Today I will be talking about branding, with a specific focus on the corporate brand, that is, organisations and their use of brand, and how it the internet as a social network changes the way in which they present themselves.
So let’s jump straight in shall we.
[WHAT IS A BRAND?]
Think about Apple. Now forget everything you know about the product. It doesn’t matter. The brand does. Apple computers, iPods, iPhones — they’re all produced in various factories across South East Asia. These same factories are just as able to make parts for Android or Windows Phones. It doesn’t matter. Apple, with their HQ in California, aren’t about a product. They’re a brand.
Apples branding strategy focuses on the customer and their emotions: the experience of how the apple image makes you feel. “The Apple brand personality is about lifestyle; imagination; liberty regained; innovation; passion; hopes, dreams and aspirations; and power-to-the-people through technology.” (Marketing Minds, 2015). But further than that, the apple brand communicates simplicity, safety, and access to the clique of apple product owners, bragging rights and all.
Naomi Klein puts it simply by saying: “Think of the brand as the core meaning of the modern corporation, and of the advertisement as one vehicle used to convey that meaning to the world.” (Klein, year, p.5)
Advertisements, logos, the name; it all contributes to the brand identity, but the brand is the idea, it’s values, and the experience that they are trying to convey through these vehicles. Think of them as identifiers for the brand itself. (extra link about building visual identities for brands; coca cola visual identity evolution)
[ARE BRANDS YOUR FRIENDS?]
Or at the very least, do they aim to emulate similar behaviours to that of friendship though social media in order to create a connection to the audience? (1 | 2 | 3) (We crave friendship; is social media our way of meeting this in a digital age? Is this why brands acting like friends is such a successful marketing strategy?)
[WHAT ARE QUALITIES OF FRIENDSHIP?]
Pre-organised list, in no particular order~ ( a few can group together)
Obviously, brands aren’t people, they are ideas; but more often than not, they are given humanistic qualities to create a connection between brand and consumer. This connection could come about through the product, but more often than not, connections are formed as a result of the way in which the brand presents itself, focusing in their brand ideals; and the interaction between the brand and consumer. They sell an experience which you can relate to, rather than the product itself.
Using the example of Southern Comfort’s twitter profile, it’s clear that their message is promoting comfort. It screams, “buy this and you will be comfortable”, “buy this and you can relax”, “buy this and you will be happy”. These are all feelings which the brand aims to embed into the users understanding of it’s product. Yes, it is alcohol, but it’s not promising you intoxication, it’s promising you comfort. (1)
The medium of social media is set up perfectly for conversation, the underpinning idea of these networks is it’s use in conveying information and building upon this information through other people. Most social media platforms were created with people in mind, but these networks have allowed brands to integrate themselves into society, its cultures, and trends. This is something that has come about because of the internet, the affordances it brings, and the cultural acceptance.
Because of this dialogic platform, interactivity can be encouraged. This can result in some amazing comments, insight into how the brand image is being utilised within other peoples profiles, and opens up the opportunity for user generated content. This content becomes a part of the brand experience, adding to the overall brand identity. UOW does this by encouraging content, accompanied by hashtags to promote the uni lifestyle. (Currently #ExperienceUOW, last year #ThisIsUOW was utilised), but I’ll get back to that a bit later.
This space for conversation moves the brand away from the product, further embedding itself in the brand experience. In doing so, it moves away from transactional communication (HOUSEOFPIAO, 2016), towards building long lasting relationships, or trust. The aim is to engage an authentic relationship to keep customers in within their brand experience.
Brands, being highly curated images aiming to appeal to a certain target audience, can utilise social media to market to you and your interests.
Social media has the benefit of providing collected information about the audience who is viewing the content. This information could be as simple as the country the accessing IPs are located in, the age demographic, male to female ratio or so on. (Brookins, 2010)
Platforms such as Facebook offer the opportunity to market content to target specific audiences which could have targeted interests, through boosting posts or promoting the page itself. Creating a sense of mutual interest.I’ve included screenshots from the page of Mind The Windows, a site which discusses cricket in an informed, informal manner. What I want to highlight through these images is the customisation which Facebook allows for when looking to promote specific content:
On top of this, they also offer an estimation of what you will get for your money. In this instance, I’m promoting the page, so the tangible results they are selling is an increase in likes, between 288 and 1151. This amount varies depending on which areas you focus on, and by choosing four locations for this example, I spread the marketing thinly over these locations, resulting in a lower ‘like’ increase, comparatively to focusing only on India.
Facebook in particular, is very good at promoting the idea of mutual interest, but rather than just utilising targeted advertising towards interests, it utilises friends to portray interest in the site, thus creating a sense of connection to what the friend likes.
