Is the brand universe infinite?

10 September 2020

When talking about brand identity, lots of companies tend to sum it up as the logo. Putting the logo in the top-left corner of their letter header, right in the middle above their front door, clearly visible on a mug. And yet a brand’s identity is much more than its symbol or its name alone. A brand’s identity is a whole universe made up of different visual elements, as well as sounds, smells, textures... All of these identifying markers fill the brand’s territory, claiming it for themselves.

But is a brand’s universe infinite?

In any event, it hasn’t yet been thoroughly explored. How many brands consider their printed material as something that identifies them, thanks to its particular shade, weight, the structure of its fibres? You can flick through all sorts of brand guidelines and you often won’t find any mention of this. How many businesses think about their identity in terms of sounds? How many of them mark their customers with their very own scent? How many of them include "behaviours" in their style guide? I’m still looking.

"…it is all about the brand’s personality, which needs to act as a filter and a driving force…"

In order to exist, a brand has to communicate and be communicated. This ongoing dialogue with an audience mustn’t be reduced to what seems to be rational: it needs to incorporate more sensitive elements into the way it expresses itself. Once again, it is all about the brand’s personality, which needs to act as a filter and a driving force for the way the brand expresses itself. Going back to the good old "Chinese Portrait" can also be useful, trying to think about what the brand would be if…

If it was a sound, if it was a material, a flower, a flavour. Sometimes the simplest things are the ones that work the best. In any case, they are the ones that we can put in place today. If we were to put a bunch of flowers on the reception desk? What flowers? What colours? A green plant? And light... what temperature, between 1500K and 8000K? Should the toilet cleaner be pine, neutral or lavender? Every point of contact with your audience can tell a bit of your story and convey some of your values.

"And it is the ongoing conversation that the brand has with its audience that establishes an emotional bond."

Of course, a brand isn’t built in a day, it is honed, corrected, created gradually, sometimes depending on what’s happening in the world, but there is always one ultimate goal: to remain faithful to itself. Because the primary function of a brand’s universe is first and foremost to be recognised. And then engagement follows on from that naturally. And it is the ongoing conversation that the brand has with its audience that establishes an emotional bond. Developing this coherent, multi-channel brand universe must contribute to its long-term future and allow it to express all of its different nuances.

The brand, like a person, is sensitive. Of course we are not anthropomorphising here, but rather relying on the fact that a brand only lives through the individual, and so the senses with which an individual is endowed. The brand universe must be aimed at all of these senses, to generate a unique experience. Having this desired experience as a starting point makes it easy to see what the identifying traces should be. Do I want my clients to be kept on-hold on the telephone with a Requiem? And when they are in front of me, do we really want to force another bad coffee on them, in an ugly cup that doesn’t look like anything?

"…sincerity means making choices, showing the brand which way to turn."

Make a list of your essential points of contact, the most important ones in your audience’s journey. You don’t need to shove it in people’s faces: once again, being sincere is more than enough. But this sincerity means making choices, showing the brand which way to turn. If the company has a “purchasing department”, it needs to be promptly made aware of this so that selection criteria add relevance to the price alone.

The brand universe is not finite, there are still good times ahead, even in the digital era. What voice should my chatbot have? What other kind of experience should my 404 error message offer? And what flavour should the cookies be?