and glam that comes with their brand. We will compromise our wallets and sacrifice a superior phone to do it.
Uber, on the other hand, took a different approach. They are a cab service. In effect, they do not promise to sell and provide anything other than a car prepared to pick you up and take you somewhere — for less than the conventional cab services that preceded them. For Uber, their brand is practical; convenient and fast. The majority of us don’t care if the car is black or blue, red or green; we want it quickly, and we want to think as little as possible about it. Unlike Apple, it is a completely transient experience.
I find this fascinating. The stark differences between two such successful companies are conveying vastly different lifestyles. Utopian vs conventional, stylish vs practical. What do we, the consumer, prefer?
It may not be convenient, but not every company wants that. And that’s what gets me in the office every day.