Brands have always been about power.
The power to own, protect, legitimise, mobilise, attract, persuade, entertain, command a premium.
From the imperial eagle to the revolutionary tricolour, rainbow flag, iconic yellow bag, and the world’s most famous apple.
Every leader intuitively understands power. What it takes to win it, secure it, or lose it.
Brands are intrinsic to leadership and power because they are a means to influence how people think, feel and act – whether they be employees, customers, investors, members, or voters.
Brands work by combining ideas with language and behaviours. Ideas that speak to what’s possible and desirable, made tangible with graphics and well–chosen words, and earning trust through genuine and consistent behaviours.
At their most powerful, brands accommodate what might appear to be conflicting and unreconcilable ideas – traditional and progressive, accessible and aspirational, inclusive and edgy, local and global, fast and safe, value and premium. Their ideas and expression are sufficiently resilient and flexible to withstand tensions – and this allows them to appeal to large, diverse audiences without losing their integrity.
Powerful brands often have a popular appeal far beyond their specific product or service area – they can be found on caps, T–shirts, bedroom walls, badges, and rear bumpers. This is because they contain transcendent ideas that speak directly to people and connect them, one to another. They are a social currency.
Unless you understand the DNA of the brand – what makes it tick – it’s difficult to move forward and create a new future. There will be tissue rejection. And to understand the DNA of a brand, you start within – i.e the organisation’s beliefs and culture. This is essential for organisations built around human capital – such as professional service firms, media, retail and hospitality – and it’s remarkable how long these influences persistent, from generation to generation, often unknowingly.
That said, to prosper in the future, brands must be in the present. They must be built around ideas that people genuinely care about, a visual language that resonates, and truths that reflect peoples’ real–life experiences. Which is why they need to be continuously managed, nurtured and refreshed.
Brand managers have to pivot between what the organisation believes and is capable of delivering, and what the marketplace cares about and values. Successful brand managers don’t control how a brand develops, they provide the conceptual framework and materials for others to use. It’s as if they’re creating the framework for a vine to thrive – a vine that can’t be contained, but can be directed. It’s not easy.
Through our experience, research and process of creative exploration, our job is to help clients find their way to build powerful brands that stand the test of time.