Most marketing professionals still believe that true branding is based on the logo. But they also know that branding is much more than developing a familiar consumer image.
I realized a couple of years ago, when one of my colleagues was asked by a major U.S. airline to write a standard announcement to be used by the airline’s captains, that many operational elements, as well as deliberate promotional strategies, are all integral to branding and the establishment of image and identity.
The branding speech was carefully composed incorporating the advice of a psychologist and a marketing expert, and the writing of one of the country’s best copywriters. The aim was to achieve an announcement that would carry the airline’s image message to the passenger, just as the company’s logo did. This event made me realize the full potential of branding: the 360 degrees that I briefly discussed last week. And 360-degree branding is everything.
Singapore Airlines is an example of a company cognizant of 360-degree branding. A decade ago, the airline developed what is now the well-known Singapore Airlines smell. The hot towels the flight attendants distribute before and after takeoff all emit a characteristic aroma that, once experienced, is not forgotten.
So, what has a smell got to do with branding? Everything. We have five senses, and for some reason we often think only of using one or two of them. Research conducted a year or so ago showed that aural communication is just as important as oral communication. Testing Intel Inside, the researchers documented the interesting result that the Intel melody was as recognizable and memorable to the consumer as the Intel Inside logo.
What does this have to do with the Internet? The fact is that we have achieved only the management of what I define as the “level one” web site: a web site that sort of handles the graphics but falls short of integrating other sensory stimuli.
The reason why I say “sort of” is because I still, day after day, see web sites that don’t exploit visuals well. Do you remember the story about the Coke bottle? It was designed so that if it was smashed, you’d still be able to recognize that the fragments were once part of a Coca-Cola bottle. Now, that’s branding!
What if you were to remove your logo and your company name from your web site? Would I still be able to recognize your brand? I bet I couldn’t. Everything on your web site has to reflect your core philosophy, the spirit of your brand, just like Singapore Airlines’ hot towels and the captains’ announcement.
Every single element you employ should be an extension of your logo: The copy should be the voice of your brand; the navigation should reflect the spirit and ethos of your brand in every degree; your site’s sounds should be your brand’s voice. Think of the identity that AOL’s “You’ve got mail” communicates.
Every element of your site’s construction and operation should be fully conveyed by your branding aims and integrated to communicate a seamless and comprehensible story. The integration principle is crucially relevant to all your channels and their intercommunications so that, wherever consumers encounter your business, they are able to recognize it instantly: in your store, on billboards, dealing with your staff, on the radio… even without seeing your logo. That’s 360-degree branding: branding without using a brand.