A brand is so much more than a logo

Branding is more than a logo, a few colors and a tagline. If you are launching a business, it is imperative that you treat your brand as a promise.

Recently, a longtime friend reached out for help with his web presence. David “Coach” Blais opened The Institute for Sports Performance & Wellness (ISPW) in Barrie, Ontario, and wanted my thoughts on how to improve his website.  My suggestion was to launch a new site in order to provide:

1. A cleaner look and more intuitive navigation;
2. Better SEO configuration;
3. More compelling web copy and social objects (e.g. video, images) to communicate his value prop;
4. Testimonials from pro athletes to establish credibility.

Coach Blais did respond to my idea with enthusiasm, but mentioned something that I found concerning:

This sounds great Pat, go for it! I want to build my brand around my logo and colors, so as long as you respect that, I totally trust your judgment.

Visual elements such as logos and colors are brand attributes, and they are important to help create consistency across different communication channels. But alone they will not create brand awareness nor lead your target audience to develop an affinity for your product or service.

Consistently delivering on your brand promise will.

I don’t mean to pick on my pal Coach Blais*, (I see the same issues all the time in both small and large organizations), but I wish he would have said something like:

This sounds great Pat, go for it! I want to build my brand around my ability and reputation for delivering on my promise to help athletes of all types take their performance to the next level…

Brian Solis recently discussed Kirk Phillips’ 9 criteria for Brand Essence.  Great article, and all nine are quite important. But for the sake of this case study (and to get Coach Blais to start working on his new branding strategy right away), lets focus on three of the brand essence criteria which I feel are imperative for the ISPW:

1. Single-minded: One word is ideal. Maybe two. More than two words indicates that the brand has no focus. As a brand (by design) delivers a unique experience, having no focus makes for a weak brand.

2. Authentic: The essence must be credible or the brand will be rejected. To find out what consumers believe about your brand, ask them. It’s okay for the brand essence to be aspirational, but only if your customers believe you can deliver on the promise.

3. Consistently delivered: If the proposed essence is not consistently experienced (e.g, if a trip to Walt Disney World isn’t magical), then it isn’t the essence. Can your organization deliver?

Coach Blais has a track record of helping athletes take their performance to the next level – which is what, along with his passion, have compelled him to open his own facility. To me it’s clear, the ISPW promise = stronger performance.  But that’s me, a longtime friend who is quite familiar with his work. The challenge will be to get his target audience over time to be aware of, and to believe in his brand promise.

He is off to a great start in Barrie, and has quickly entrenched himself in the community as a sport performance and wellness expert.  By striving to achieve a brand essence that is single-minded, authentic, and with a promise that is consistently delivered, he will build a sustainable business and will turn his logo into a constant reminder of the ISPW story.

*No friendships were harmed in the making on this blog post J

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