Think of a great brand. What is the first that comes to mind? What is the one thing that company does to build it? Tough to answer? Great brands are as complex as the consumers who ultimately determine their success. Regardless of the brand that first comes to mind, there is something we can learn from these dynamic brands as we explore the three greatest myths of branding.
Myth #1: Building a brandalways requires consistency.
There was a time when Apple placed its logo upside down on laptops. The premise was that users were the most important, so when the top to their laptop was closed, the Apple logo should not be upside down. However, Apple has since reversed that decision to provide those who stare at the back of your laptop at the local coffee shop with a consistent presentation of the Apple logo – right side up. That’s the way it should be. Right?
Google, one of the best-known brands in the world, changes its logo on a regular basis. How many times have you heard someone ask, “Did you see what Google did with their logo today?” There are literally hundreds of websites dedicated to the different Google logos, highlighting the best, the geekiest, the funniest, you name it. The sites help to build Google’s equity as a truly dynamic brand. Google is spontaneous and uses its logo as a way to express its brand personality. That’s the way it should be. Right?
Ultimately, it depends on the personality of your brand. IBM can’t get away with changing its logo on a weekly basis. The key is to know who you are, what you stand for, and then define what brand consistency means for you. Then stick to it … until it’s time to change.
Myth #2: Listening to your customers will never steer you wrong.
There are times when your customers hold insights that you fail to discover or are too close to see. I recently wrote a Forbes article about the importance of asking your customers questions that inspire innovative thinking. However, the challenge is when this principle is robotically applied to all brand challenges. Former Apple CEO Steve Jobs was notorious for not listening to customers and once said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Some ideas are so revolutionary, innovative or complex, that turning your customer to define the opportunity only ensures you will end up with a watered-down concept. Or worse, kill some of your best thinking. A name like Yahoo would never make it through a focus group. Who would think getting movies by mail would crush an empire built on “convenience”? The list goes on.
There are times when you need to listen to your customers. But there are times you just need to be pretty damn smart. And there are times you need to follow your gut. The key is take a step back and be deliberate, not automated. Let the business case guide your decision to reach out or push forward.
Myth #3: If you make the right decisions, you will produce the right result.
A common misbelief is that there is a “right way” and a “wrong way” to build a brand. The reality is, there are hundreds of ways – even thousands. Yes, there are wrong ways. Does anyone remember New Coke in 1985? How about Gap’s new logo debacle in 2010? What about Netflix’s price increase in 2011? The majority of great brands find fertile ground in the “gray” area. It is not what you do; it is how you do it.
Great brands are rooted in strategic research, business acumen, creative thinking and gut feelings. The key is to stop searching for the right decision and start seeking a better way to connect with those who aren’t looking for “right” and are looking for “relevant.”
Luke Bemis is a senior strategist at gyro Denver.
Follow Luke @Bemis411