The 7 Extreme Pillars of Real Branding!

June 14, 2013

The Seven pillars of Branding:


First pillar: Publicly known

A brand always defines a smaller or bigger group of people who are somehow aware of the product or the service in question. This is the prerequisite or trivial condition of all brands: if you are the only one who knows a specific service or uses a specific product and no information is publicized, the service or product is unable to evolve into a brand. This is the primary task of all marketing efforts, making our specific product or service (along with its whole branding costume) widely known on the addressed market: the majority of the marketing budget is used for this purpose. At this point we normally pay attention to the details of the publicity of all brands: target segment(s), its content, geographic, demography, media, communication methods, timing etc.

Task 1: design and make your publicity

However, the fame of a product or service is not exclusively based on the publicity gained (mostly depending on the money available for promoting the brand) via frontal, push-type of promotion. Money spent on communications is a very important factor to reach the second stage of publicity: the people involved in the communications flow will probably share the information with each other and start a – sometimes very simple and few words – discussion about the product or service heard. The act of sharing the information with each other happens or has happened with all known brands. Suggestions, opinions made in public are very important in articulating brand and thus creating or strengthening/weakening brands. This is why the importance of Facebook in contemporary marketing cannot be overestimated enough, or, with similar effect, the customer service/problem handling has always been focal point of customer satisfaction and branding, too.

The publicity of branding therefore incorporates all means of sharing the information related to a specific brand or service. There are two basic type of publicities: there is of course the strictly controlled information sharing method (typically: marketing communications) and we also have to face a second publicity, the huge uncontrolled means of communication. When we are thinking on designing a new brand or just examining an existing one, we have to enlist all the ways how the specific brand gains publicity and sort them by relevance with regards to the public coverage and effect, making special attention to the uncontrolled ways of publicity.

The success of controlling publicity is a key to profit from branding, however, public control will never mean information monopoly over the media and over the outcome: even situations when a company has theoretically 100% control over the situation (e.g. customer care desk at the office or shop), it is always a challenge to control what is exactly happening there, what is going to be told or heard. Thus, from micro to macro level the publicity always carries a huge uncertainty factor with regards to reach, direct effect and future implications.

Second pillar: Associative and narrative – stories around

The discussions initiated and information shared publicly about a brand (or a branded product or service) would show up the next major characteristic of brands, that is, the power of the coupling or association related to the branded products or services. In other words, branding means that we create stories around a brand. Brand identity or personality, brand vision, brand promise are the official stories reflecting the narrative of a generic brand on different levels. Marketing creative planning is exactly doing the same around a specific product of a brand (e.g. ‘The environment friendly Toyota Prius’ as a story), while general brand stories (I mean the Toyota brand in the example) or associations are on higher level only. We therefore have to consider several layers of brand stories or narratives when examining them. It is very useful when these stories are consistent and formed professionally and are not contradicting to each other.

Brands are incorporating many stories and ideas not just from individual products and services determined by the company but stories and ideas also coming from the public. Unfortunately – as we mentioned above – we cannot control the majority of the perceptions of our brand. Individual opinions, perceived qualities, good or bad experiences are building the narrative universe, or more simply, the stories of a brand.

Task 2: define and drive brand stories

Notwithstanding the above, we can drive these brand stories and narrow them to the desired ones on at least two-three different areas. The mission statement of a company/organization is the very source of official brand stories and determines the branding direction via its written values and operational reasons. Secondly, the slogan or the tagline of a brand (like LG’s Life’s Good) is meant to embody the driving narrative story and works like a magnet: collects all the associations around a brand. The third layer of story comes along with specific products or services: repeating the slogans, taglines while inserting the logo of the brand on individual products/services makes the specific product or service painted with the general brand’s associations and qualities. The individual story of a product or service is like a topping on the branding cake. Pure brand campaigns on the other hand are always aiming outlining and fixing the desired main stories and narratives of qualities in the customers.

Controlling publicity cannot be done without controlling the stories attached to a specific brand and seems the major task of all branding and communications managers. Here, we have to highlight a related issue which behaves like the blind spot of the branding: rebranding. Rebranding campaigns are to change the very basic story of a brand. This is the reason why these campaigns fail many times and real rebranding is a very seldom event.

