Branding used to be about consistency and repetition. Simple logos and taglines were all-important and companies were in control of how their message and brand was portrayed.
But these days, because there are so many platforms, so much social reach, so much more potential for brand communication from a company and its followers, there is an increased need for brand flexibility.
People expect a brand to react, interact and adapt to their needs, to their responses and to the world at large. They want to know that a company is ethical and trustworthy, is run by real-life people and won’t short-change them. In turn, companies need to see their branding efforts as something interactive, emotional and evolving, building trust and putting the customer at the centre of everything they do.
What happened to consistency and control?
One of the most profound changes in recent times is the recognition that it is no longer possible for a brand to be completely consistent, and neither should they try to be so.
Complete control over a brand is similarly out of the question, since a one-off tweet or Facebook comment from anyone in the street could become viral and affect branding, whether in a positive or negative way.
For managers and company owners, this can be a difficult pill to swallow. But letting go of the reins a little needn’t be a bad thing. In fact, it can promote increased creativity, collaboration and new practices. The companies who are dealing most effectively with these changes are those who are embracing them.
If your company is playful, adaptive, friendly and not afraid to take a few risks, then moving to a more fluid branding approach might be exactly right for you.
Maintaining core values
It’s important to recognise that fostering a more fluid branding solution doesn’t mean losing your company’s core values or identity. Not at all. But it does mean putting the customer first and looking upon your brand as more of an ecosystem. To make this work in practice, you will need a simple set of parameters in which to operate, which maintains brand integrity and effectiveness, yet allows for flexibility, adaptability and nimbleness. And you’ll need to ensure that although your method of communication is no long one-way and your platforms are multiple, your message remains the same.
Ten tips for fluid branding
- Know your audience and provide relevant content through appropriate channels.
- Keep your message and central values consistent.
- Reuse and repurpose content where appropriate (e.g. by using flexible logos to provide variation and avoid customer boredom).
- Develop a palette of colours, typography, words and so on to serve as a basis for design and copywriting work.
- Make sure your staff are aware of your branding parameters and what is acceptable and not acceptable.
- Use storytelling as a branding strategy – give your brand a personality that people will identify with.
- Keep your brand human (e.g. random acts of kindness, humour, reaction to real-life events).
- Utilise user-generated content.
- Get social – use social media platforms as a means of engaging your customers in two-way dialogue (rather than as a way to sell to them).
- Promote brand advocacy.
By embracing a more fluid approach to branding, companies can ensure that they provide their customers with what they need and want, at the right time. A more flexible style means that a brand can adapt and evolve with their environment and may well lead to unique, new solutions, improved customer relations and increased staff motivation.
So loosen those reins a little – never has branding been more exciting!