Nine times out of ten they will contain only trite aphorisms, but occasionally a fortune cookie will eerily hit the nail on the head, as with the one I found accompanying my shrimp lo mein recently. As I read it, I was reminded of one of our first brand strategy sessions with Conrod Associates a year ago:
“What is a brand?” David asked us. “How do you define it?”
“Our visual identity?” Chris guessed. “Logos, name, so forth?”
“The message we communicate to our clients?” I offered.
“All important elements,” David agreed, “but those are only part of it. “What truly defines a brand is the customer experience.”
What we came to understand was that your brand is not truly defined by you, but by the minds of your clients and customers. Your brand is the impression you make on customers with your products and service; the message you communicate through your visual identity is a part of that impression.
One of the hardest lessons to learn for companies – even large, well-established ones – is that, like the childhood game of Telephone, there is often a disconnect between what you’re trying to say, and what gets heard. Recently, Amazon launched a “viral” marketing campaign to promote their new series, The Man in the High Castle, a series set in a dystopian alternate reality United States where the Axis powers won World War II. The campaign involved, in part, redecorating parts of the New York City subway system with Nazi-themed imagery. The intent of the message was clear: to engage potential viewers by drawing them into their fictional universe in realspace. Ordinarily, this would be an innovative approach; given the subject matter, however, this went over exactly as well as one would expect, and the ads were pulled shortly thereafter.
What holds true in politics also holds true for business: perception is reality. The goal of video communications, then, becomes not to impose your reality, but rather to reshape perception; reality will follow.
Wishing a warm and happy Thanksgiving to our clients and their families!