The difference between a product and a brand

If we all chose our partner on the basis of looks alone the world would be a pretty vacuous place. As one of our former colleagues used to say, “You wouldn’t pick your wife in a beauty parade, would you?”

Fortunately, most of us (outside the world of a few TV reality shows and the odd world leader) tend to go beyond surface attraction to try to find that special individual that we can engage with to explore and enjoy life experiences. We seek out someone that we feel a real affinity with. We like them to look good of course, but that there are a host of other factors that make us truly love somebody.

And the same is true of choosing brands.

As a design agency, we like to think we make the brands we work on look their very best. Being eye-catching and attractive is important, especially for food packs that need to stand out amidst the 20,000 or so product lines that are stocked on the congested shelves of our supermarkets.

But a successful brand needs more than just visual appeal. It needs to offer something that people can connect with that is different, or better, or more interesting than anything else in its sector. Something that encourages you to stick with a brand even when rivals pop up with dazzling new offers.

That ‘stickiness’ comes from the combination of a compelling brand ‘story’ and a charming, engaging brand character.

Sometimes the story can be built upon a unique, rational set of attributes – something that unequivocally demonstrates clear superiority. But more often, in these sophisticated times when most rational features can and will be rapidly copied, it has to be something more emotive.

A brand story is the creation of a rich tapestry of words, images and experiences that bring a brand to life. It can be complex or simple. It can be shrouded in mystery (intriguing) or a re-telling of a familiar old fable (reassuring). It can be confident and bold, or modest but profound.

Whatever the approach, it should be delivered in a manner that evokes a sense of clear character to the brand – a tone and personality that makes it feel real and engaging.

So that, just like a prospective partner, a brand should display the kind of charm that we find irresistible.

Because that’s where true love develops from. It’s one thing to spark an initial attraction, but a lot more significant to develop a long-lasting bond. Successful brands build loyal followers, repeat sales and a permanent place in our lives.

And a lifelong partnership is a lot more valuable than a quick snog.

Words by Chris Blythe