Third pillar: Concrete and multiplicative form

In real life we always give tangible forms to brands because we want to make profit from our money spent. Brand without concrete product/service to buy (or without a related person when we talk about personal brands) is useless or just a promise (like the newly planned Jolla mobile OS with only a demo video). The embodiment of a Brand is an essential part of its very nature.

Normally we use the power of a general Brand Name for many individual products. An already existing brand hands over its potentials (its stories of qualities, usage, value etc.) to specific, individual products and even when we see a new product of an already known brand we are already having a presupposition or sense of certain expectations towards the brand new product. A VW car is perceived for many as a reliable one; however, it may happen that a much lower quality is introduced in a new model than what the brand had fulfilled at its predecessors.

Task 3: make several appearances to utilize brand power

Most times we may say that a brand is transferred into several products and therefore it is multiplicative. It is very seldom that an earned reputation of a brand represented in only one product or service. For example the perfume 4711 seems to be transferred only into one product for a long time, but the brand’s product portfolio today consists of more than one item: after shave or even shower gel is also produced. Start-ups typically own only one product and normally the first product is the one that determines and forms the brand later on. Initially, the brand is typically built upon on only one product or service and this is why it is very sensitive when entering a market with a new company and a new product: it also determines the future brand and products the company assessed with.

Personal brands, seen superficially, are not multiplicative: a person who has double face (see politicians) and therefore not able to form a consistent and concrete personal brand, are subject to lose their reputation and their face rapidly. This is because brands can have only one concrete (credible) story, without major contradictions. The multiplicative nature of personal brands should be investigated from another perspective. In case we regard a person’s appearances in public as concretizations and multiplications of his/her brand, we are closer to the truth and we understand better why celebrities and politicians are so keen on public appearances.

Fourth pillar: Unique proposition

The history of branding is stemming from the wish of making a producer’s goods identifiable. This is not just to ensure the identity of goods but also to prevent from copying and forgery. The brands around us are still carrying these old attributes: the logo of the company/brand is expressing the uniqueness of a brand (supported by law as trade marks) and helps us to identify a specific brand in the universe of brands and signs.

Sometimes it is very hard to make distinction based on the products/services alone: Pepsi and its rivals put in a neutral glass next to each other are unidentifiable, so the use of branding techniques is crucial for gaining profit for both companies. Just like in the cola case, the technological industry also heavily relies on the branding when selling its products or services: PCs, laptops, smart phones or internet accesses are very similar to each other. Or, a tax advisory service consultant firm is facing real challenges to provide specific brand vision.

Task 4: find and use the means of brand differentiations

The unique proposition of the brands has to be built up and shown for the public: the individual logos of brands on devices for example help the company to make distinction from their competitors and help the customers to identify different market players in order to make a personal choice of preference. Most times companies heavily rely on the unique brand distinguishers, like stories about their unique market segment, tailor-made products, additional services they provide etc. Sometimes, when stories among a group of competitors are very similar or compatible (like the Big Four Auditors) and even their service is similar, a common story may evolve around them focusing on more the similarity and indirectly expressing the exclusivity of the group members.

Fifth pillar: Value

When we identify a brand on its telltale signs (e.g. design) or logo we do not think on what we see first (the product itself) but rather we focus on the brand value represented by the specific product or service. We may say (even without seeing the product) that if you are having Martin Logan stereo speakers that is very cool, but if you are having Philips that is not so awesome. Different brands represent different values: there are low-end and high-end brands with many in between. Start-up companies have to position their brand value on the axis predetermined by the existing market players. Making decision on positioning the companies’ services or products on the lower or higher end of this axis has nothing to do with ethical values: a low-end, cheap car helps many disabled or poor people without doubt. Rather, making the choice of brand values determine the market we are about to target. And this target market decision affects our business outlooks directly. When Toyota launched it Lexus series and decided to focus on the higher end cars they probably considered the higher profit option.

The value of a brand is also expressed in a more measurable way. In general ledgers brands are valued as a part of the company’s goodwill and are very sensitive for new product introductions and for amortization, too. From financial point of view brands regarded as assets that have been created due to investment and are also subject to lose or increase their values.

Task 5: define and carry brand values

The value of a brand emanates into individual products of a company and the value of the sold products affects the value of the brands. More surprisingly, the value of a brand may transfer over the buyer persona influencing the perceived value of a person in a certain group of people (see Apple fan-effect) while the network-effect of the public also modifies the brand value (exclusivity, limited models are also able to increase brand value).

