What makes a brand? A logo? No. A product? No. An ad campaign? No. A clear purpose and identity that resonates through everything it touches? A broader value and idea you’re offering to the world? Yeah, that’s more like it. Now we’re getting closer.
Once upon a time brand identity was thought of as nothing more than the visible elements of your brand: the logo, colors, font, packaging and maybe even a witty tag line. It now seems as though brand identity itself is ripe for a re-brand. For the last 20 years, the increasing trend has been for a brand’s identity to be realized in deeper and more meaningful ways through a mix of both internal and external marketing channels. Going well beyond just the visible elements, brand identity now encompasses everything a company wants to communicate to its consumers through every imaginable channel. The brand’s vision, purpose, mission, story, culture, personality, must all be clearly communicated now, and not just through traditional advertising and social media, but more than ever also through content, corporate culture, policies, and even the profiles of the people it hires. Your brand identity now has to no less than answer the utterly philosophical question, “who are you, really?”
Chances are, you’ve heard the term “Know thyself.” This ancient Greek aphorism (often credited to Socrates) was actually a warning to pay no attention to popular opinion and concludes that knowing thyself is the most important thing before anything else, and should be at the beginning of all endeavors. Identity and knowing thyself isn’t just a discussion for philosophers, it’s a topic that should be on the mind of every entrepreneur and business leader.
While many brands still naturally lead with consumer focused marketing, pandering to public opinion and aiming to solve a practical problem with a better product, the great brands lead with simply the confidence and conviction of who they are and what they represent, selling you an ideal before they even sell you the product. It’s this kind of aspirational marketing that makes brands like Apple and Red Bull leaders in their categories. For the pros, the competition of product marketing is not a war of price, or even product, but rather a war of ideas and identity. A new maxim for 21st century marketing could read, “know thyself first, and your audience will follow.”