Identity Myths and Storytelling are Keys to Building Iconic Brands
Branding enhances shareholder value, it can become a catalyst for better leadership, it enables to drive a shared vision throughout the organization, and it can help to balance short- and long-term perspectives and performance. But what makes an iconic brand?
A look at some of the most iconic brands in history such as Coca-Cola, Harley Davidson, Chanel, IBM, Giorgio Armani, L'Oreal, Louis Vuitton, Apple, Amanresorts and Singapore Airlines reveals some very common characteristics.
First of all, they have all been running profitable and very well-driven operations. Secondly, they used differentiation to build and defend solid market positions. Constant innovation was part of this and an integrated component of their company culture. But a third dimension, a strong emotional connection, made a huge impact. They have all been able to build and sustain very strong emotional bonds with their customer and stakeholders. A combination of these aspects will enable a brand to become iconic.
All of above brands fulfilled three important requirements of being an iconic:
Create an identity myth: For any brand to attain iconic status, it has to create an identity myth. Every society invariably goes through phases of prosperity and crisis. Brands that resonate and shows directions to the masses through the brand stories and brand activities gets etched into the culture. These brands, by creating an identity for themselves, provide identity to the whole society.
Psychological research demonstrates that brands are durable because people are cognitive misers. The modern society is overloaded with information, and the average person receives far more information than one can possibly digest properly. Therefore, people seek to simplify the world by relying on a variety of heuristics to minimize the amount of searching and information processing needed to make reasonable decisions. Once people believe a brand works for a certain purpose or reason, they are less likely to seek out new information that challenges the assumptions.
Sociological research also demonstrates why people are less likely to switch brands. Multiple elements like images, stories and associations are attached to a brand. As these elements are shared collectively by groups and networks of people, they form generally accepted conventions about brands. It is therefore relatively difficult for individuals to switch brands and thereby abandon these shared conventions.
The identity myth is therefore critical for brands, as they serve as a guiding aspect of past, present and future.
Involve multiple story tellers: Dissemination of brand information through the many participants of the society is critical for an iconic brand. The four major authors of these brand stories are: companies, the culture industries, intermediaries and customers. Each of these authors facilitates the brand to blend into the fabric of the society. By associating the brand and its identity with the prevalent events in the society, these authors create an iconic stature for the brands.
Weave powerful brand stories: Great brands always have resonating stories that touch the lives of consumers. These stories could be of the brand's unique history (Shanghai), myth (Jim Thompson), culture (Harley Davidson), fashion icon (Giorgio Armani), performance (Nike), and underlying service philosophy (Singapore Airlines). These brand stories offers consumers a good reason to elevate the brand beyond their mere utilitarian role in the market.
One of the important results of developing an iconic brand is the growth of brand communities. Brand communities are largely imagined communities that represent a form of human association situated within a consumption context. Brand communities are collections of active loyalists, users of a brand who are committed, conscientious and almost passionate. There is an intrinsic connection between members and the collective sense of difference from others not in the community. Members of the brand community practice rituals and traditions that perpetuate the community's shared history.
Brand communities are liberated from geography, commercial in nature, possess communal self awareness and are committed that facilitates the brand to attain long term acceptability in the society and ensures that the brand attains iconic state.
By being an important resource for consumers, brand communities provide wider social benefits to consumers through interaction and provide social structure to the relationship between marketer and consumer.