The relative price of a product or the whole branded portfolio both has very special connection with the brand value: the higher the price positioned the harder to imagine low brand value. This is because the narrative of the price (see Second pillar) influences the brand value. Other narratives of a brand (how durable it is, for instance, or which celebrities are using this brand) heavily effect the brand value, too. Similarly, the extent of public spread (see First pillar – how much the brand is known, how much spent on advertising) also effects the brand value.

Brand value is determined by several other factors even not listed here. It is partly the result of deliberate actions of the company (market positioning of the brand and its products) but also exposed to external factors (like time) and public opinion.( LG’s rebranding from the low-end Goldstar brand to the higher positioned LG showed that value propositions of a brand require efforts in both areas. Grundig made the opposite U-turn when sold to Chinese company.)

Sixth pillar: personal relation

All the pillars encountered previously are summoning on personal level because the nature and the definition of branding 100% relates to human feelings and perceptions. Most cases we can translate this personal effect and feelings to perceived brand values and the position of a brand in the customers’ head. People know or do not know, like or dislike brands, become haters or fans of brands, recommend or just accept certain brands.

Task 6: turn personal relation to action

As a result, this personal disposition of a brand clearly ends up in the relation to the act of buying. We, marketing professionals should not deny the aboriginal intention of our branding efforts to influence buying decisions on personal level. We are not just simply influencing people in business for the sake of general human aims: we do not want world peace; we do want to have our specific products and services sold. We want to convince John or Clair Smith as individual customers to select our service or product. This is the action we – or more generally: the investors – expect from any investments (including brand campaigns) made.

Fortunately we not all live in the business sector, not all follow business aims (i.e. sales) in our lives. Surprisingly, non-profit organizations are not so much different from business ventures from this point of view. Non-profits also want to have a specific action to be reached: an action that is maybe appearing directly (like giving donation for starving people) but can be mental action or change to be targeted (for instance diversity campaigns).

The personal relation to a branded entity can be outlined in a matrix where on the first axis we can define the readiness or probability of buying action (or in a non-profit: readiness for action) and on the second axis we may highlight the level of brand’s emotional acceptance.

The personal relation to a specific brand with regards to the ultimate sales reason can be mapped as shown, but we should not forget that personal emotions and relations to brands are much wider than presented above: some people feel that their beloved brand is expressing also their way of life, involving several other actions well beyond a simple shopping; or just feeling neutral about a brand while the person is not going to be represented in any commercial situation (like myself with any hunting brands, although I know some of them).

We should therefore identify very precisely the personal relations to our brand of our existing and potential customers and we should make focused actions to harvest the branding efforts we have previously made.

Seventh pillar: Exposure to time

We have already mentioned before the amortization as an important factor in brand values. The simple reason of amortization is that the brands (via materialized products/services) and the customers live in time.

The general life exposure to time factor represented in concrete shapes with regards to brand itself and to its specific products/services. (Amortization is only the result of that process.) Brand perception very much effected by the products/services in timeline (e.g. how much up-to-date the product is reflects the brand’s state-of-the-art nature) and on the other hand the brand itself (without looking at individual products) also has an individual character which has its own life-cycle (how old a brand is, what type of products they represent).

Task 7: Consider time: plan and replan over time

Brands do not last for ever and are changing over time, even without deliberate actions. Amortization expresses the time-factor in economic terms but all the pillars mentioned before has a time layer. The repeated actions of marketing campaigns, the product developments or changes in market environments change the face of the brand even if it is not perceived by the company. The sad story of Nokia is a perfect example of how this specific brand was effected by the time factor in all possible way, from the publicity of its phones (a complete new generation has skipped Nokia phones), through the changes in the narratives attached to the brand, with the refreshed need to be unique again to the sharp decline of the brand value.

Read the article……….

Article Source:

Will Clarke

Marketing and PR Professional

Creative Simplicity

January 6, 2013



We live in a world of processes and reactionary results, derived from cause and effect but almost always relative to a specific defined theme. Potentially almost every function or sub-function of our lives can be explained with a set of stages, phases, or steps. There are the “Seven Stages of Grief”, “Twelve Step Programs”, and “The Three Phases of Life”. Nothing appears to be within our critical grasp unless it is equated to a process; essentially things don’t just occur they are psychologically conceived through a physical thought process.


