From Branding to the age of “BRAND+ing”
Big changes are happening in Japanese society, and it is time for an overhaul of corporate branding strategies. Japanese corporations are now in dire need of “Brand+ing” – branding, in other words, that goes above and beyond ordinary best practices to clearly state the “intention” of a brand and to consistently communicate a brand’s story.
In the 1970s and 80s, Japanese corporations dominated the global market with their superb technological strength. However, the market is much more mature now, and the Japanese brands, which used to believe in a simple philosophy of “make a great product and it will sell,” now face challenges in markets overseas. Due to diversifying markets and touch points, if a brand cannot deliver an unwavering and clear message, it will lose control and will not be able to reach consumers’ hearts.
The challenge for brands lies in how they must continue to deliver unchangingly excellent value, all while creating a brand that creates real change, excitement and meaning in consumers’ lives. In other words, a brand has to keep delivering an unchanging value while changing itself. The key to succeed in this difficult endeavor is to create a story that consumers are attracted to and sympathize with. Actions that are consistent in every way are what build a strong brand.
As marketing professionals, it is not an exaggeration to say that creating an alluring brand story is our main job. Strong stories work on multiple platforms that exist within and outside of the organization, creating an exciting yet consistent brand.
Strong stories also must be coupled with action. The term “Brand+ing,” as used in the title, means turning stories into actions. In other words, translating the story of a brand into consistent and specific actions is what real branding (brand+ing) should be.
How, then, can a brand approach this challenge? We at Landor use a tool called “BrandDrive® Platform” (BDP). This is a platform for the purpose of building the core of a brand. We start by assessing a brand’s beliefs (corporate philosophy and behavioral guidelines) and its history (what was the root of the brand, and how its DNA has been passed down). We then ask: What is the brand’s uniqueness? What does it promise, and to whom? How does top management envisions the brand’s future? The goal is then to summarize these factors into a succinct definition. What is important here is to make the definition easy to understand and share. When it is structured in such a way that both right brain understanding and left brain understanding can occur at the same time, then the definition works better.
In other words, we approach the challenge of “BRAND+ing” by first considering the following four elements:
1. The brand’s raison d'etre
A concise statement of why this brand exists in the world.
2. Brand Idea
One phrase that expresses the brand’s core idea.
3. Brand philosophy
The rules, beliefs, and sentiments that guide how a company approaches the task of brining its’ identity into word and action: that bring the brand’s raison d’etre and the brand idea into reality.
4. Brand Inspiration
Visual images that help people to intuitively grasp the brand.
Keeping these elements simple is the key. A brand with a consistent presence and philosophy can only be achieved with simplicity.
Many Japanese brands have the right elements – strong brand histories and DNA, compelling business offerings, unique products - to create an actionable brand story. I hope more and more Japanese brands will use the “Brand+ing” concept and take advantage of their strengths in the global market.