Avoiding brand babble

Hans Hulsbosch

Hans Hulsbosch is one of Australia’s most influential brand designers and the executive creative director at Hulsbosch – Communication by Design. Over the past 31 years, he has been involved in national rebranding and repositioning projects for Woolworths, Virgin Australia, Masters Home Improvement and national sports retailer, Rebel.

It’s not uncommon for brand discussions to veer towards murky digital territory where insights, research, analytics and data are assumed to be the salvation to all things brand.

As a corporate brand designer immersed in the branding issues and challenges faced by big business, I believe respite from the complexity of brand communications could be unravelled by talking to someone who actually creates brands as their day job.

We all know the deal. Identify the single most defining idea about your brand that has the weight to carry all marketing communications across select channels and in all manner of executions, with absolute conviction.

However, those of us in brand design also know getting to this point requires that ‘lightbulb moment’, propped and supported by strategy, insights and delivery. Add the intricacies of the consumer-brand relationship to the mix, and a desire for brands to expand into new territories, and it’s not surprising why so many brands go off the rails.

Today, marketers expect consumers to embrace brands in ways never previously considered. Meanwhile, consumers expect brands to transcend the purpose for which they were originally designed to satisfy. These consumer-brand relationships also morph along the way, each offering differing frequencies and types of interaction depending on the category. This brand game ain’t easy.

Consumer A writes a brief to Brand X: Stay true to your brand promises and values, demonstrate authenticity, engage with us emotionally, be environmentally sound, conduct your business with ethical and social accountability, and ensure you subscribe to a level of philanthropy to prove you really care. It’s a lot to take on yet there are plenty of brands out there firing on all cylinders.

So how then does a food brand step outside its core focus and successfully launch a range of clothing? How can a lifestyle brand rationalise expansion into solar power invertors and tankless water heaters?

The answer quite simply is this: As long as brand owners conduct their business with integrity, and stay true to their values, personality and code of ethics, then they can be as commercially creative as they damn well want. Just be clear on the above with some brand advice close by, before you start to stretch.

Marketers should be mindful of the leverage a brand stretch can give to brand engagement. If your brand can successfully preserve its values and truths from one embodiment to the next (such as from a hotdog purchase to a YouTube video), you give consumers sustained access to the brand experience across multiple and market relevant channels.

But take note: There’s a fine line between clever creative and brand dissolution.

Harley Davidson does it well; Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike and Apple are other strong examples of brands that have stuck to their core values and maintained integrity while expanding their creativity and product portfolios. Another, perhaps less well known case study, is Chipotle, the Mexican grill chain in the US, with 1,458 burritos restaurants across the country and a further 165 openings scheduled this year.

Chipotle (pron. Chee-POAT-lay) is on track to becoming a lifestyle brand as it moves into selling organic clothing and accessories for men, women, children and everyone in between.

The Chipotle brand case study offers marketers some common sense well worth listening to. The brand has remained true to its original intent of providing great products that use quality ingredients, evolving to offer the same promise across a sustainable fashion range. Its partnership with eco-fashion brand, Loomstate, works because Chipotle has identified a category that offers relevance and synergy to its target market, and its management team understands and actually practices what it preaches by empowering staff.

While Chipotle has cleverly married its dream to create the perfect burrito with a partner in sustainable fashion, what's even more telling is management’s loyalty to the brand’s value system and how this translates to recognition of its own people, and then how that internal brand engagement plays out externally.

And herein lies the morale of the story. When brands know what they’re trying to achieve from the outset, and have strategically defined who they are and to whom they’re talking, only then can they communicate their values cohesively, and act out their brand visions genuinely. Never stop asking questions along the way.

When they do this, powerful brand statements are made, and both brands and consumers find happiness.

Tags: brand insights

Show Comments

Featured Whitepapers

State of the CMO 2020

CMO’s State of the CMO is an annual industry research initiative aimed at understanding how ...

More whitepapers

Latest Videos

Conversations over a cuppa with CMO: Microsoft's Pip Arthur

​In this latest episode of our conversations over a cuppa with CMO, we catch up with the delightful Pip Arthur, Microsoft Australia's chief marketing officer and communications director, to talk about thinking differently, delivering on B2B connection in the crisis, brand purpose and marketing transformation.

More Videos

Dear buyer/ buyer Mandate,We are direct end seller refinery company for the supply of Petroleum products.We have all available in tank, J...

Russian oil & gas trading llc

Starwood VP of marketing: Managing customer expectations requires emotional credit

Read more

Having an effective Point of Sale system implemented in your retail store can streamline the transactions and data management activities....

Sheetal Kamble

​Jurlique’s move to mobile POS set to enhance customer experience

Read more

Thanks for another excellent post. Where else could anybody get that type of info in such an ideal way of writing? In my opinion, my seek...

Stephan jordan

6 Mobile Marketing Trends to Leverage in 2014

Read more

Hey there! Very interesting article, thank you for your input! I found particularly interesting the part where you mentioned that certain...

Martin Valovič

Companies don’t have policies to disrupt traditional business models: Forrester’s McQuivey

Read more

I too am regularly surprised at how little care a large swathe of consumers take over the sharing and use of their personal data. As a m...

Catherine Stenson

Have customers really changed? - Marketing edge - CMO Australia

Read more

Blog Posts

Highlights of 2020 deliver necessity for Circular Economies

The lessons emerging from a year like 2020 are what make the highlights, not necessarily what we gained. One of these is renewed emphasis on sustainability, and by this, I mean complete circular sustainability.

Katja Forbes

Managing director of Designit, Australia and New Zealand

Have customers really changed?

The past 12 months have been a confronting time for marketers, with each week seemingly bringing a new challenge. Some of the more notable impacts have been customer-centric, driven by shifting priorities, new consumption habits and expectation transfer.

Emilie Tan

Marketing strategist, Alpha Digital

Cultivating engaging content in Account-based Marketing (ABM)

ABM has been the buzzword in digital marketing for a while now, but I feel many companies are yet to really harness its power. The most important elements of ABM are to: Identify the right accounts; listen to these tracked accounts; and hyper-personalise your content to these accounts to truly engage them. It’s this third step where most companies struggle.

Joana Inch

Co-founder and head of digital, Hat Media Australia

Sign in