With more and more companies jockeying for space in a crowded market it seems like “Brand” is the word of the hour.
Companies like Apple show how a strong visual aesthetic coupled with equally strong messaging and a careful understanding of different market segments can be hugely successful and build an iconic, united front which customers come back to again and again. In doing so they have a built-in audience of brand advocates, only it’s not the geniuses in the blue T-shirts: it’s their customers!
Whilst the ‘brand-positive’ message has achieved great results for a lot of companies, it has also led to a new phenomenon. We’re going to call it ‘the brand-aid’. This is when a company rapidly changes their visual aesthetic seemingly overnight, but fails to change their offering or their perception in the eyes of their target market.
Branding is often relegated to the ‘arty-farty’ corner by many businesses, who think that it’s really all about the ‘colours’ and the superficial, bright and shiny imagery. But a brand is about so much more than that. A brand is about how your product, services and values make your customers feel and react. This brand exposure happens at every step of the customer’s journey, from when they see your advertising in print and online to the experience they have in-store or on the phone with your support staff.
Like a car, customers definitely care how a brand looks, but when they look under the hood and what they see doesn’t live up to their expectations, they will look elsewhere.
Branding expert Wally Ollins puts it this way:
“Because branding is about creating and sustaining trust it means delivering on promises. The best and most successful brands are completely coherent. Every aspect of what they do and what they are reinforces everything else.”
A few major Australian companies have rebranded in recent times and big, high-profile relaunches give customers time to pause and think “Is this company really offering what they promise?”
Foxtel’s latest brand offering Foxtel Now has been met with mixed feedback. Although, undoubtedly the visual direction is a new and fresh approach and they freely admit that they have been ‘unrelatable’ to their target market for quite some time, there is still a lot of skepticism as to whether the new offering is of any value and there still remains a degree of confusion from customers as to what they should expect.
All you have to do is read the comments section of articles on the brand relaunch and see their low google star rating to see how much damage this refreshed branded offering is trying to overcome.
The new brand is definitely a positive step forward for Foxtel, but it remains to be seen how successful Foxtel Now will be at overcoming the stigma of the ‘aggressive, arrogant and elitist’ (their words not ours) content provider.
Regardless of how well Foxtel’s brand launch works for them, it highlights the issues relating to the Brand-Aid. The experience and opinions of your customers and target market matter. A nice visual aesthetic isn’t enough to cover-up your shortfalls and convince customers that you are truly offering what you promised them. Foxtel as a company didn’t plan to end up in this position, but they have nonetheless.
It’s always worth taking some time out to ask your existing customers how they feel about your brand offering, products, services and their online and in-person experiences. It’s also a good idea to really take extra time at the beginning of a new brand or brand refresh project to discuss with stakeholders what image you should be projecting to your target audience.
They say that a stitch in time, saves nine and this goes doubly for branding projects. Remember, when it comes to branding, no one wants to buy a Ferrari with no engine.
Well considered strategies can have a positive long term impact on any business. We love helping our clients to solve big design and strategy problems like these. If you’re struggling with your brand, please get in touch. We would love to help you out!