Personally I believe the “big idea” is relative to instantaneous stimulation, the construction of the idea is a process that exists as much within the boundless corridors of the mind as it does on paper within the deliberate process of staging each step. Creativity is a constant process within the brain; it’s a functional metamorphosis that spontaneously occurs without notice, we are all in some way creatively active to some degree but the degree of creativity can and will differ.


The masterful and talented creative guru Steve Jobs made this statement to Wired magazine in 1996, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have. (Steve Jobs 1996)” Clearly Jobs had a grip on creative talent and what its origin may or may not be, the proof can be realized in his choices within the Apple team. In retrospect there are three specific keys to Jobs statement, connecting (the connecting is natural), experience (all encompassing of prior creativity), and vision (which is automatic).


Ultimately creativity should be a free spirit and a natural function of the creator, allowing the curator the essential opportunity to design the end product and the process in which it is created. A question that arises with concern to creativity is are we encouraging the process today or are we suppressing it, insisting on mainstream agendas rather than the outlandish beset by true creativity.


William Clarke

Evolving Consumerism

December 6, 2012



Americans are the trendsetters for the global initiative referred to as consumerism; we introduced the word into the global spotlight and set in motion a unique process of buying, attaining, hoarding, consuming and so on. In reality if you look back at ancient societies there was a great deal of hoarding and attaining by the Egyptians, Babylonians, and the Romans who used gold the way we use paper towels. The world may envision Americans as the kings of all consumers, but in reality we are not building pyramids and filling them with High Definition TV’s, IPods, and Lexus Hybrids.

Our grandparents saved for a rainy day, although I never quite understood what that meant, and when my Mother reiterates the same exact phrase its almost empty rhetoric to my nieces and nephews as they return a blank stare, as if to say what? Although as the generations have changed so have our tendencies, how we think has evolved, methodology of living has changed , and what living really means has been redefined, people are no longer accepting what some would refer to as a menial existence. Let me use my Mother as an example once again, when we were children the thought of a visit to Mc Donald’s was just that, a thought an idol thought, because it was just not acceptable. We did not visit Mc Donald’s with Mom. Although our Aunt, her younger sister could be easily persuaded to visit on occasion when she was babysitting. Mom had a budget that she maintained, she didn’t waste money on junk, and she would gladly make hamburgers for dinner if that is what we wanted. Although today Mom has gone consumeristic, she even has Cable TV, she will order Dominos for the grandchildren, the family room now is adorned with a 50’ HDTV, she now buys lattes at Starbucks at $5 dollars a cup, and she even has a cell phone. I have become increasingly worried about her behavior, and it has nothing to do with the fact that she is spending my future inheritance. Somewhere along the way she has decided that the rainy day isn’t coming, and she’s buying, if she likes it or wants it she’s taking it home!

When you evaluate who you are today, are you different from the person that you were ten years ago? If you’ve changed, why have you changed? There are many reasons why we change and many are socioeconomically related, basically you have more or have the ability to have more, and in essence you want more. You want the possessions and you have to have them all, the larger modern home, the BMW, the electro-gadgets, and above all the stuff.

George Carlin the late comedian extraordinaire had a comedy bit focused around the stuff, my stuff, and your stuff.Carlin said that Americans just want stuff, they got to have stuff, and they need places to put their stuff, he noted that people at some point have to buy bigger houses because they need more room to put all their stuff. Now as difficult as it may be to ascertain, George Carlin was not an economist but a conversationalist? I believe that Carlin was dead on target when he discussed stuff, he witnessed during his lifetime, a growing busting loose Americana with a materialistic populous. What’s more fitting than a comedian telling America that they are way over the top, they buy too much for no reason, other than the desire to have more stuff.

William Clarke


Consumer Behavior

November 29, 2012


Consumer behavior is the relative action or actions of the consumer, basically how we buy, what we buy, and when we buy. Sounds simple enough but in reality its just not all that vanilla as there are many flavors that lend themselves to consumer behavior. Buying behavior is not relegated to need, as buying can be linked to desire, lust, and most critically impulse. There is a process within all buying attached to decision making, we all make strong educated decisions and weaker snap or thoughtless decisions that are not reasoned and evaluated properly. Consumer behavior can be trending or chemical, we buy an iPhone because everyone else has one (peer pressure?) or we may purchase a Big Mac because we are not only hungry but we just watched the McDonalds commercial and now suddenly we are at the drive-through window.