[SHARED EXPERIENCE] and glocalization
Classen looks at how brands embed themselves into cultures, specifically Coca-Cola within Argentine culture, discussing how coca cola is such a familiar brand within the country that it is believed by locals to be a native product to the country, rather than an import. Coca cola capitalises on the currency of culture in order to appeal to the country on a singular basis, without straying from its core brand values.
Their social media presence consists of a number of twitter feeds, all slightly different, as it glocalises the content on each to be country specific. While America’s content currently focuses on the NBA, and spring break; Australia’s content appeals towards the Australian on a hot Summers day and utilising #TasteThatFeeling (a hashtag not associated with the curated American twitter feed).
“The image of the precious, life-giving liquid is now Coca-Cola and Sprite” (Classen, p.43) . By tapping into the cultural understanding, coca cola has positioned itself as a familiar ‘face’ within the community.
While glocalisation is a great way to specifically target a usergroup from a country, if it’s not executed well, it can risk alienation of an audience. This could be because the brand image does not align with the brand identity overall, sacrificing its values to cater to a selective market; or because companies don’t know how to take the cultural currency and portray it in a way which is serious while still reflecting their brand.
As such, authenticity becomes something which is needed in social media
. With so many brands online, users have to determine whether the message each brand is selling appears authentic, truthful, and relevant to them: if they deem the branding as unauthentic, there are plenty of other avenues which can be utilised in order to find an authentic brand.
I’m going to use the example of Femsplain: a website which aims to reshape the way women are discussed, through publishing of user generated content. This core value of empowering women, and providing women with a safe space to discuss, read, and create is reflected really well through their social media.
- Links to the articles
- Retweets of comments about articles and how it has resonated with the reader
- Imagery promoting positive self image
- Creates a sense of open community through discussion (#LetMeFemsplain), and replies to their community
Clear distinction between advertising and user generated content, but that’s a whole other tangent that is for another day~
Yes, that’s right, brands can change over time, and not just the way visual identities linking to their ideas, but the core values, and experiences the brand is pushing can change.
So I’m going to focus quickly on UOW, and it’s recent rebrand, updated from it’s 2011 approach.
What are it’s beliefs? (UOW Brand Guidelines 2011, p.6-8)
- Connect: Excellence
- passion breeds excellence
- desire for excellence leads to high impact on society
(UOW Brand Guidelines 2011, p.30)
Brand Personality Traits: (UOW Brand Guidelines 2011, p.9)
- Open Minded
[Logo]: (UOW Brand Guidelines 2011, p.14)
- energy, spirit, vision
- modern, innovative, forward thinking
- Crest: credentials, stature, academic excellence
- Contents of crets: connections to wollongong; natural assets and community
[Colours]: (UOW Brand Guidelines 2011, p.25)
(quick insight into colours psychology re brands)
- open palette to all units/divisions/faculties; thus creating greater choice/expression diversity
- Modern, Bold, Progressive
- Bright, Vibrant
- Positive, Energetic
[NEW BRANDING/2016-2020 BRAND] Frost Design
What are it’s beliefs? (Refreshed UOW Brand Identity Revealed, 2016)
- Stands for purpose
- Innovative (carried over)
- Multicultural (continuaation of inclusive)
- Quality (continuation of excellence)
- Ambitious (slight change to passion)
- Social Leadership
So the core beliefs have remained fairly in tact, but instead of ‘Connect: Excellence’ being the uni tag line, it has been replaced with ‘Stands for purpose’. Furthermore the idea of UOW as leaders in the academic scene is a new idea which has evolved since 2011.
Aiming to convey a more mature approach; modern sophisticated colour palette; elegant/contemporary typefaces; etc.
Their press release even says that they are trying to come across more seriously.
The current promotion for #ExperienceUOW is an interesting one, because it doesn’t conform to any branding strategies. It’s closer to the 2011 branding strategy, however that could be a result of the hashtag #ThisIsUOW which was born out of that era.
Because of the way in which it’s being utilised to market content for the current audience, that is us, the students, I’m surprised that the branding strategy didn’t incorporate two different brands: The external brand for those who look in to the university and expect the corporate style and image from a university; as well as a secondary sub brand for the students, perhaps an evolution from the 2011 brand.
The #ThisIsUOW hashtag has a mixed response when it comes to twitter in particular, with a lot of negativity within these tweets.
Like #ExperienceUow, the aim of this hashtag was to promote the university lifestyle through imagery, however over the year since its release, it has been added to and given some negative connotations. Popular negative comments this year seem to be tweets about Parking, or lack of, at the university, a couple on assignments/exams, and then the parody account ThisIsUOWasteland critiquing the imagery used for UOW’s marketing, re-imagining them as a part of an apocalyptic scenario.