Thursday, January 3, 2008

Building a Charismatic Brand: Part 3 > Innovate

What is a charismatic brand? It's any product, service, or company for which people believe there's no substitute. Charismatic brands have a clear competitive stance, a sense of rectitude and a dedication to aesthetics. Why aesthetics? Because it's the language of feeling, and in a society that's information-rich and time-poor, people value feeling more than information. In this series we will discuss the five disciplines (differentiation, collaboration, innovation, validation, and cultivation) of branding that must be mastered in order to have a charismatic brand.


It's design, not strategy, which ignites passion in people. And the magic behind better design and better business is innovation. Innovation requires creativity, but creativity gives many business people a twitch. Anything new, by definition, is untried, and therefore "unsafe," yet radical innovation has the power to render competition obsolete. It's a self-evident truth: you can't be a leader by following. It's innovation that gives brands traction in the marketplace.An example of this truth is found in magazine ads. Pick up a copy of your favorite magazine and leaf through the ads. Note which ones actually evoke emotion from you and then see if you remember them when you set your magazine down. If not, it's likely that the strategy was good, but the execution was lacking originality and innovation.

So, how do you know when an idea is innovative? When it scares you. You don't have to reinvent the wheel, just find a fresh approach. Below are some tips on igniting innovation in your brand:
  1. Expect innovation from people outside the company or from people inside the company that think "outside" the company. The audience usually rewards gutsy moves, but corporations usually don't, which inhibits new ideas from emerging in the corporate atmosphere. Avoid this and seek out creators. Remember, marketers describe the world as it is now, creative professionals demonstrate how the world could be. They innovate.
  2. Make sure the name of your brand is...distinctive, brief, appropriate, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, likable, extendible, and protectable. Don't create just an icon; create an "earcon," something pleasing and memorable to the ear. Yahoo!, Google, Apple, and Smuckers all are unique names that get attention and get the job done. Customers will always want convenient ways of remembering your brand. The right name can be your brand's most valuable asset, aiding in your quest to be different.
  3. Packaging is the last and best chance to influence a prospect this side of the checkout counter. Clarity, emotion, and natural reading sequencing are the key words for packaging. When you present your brand's information with these things working together, you increase resonance and create a sympathetic bond with your customer.
  4. Packaging your brand, by the way, extends to your web presence, too. Most of today's home pages ignore the basic rules of visual aesthetics, including contrast, legibility, pacing and reading sequence. Consider this: the average home page squeezes an average of 25 pieces of information into an area the size of a tissue. So, avoid turfismo (where department managers fight for space on the company marquee) and featuritis (the tendency to add features, articles, graphics, animations, links, etc.). While most people like clicking, they hate waiting for a new page.
  5. Bottom line: All brand innovation should be aimed at creating a positive experience for the user. And remember, If it's not innovative, it's not magic.*

Differentiation to collaboration to innovation to validation to cultivation, back to differentiation. Each lap around the branding circle takes the brand further from being a listing of commodities and closer to being a force to be reckoned with.*

*Source: Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap (Berkeley: New Riders Publishing, 2003).

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