An interesting question may be are we induced to react through the communicative digital technology delivered through marketing and advertising. We buy for both addictive and emotional reasons, and we tend to buy due to brand loyalty and trust. You may think you buy Downey fabric softener because it makes your clothes so soft, but in reality the purchase may be relative to the smell, that blue plastic bottle, or your history with the product. Maybe it reminds you of Mom, the house you grew up in, Grandma, or maybe just gives you a really good feeling regarding all of the above. Consumer behavior is more in depth than just buying, but buying is linked to how we accept and understand messaging which in turn is connected to communication delivered in advertising and how we interpret or process it.

Can’t Touch This-Killer Containers

November 21, 2012

      I guess the technical name for these devices of pain, destruction, and personnel deprecation is “rigid plastic clamshell” packaging. Unless you have been living in the deepest jungles of the Amazon for the past twenty years you have at one time or another been exposed to this material. I believe that toy makers, electronics companies, and most hardware suppliers have decided to make the entire interaction with their product a nightmare for the common man or woman.


  The hard shell seems and presents as impenetrable, the clear unassuming hard plastic almost seems to be a diversion, you can see the product clearly, positioned nicely propped up all shiny new, almost like a trophy. But guess what, you can’t have it, it’s mocking you, just sitting there, laughing at you. You struggle and pry at it, it won’t break, will not even budge, try and try and try again, but no luck. The manufacturers suggest the use of a knife, box cutter, maybe scissors if available. Realistically explosives, a hammer and chisel, or believe it or not a flamethrower would be more proficient. You begin by stabbing at it as if your life depended upon it, your temper is rising as it has never before, and you’re plugging away at a new $300 dollar cell phone like a madman or woman. 

Marketing team where are you in all this, I mean lets get serious this packaging is killing your products and revenue potential, fix it!


It’s not just about the bike: Livestrong Armstrong

November 14, 2012


Nike must be in mourning after the loss of Lance Armstrong just a few weeks ago as he was so much more than just an spokes person athlete; he was essentially the primary component of the Livestrong product line. Lance is and always will be the heart and soul of Livestrong and that yellow rubber band that grew into a kinship of fighters who refused to give up, and also a clothing and footwear product line that has done nothing but spell profit for Nike.

Unfortunately word is that Lance cannot even participate in the shadows of Livestrong, as he has been forced to step away from the chairmanship of Livestrong as well. Honestly it’s a shame that his dedication to cancer research fund raising is being thrown out the window.  Whether you believe Armstrong’s guilt or innocence, you can never question his dedication to the cause; he has taken those with a cancer diagnosis from victims to an elite survivorship. I think the brand that truly is Lance Armstrong will always live on.

Thanks Lance!

What is Progressive Interactive Media?

August 31, 2012

Progressive Interactive Media encompasses all that has been described as “emerging media”, and identifies the key components relative to communications, marketing, advertising, and all interactive techniques and positioning of these processes. Progressive because we attempt to remain cutting edge and continuously evolving, Interactive as we must have a unique relationship with the customer encouraging engagement, allowing them to offer an opinion while there should be a give and take from marketer to consumer, and Media driven referring to the potential of mass communication.

When exploring the development of traditional media its quite hard to believe that the evolution of radio took some forty years from introduction to acceptance. While television was both sight and sound and a bit more interactive with greater communication potential, but even so it took more than ten years for the consumer to adopt the media option as habit. Thus in an ever evolving world, just a few short years ago the introduction of the iPad was to say the least emerging, and it took just 81 days for the consumer market to embed this digital technology deep within its sole. Digital media and how its generated or provided the consumer is a constantly changing environment with new products materializing at will, and older products constantly being redesigned to keep up with the evolution.

Emerging media has become the essence of our current communication forum that continues to evolve within the digital world, as we continue to trend toward supernatural interactivity between both the human element and digitally manipulated expressionism. Think about the movie “Minority Report”, which depicts a world where even your next breath is almost pre-determined and marketing technique’s include interactive virtual sales people and ads addressing you by name. This fairy tale movies plot is definitely the next progressive interactive media activity on the horizon, a good example is Europe where most credit cards already have a small identification chip, that tiny chip could and will be used to identify you, maintain your tendencies, foods you like, and purchases you are likely to make. In reality marketing to you the individual will be a simple mathematical process defined by digital technology.

I obviously cannot predict the next phase in the emerging media evolution although I can guarantee you that it will be digital, lightening fast, and offer state of the art interactive communication potential.


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