Uncommon Branding Stays True to Key Fundamentals

The ingredients and factors that go into better branding

When companies and organizations establish a new brand or rebrand themselves, it’s par for the course for the primary goal of the new branding to be differentiation from competitors. This makes perfect sense and is clearly something that any branding effort should strive for.

However, setting yourself apart is only one piece of the solution. Branding that aims to be a long-term asset also takes into account things like credibility, relevance, and a sustainable, stable message. When you can create a brand that incorporates these elements with differentiation, you have the makings of a potentially great brand. But sacrifice any of these basic elements, and your brand won’t work as effectively for you as it should.

Be believable

Let’s talk about credibility. A few years ago, KFC attempted to position its fried chicken as a healthy eating choice. One TV spot featured a woman putting a bucket of KFC fried chicken in front of her husband and announcing, “Remember how we talked about eating better? Well, it starts today!” Another spot depicted a man surprised when he recognizes a friend sitting on the back of a truck eating KFC fried chicken. “Jack, is that you?” the first one asks. “Man, you look fantastic! What the heck you been doing?” “Eatin’ chicken,” Jack replies.

Really? Had KFC food scientists suddenly discovered that its fried chicken was actually a rival to kale after all these years? People were immediately skeptical, as was the Federal Trade Commission. It was quickly discovered that while two KFC chicken breasts indeed had less total fat and saturated fat than a Burger King Whopper, it actually had more than three times the trans fat and cholesterol, more than twice the sodium, and more calories than the BK burger. The “healthy eating” campaign was quickly pulled soon afterward.

If your message strains credibility, then in all likelihood it has none.

Know your audience

Being relevant and sensitive to your audience is also a critically component of a successful brand. While this would seem to be a fairly easy thing to achieve, some recent incidents with household brands suggest that it isn’t. You would think that a skin and body care products company, such as Nivea, would be particularly in tune with how women think and feel. But a recent Facebook ad campaign by Nivea proclaimed that “white is purity.” Women of color were understandably upset and the ads disappeared immediately.

In another recent well-known instance of “what were they thinking?” Pepsi unveiled a spot featuring a young model (Kendall Jenner) in a photo shoot taking notice of a nearby protest march. She quickly sheds her high fashion togs for more protest-friendly denim, grabs a Pepsi, and hands it to a policeman watching over the march. He smiles, the model smiles, all of the protesters cheer, and peace and love reign thanks to Pepsi.

If the spot had aired a few years ago, few people would have had any issue with it. However, in the midst of Black Lives Matter marches and many marches in the U.S. and around the world protesting the policies and actions of, ahem, certain recently elected leaders, the spot was immediately seen as casting social activism as a trivial matter and was mercilessly skewered by the public. The spot barely saw the light of day before it was yanked.

A brand that gets it

One brand today that incorporates differentiation, credibility, relevance, and a message that rises above trendiness, is Subaru. The “Love. It’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.” campaign isn’t extraordinarily clever or eye-catching, but it’s a spot-on perfect fit for what Subaru cars are all about.

Subarus have always been known to be quirky yet rock-solid reliable cars that inspire fierce loyalty and get you where you need to go in any weather condition. The brand campaign prominently features families and how love is played out between parents and their kids, between spouses, and between individuals and their car, in owning a Subaru. There’s nothing really innovative about the message—is there any more universal or timeless message than love? But that’s probably exactly why the campaign continues to resonate with car buyers after nearly a decade.

Getting to uncommon branding

Great branding isn’t about showcasing minor details, making outrageous statements, or appropriating the news. It’s all about revealing the truth about a product in a way that you simply cannot deny. To learn more about how to attain this with your branding, download this free ebook.