Successful businesspeople know how important it is to have the “ultimate brand”; they also know that branding runs much deeper than just the superficial aspects such as logo and colours. Therefore, they spend a significant amount of time developing, reviewing and refining every aspect of their brand identity, because it’s one of their key weapons in dominating the competition.

The good news is, if you know the recipe for the “secret sauce”, it’s not that hard to create the ultimate brand for your own business. It takes time and commitment, but it’s not rocket science, and it is time very well spent. There are four main ingredients in the sauce: metaphor, messages, stories and devices.

1. Metaphors

Metaphor is the art of describing your business, product or service in terms of its similarities to another ostensibly unrelated thing, generally without the consumer being consciously aware of the intended comparison.

Successful businesses know the power of metaphor and use it extensively. They are used to achieve a range of objectives, such as to gain consumer attention, evoke imagery, provoke comparisons, suggest similarity between a product and a concept, explain a complex or technical product, or influence consumer beliefs and attitudes. In doing so they create a “shortcut” way for businesses to implant their marketing messages in the minds of their target market.

Some examples of well-known metaphors include:

“Have a break, have a kit-kat” (Kit-Kat = relaxation)
“You ought to be congratulated” (Meadow Lea = good parenting)
“My dad picks the fruit” (Cottee’s = farm fresh fruit)

In all of these cases and many others, it could be argued that the metaphors are misleading. After all, eating a Kit-Kat obviously does not guarantee relaxation, feeding margarine to your kids is not usually considered a good parenting choice, and the Cottee’s cordial kid should really be standing in a sugar cane field not an orchard. However, because metaphors largely act on the subconscious, and an explicit, direct comparison is usually not claimed by the advertiser, consumers generally accept the relationship without critically analysing it.

There are myriad ways to incorporate metaphor into your business, including slogans, graphics/visual elements, logos, colours and mascots (e.g. Ronald McDonald). Most successful businesses will use a number of these methods across their marketing activities.

2. Messages

Messages are the explicit “value propositions” a business communicates to its target market. For example, advertising for the Phillips Airfryer incorporates the following messages:

  • Lets you cook with up to 80% less fat
  • Frying with less oil, without the mess
  • Almost too good to be true: that is, until you try it.

It is important that your messages focus on benefits, not features, to capture the interest of your target market. Many small business owners don’t understand the difference, and as a result aren’t communicating as effectively as they could be with prospective customers.

In making a buying decision, consumers want to know: “what’s in it for me?” When you try to sell the features of your product or service, you’re making the consumer do all the work in figuring out whether they actually want those features. Selling the benefits cuts out all that work, as well as ensuring your customers do actually understand exactly what’s in it for them, leading to a much easier buying decision.

Once developed, messages should be used with utmost consistency across your website, print advertising, online advertising and sales-oriented content (pitch emails etc).

3. Stories

Stories are probably the single most important key to creating the ultimate brand, and often the most overlooked.

Stories are very similar to messages, in that they are a tool used to communicate the benefits of using your product or service to your target market. However, there is one big difference: rather than being told in the “voice” of the business, stories are told from the perspective of the customer, thus naturally appearing more authentic and trustworthy.

There are two types of stories: testimonials and case studies. Testimonials are short (usually 1-2 sentences) comments from happy clients, with a positive message as to how their experience has benefited them. Case studies are essentially longer-form testimonials, incorporating a worked example of exactly how a customer used your products or services and what the outcome was.

The proliferation of online review websites shows the power of testimonials. There are a multitude of sites applicable to single industries (such as TripAdvisor and Zomato), but by far the most powerful general-purpose site is Google itself. If a sufficient number of people comment on your Google business profile, your aggregate rating and comments appear directly under your search listing, which is a powerful tool to convince more people to click through to your website. You can also curate and reprint the best of these testimonials on your website, flyers and even in other places such as your email signature.

Case studies, by virtue of their length, should generally be incorporated in longer-form marketing content such as your website and company profile, where people will have the time and inclination to read and digest them.

4. Devices

Devices are essentially the physical representation of your brand identity, and most commonly include colours and logos.

Colour is the most important device to consider. There is a substantial body of research that supports the theory that different colours can subtly engender certain responses or feelings in your target market, such as:

Blue: Peace, calmness, security, trust
Orange: Excitement, enthusiasm, warmth, action, friendliness, confidence
Green: Health, tranquillity, money, nature, growth, relaxation
Purple: Wealth, success, wisdom, beauty, imagination, creativity
Red: Appetite, passion, love, urgency
Yellow: Cheerfulness, warmth, stimulation, communication, optimism, youthfulness

Source: Psychology of Color

No one would suggest that colour is the “be all and end all” in communicating your brand personality, however used in conjunction with the right metaphors and messages it can be powerful.

Finally, logo composition is something that many businesses agonise over, but they are pretty simple to get right if you have given due consideration to the preceding concepts. In general, a logo is successful if it helps convey some information about the company, or is designed in a way that gives some sense of meaning about the company or its industry. For example, cutting-edge firms and tech companies tend to have angular logos to convey speed, while service-oriented firms have rounded logos to provide a sense of service and trust.

In summary: your brand should be designed to give an immediate positive impression to those who come into contact with it, starting with the subconscious (metaphors, colours, logos) and ending with the conscious (messages and stories). Do this correctly, and you’re well on the way to creating the “ultimate brand” and being a dominant force in your market.

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