Building a strong, successful brand isn’t simply about creating a badge, it’s about creating an emotional connection.
Many people think of Elmwood as experts in retail and FMCG branding and design. Yet over the past 25 years we’ve been lucky enough to work with some great brands in the corporate and professional services sector. While we never adopt a ‘one size fits all’ approach, we’ve certainly been able to transfer some tried and tested methods that we’ve developed whilst partnering with major European and global FMCG brands.
Whether you’re a retailer, food brand, sports team, utility company or law firm, the challenge is ultimately the same. How do you engage with consumers in a meaningful and emotional way in order to build ‘brand love’? It’s a basic principle that many people in the corporate world find, well, a bit ‘airy fairy’. However, the fact remains that 80% of purchase decisions are emotional rather than rational. OK, so buying car insurance is a more rational process than choosing your washing powder, but corporate brands disregard matters of the heart at their peril.
Brands like Gordons LLP, SSE and Savills will tell you that, with our help, they have redefined their brands and their relationship with customers by establishing a meaningful emotional bond. This has allowed them to cut through the sea of same-ness that typifies branding and marketing in their respective sectors.
So how do we do it? Well, while there’s certainly no formula for successful brand building, there are 5 key principles that we’ve applied to ensure our clients disrupt the market and challenge the norms of their sector.
Principle 1: Stand for something
Your cause is the cornerstone of everything you do. Think of it as your belief system. When we worked on redefining the Durex brand we changed the entire purpose, from one centered around ‘safe sex’ to one that championed ‘better sex and sexual wellbeing’, thus creating a whole new platform for commercial growth.
Principle 2: Have an authentic attitude
Attitude doesn’t necessarily mean being edgy or combative, but it does mean having a distinct voice. A classic example is Nike’s ‘Just do it’ mantra. Closely aligned to its cause, this call to action defined their strident, no nonsense, up-and-at-it approach. We have a saying at Elmwood that ‘attitude equals altitude’. Your behavior and your way of doing things can help you cut through. Competitors can easily copy your products and services, but not your unique and genuine personality.
Gordons LLP, a UK law firm, set us the challenge of setting them apart amidst a sea-of-sameness. Looking at the legal landscape through the eyes of consumers, it seemed characterised by people who were a cross between Reservoir Dogs and NHS consultants, where function prevailed over emotions and a combative approach was the default position. In short, we needed to turn them from a ‘What’ brand to a ‘Why’ brand and ‘make lawyers more loveable’ The reality was that the Gordons people were warm, human and down to earth – a rarity in the real word of law. This fundamental truth is what we brought to life and their authenticity lay in being people first and lawyers second, having a clear idea of the need for positive relationships, being ‘in it together’ with their clients and having and a genuine aversion to ‘sitting on the legal fence’.
Principle 3: Tell ‘sticky’ stories
Great brands tell stories that are continuous and compelling. Guinness stories have always been compelling, building on their ‘Made of more’ proposition, which cleverly merges the idea of a personal characteristic with a product truth.
Our work with SSE is packed with personal tales about how the business genuinely works hard to do more for its customers. These tales are the proof points that elevate the brand above the competition in a commoditised market. We’ve worked hard to embed these throughout the business, both internally and externally at every customer interaction. Helping every single member of staff to live the brand and do more for customers, whether it’s being extra helpful during a stressful home move or supporting women’s sport through the sponsorship of the women’s FA cup, this is what makes the make the brand memorable and engaging, ultimately engendering greater customer loyalty.
Principle 4: Keep it simple
As Mark Twain famously wrote: “Sorry for the long letter. I would have written you a short one, but I didn’t have the time”. It takes time and effort to really distill your thinking. (It helps having principles 1 & 2 well defined). So we say, be focused, ruthless and single-minded in your approach and your brand design and communications will naturally follow. Goal is the perfect example, and proof that simple design is measurably more effective. The new brand for this football website generated a 54% increase in users to 52 million. Result.
Principle 5: Be disruptive
In every sector, organisations seem to have the instinct to look like everyone else. It’s a particular problem in the corporate and professional services world. Perhaps it’s related to our herd mentality or a fear of looking unprofessional in a world of functional products and serious money. We helped Savills buck the trend and be bold in the featureless landscape of property services. Our film, ad campaigns and retail concepts tell a compelling story about the people and places behind the brand. The uncompromising use of yellow and playful use of language all help Savills to own a unique and challenging position in the market, provoking consumers to reappraise the brand.
As Jerry Garcia of Grateful Dead once said, “It’s no longer good enough to be the best of the best. You need to be the only people who do what you do.”
We ensure all the brands we work with have a distinct point of view on the world. But of course, we don’t expect you to do this on your own. That’s what Fish, our creative thinking operating system, and our brand articulation process is built for.