Craft your brand to drive business success

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.

Consumers are brand curators in this integrated, experiential, social screen age. What are the questions brand owners need to be asking, and to whom?

The sheer number and complexity of meanings assigned to the word 'brand' is a modern marketing dilemma. Add to this consumer expectation of the role we expect brands to play in our lives, and how we want them to behave, and you’ll hear dissension in the ranks.

As consumers, we presume brands will transcend the purpose for which they were originally designed to satisfy. ‘Presume’ is the operative word here. As marketers, we set out excited about the opportunities, yet often face difficulty clarifying the real needs of a brand by neglecting to ask the right questions to steer effective communication and implementation.

Typical consumer expectation of Brand X reads as follows: 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.

Our lives are not dissimilar to the French animated short film, Logorama , which uses no less than 2,500 logos to show the extent to which brands are embedded in our existence. Logorama is of course a visual hyperbole of our daily branded lives, yet frighteningly realistic. On viewing this film you realise our relationship with any of these brands rests almost exclusively on consumer action and direct experience.

At this juncture, I could say a beautifully crafted brand identity is fundamental to your business and that great brand design, driven by savvy brand management, can ultimately translate to profitability. This would in fact be true, but it would also be a grotesque simplification of the business of brand design, the business problems it can address and how it goes about doing so. While Logorama portrays a world of brand saturation in a clever satirical context, the intricacies of brand communications that we as branding professionals and marketers find as our source of interest and inspiration, are all but invisible here.

Actively remaining informed and deciphering the myriad roles involved in the marketing of brands may be daunting. Online, offline, social, traditional, earned and bought media – all these should be considered as vehicles for your brand communications. Channel selection based on relevance, efficiency, engagement and receptivity should also be carefully and strategically considered by your creative partners.

Understanding who you need to be talking to about the challenge you’re facing at a certain stage of your brand’s lifecycle is no longer just the remit of your brand management team but needs to be the daily concern of your CMO, CFO and most importantly, the CEO.

Marketers facing a brand challenge need to be asking themselves this: What do we need to do to make people want to engage with our brand? Now that we know what people want, how do we build this desire into the face of the business, our corporate identity, or for that matter other expressions of the brand? What is the single most defining idea about your brand that can carry all brand marketing communications?

Let’s agree a strong brand identity is anchored in the commercial requisite for brands to have a face, and preferably, one that we like to look at. Indeed, a brand’s identity is the most resilient and consistent component of its intangible assets that builds equity over time. It is for this very reason that a corporate rebrand can be credited as contributing to overall brand value.

Brand valuation surveys, while somewhat controversial among finance guys, are an interesting metric of brand success.

Each year, Brand Finance, the world’s leading brand valuation consultancy, publishes a series of league tables valuing brands by country and in a global context. In The most valuable Australian brands of 2013, Woolworths sits very comfortably in the #1 spot with a brand valuation of $US8.75 billion ($8.9bn). BHP Billiton sits at #2 valued at $US6.47bn ($6.5bn) bumping Telstra and Coles to #3 and #4 spot with $6.19bn and $6bn respectively.

In a major coup for the brand and design industry, which is predominantly responsible for brand creation, the managing director of Brand Finance, Tim Heberden, said in a statement last year: “The brand valuation process takes account of financial performances and brand strength. Visual identity is one of the brand attributes that is considered – and is an area where Woolworths performed strongly."

While Hulsbosch cannot claim all the credit, we redesigned the Woolworths brand, an identity that had remained untouched for 21 years, and are immensely proud of the rebrand delivered for this client in 2008. The new brand communicates a strong commitment to fresh food, convenience and customer value under the banner ‘Australia’s fresh food people’. It was rolled out across 1000 supermarkets in Australia and New Zealand with executions across community, signage, packaging, communications, sub-brands, liveries and customer/supplier engagement.

The beauty of the Woolworths brand identity is its ability to remain relevant and fresh over time. As a brand evolves and matures along with its product or service offer, its identity should be able to persuasively communicate the sum of all internal and external stakeholder experiences. Or putting it another way, it should be an emotional trigger of all the direct experiences a consumer has of your brand.

Therein lies the importance of a brand behaving and responding to consumers in appropriate and relevant ways. The resilience and power of a brand identity is embodied in its ability to convey the same language and behaviour that the brand acts out. It’s a two-way street and one all marketers need to walk both sides of.

Note: Logorama is a 16-minutes animated film written and directed by H5/Francois Alaux Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain, and produced by Autour de Minuit. It won the Prix Kodak at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 82nd Academy Awards.

Tags: brand insights

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