Branding: Turning probability into a possibility
Author: Kostas Papanikolaou
Branding: Turning probability into a possibility
The world of business is not one to overanalyze often, attempting to trace its roots back to mankind’s DNA, how the genus Homo of the Hominidae family was a scavenger of goods, and evolved to become a master in business and sales. The vast sea of business, marketing, management, and world economy includes a gigantic iceberg called “Branding”, and just like every huge iceberg, the tip is only what you can see if you don’t dive right in the sea, and explore the rest of it.
Just like an iceberg in the sea, a company has a tip, called “Branding”, and then has the majority of its body, which is the rest of it, the “heart and soul”, if you prefer more poetic approaches to business. Simply put, Branding is not everything. And if we are being completely honest, Branding is nothing, on its own. Branding alone cannot turn a company into a self-sustainable organism, and this is not something that makes Branding specialists less useful, or mocks them. This is just the truth, as proven time and time again by how businesses operate and evolve through the centuries.
I order to understand why Branding is only part of a company’s operation and success, and not even the majority of that, we first need to explain what Branding is, how it works, what it consists of, and why a company can not only survive and exist but thrive as well.
What is Branding?
Branding is the ensemble of activities, visuals, actions, and products a company uses to identify itself to the world, and its customers. Branding can be split into three categories:
Visual Company Identity
- This consists of virtually everything customers see when they look at a company; the looks and feels of it. Logo, fonts, colors, images, appearance, as well as online, print, and physical presence
Voice of the Company
- That part of Branding is self-explanatory as well, and it regards to how a company communicates in general. How a company writes, how its employees speak to customers, and the general tone a company has in its communications
Company Value Proposition
- This is the part of a company that defines it. Its values and core components, things that give companies an edge and appeal with customers, existing and prospective. Ways of delivering products, prices, values, mission, and vision, are included in that category
Branding is way more than the things listed above. Branding can change what people like and prefer when it comes to products, services, and everything in between. It has been proven by several studies conducted over the years, mainly from colleges of Medicine trying to understand how the human brain works, and reacts to certain things.
Many examples have been made over the years about how people initially tasting two types of drinks from competitive brands without knowing which one is which, at first liking sample A, and then switching their preference to sample B once they found out which brand was which. Branding can change everything, but to achieve that, you first have to establish the foundations upon which your brand is built, the one that supports it: your product or service.
What a company is selling, is the tools to operate. How a company brands itself, is how high its price can go.
The threefold “WHW”
In his book, “Start With Why”, author and motivational speaker, Simon Sinek, speaks on the importance of questioning everything, and communicating in a ground-breaking, innovative, and subversive way compared to what the vast majority says and does. He codifies it and calls this thought process as the “Golden Circle”, which comprises of the questions “Why, How, What” (WHW), and explains why some companies and leaders can inspire, and others aren’t.
Sinek argues that every company and its employees know “What” their company does, some, know “How” they do it, while very few, know “Why”. Sinek has presented this in a TED Talk, where he showcases the “Golden Circle”, with “Why” in the center, and explains that people don’t buy “What” a company does, but “Why” it does it. This is Branding at its finest.
Branding is not only challenging the status quo of the sector your business is in, but also bringing forth new concepts, new horizons to customers, showing them that your product, service, or anything you do, you do it for a purpose that will inspire customers to support your cause and vision. Branding is not -just- nice colors, beautiful design and presentation, good customer support, polished communications, and good-looking products.
Just do it… like Nike
Let’s take Nike, for example, one of the world’s most popular sports clothing brands, which was the most valuable sports business brand worldwide in 2019, with a brand value of 36.8 billion US dollars, according to Statista. To put things into perspective, ESPN was second on the list in 2019 with a brand value of 13.1 billion US dollars, a huge difference.
If we are asking about the value itself, the answer is simple: No company in the world spends as much money on sports sponsorships as Nike, and its advertising costs over 3 billion US dollars per year. But the “Why” above, is not about money, advertising, sponsorships, or anything of the sorts.
Why is the Nike brand so popular? When track coach Bill Bowerman and his athlete at the University of Oregon, Phil Knight, founded Nike in 1964, they did it to provide track athletes with specialized running shoes. Track athletes wearing Nike shoes won. And won, and won, until the brand started self-development, like an organism that grows exponentially in size, and fame. Less than 30 years later, Nike tapped into the rising fame of Michael Jordan and turned him into a brand. Or to be exact, Nike turned the potential of becoming the best athlete that has ever lived into a possibility. The brand of Nike is not the “Swoosh” logo. It’s not even the popular “Just Do It” motto, which has turned into an Internet meme sensation (2015, by Shia LaBeouf).
The Nike brand is the transformation of probability, into possibility. Making customers and prospective customers believe they are athletes, as Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman said “If you have a body, you are an athlete”. That alone, is the “Why”, and it’s enough to make customers and prospective customers believe they are athletes in such a manner, that they can become athletes. “Just Do It”, is the “How” as defined by Nike. Since you are an athlete if you have a body, the only thing you have to do is tap into your power. As for the “What”? Honestly, it doesn’t matter.
If your “Why” is that powerful, and your “How” is so simple and straightforward, “What” you are selling doesn’t matter. Whether it’s sports clothing or paper clips, if the power of your Branding lies in the “Why” and that “Why” can inspire many, you are good on your way to success. Just make sure that even your paper clips are of impeccable quality because, in the long run, a good brand cannot survive the battle with a better product. The latter will eventually find a way to create a better Brand as well.