Opinion: Julian Gorham asks, “Why is clarity important in branding?”
By Julian Gorham, head of brand, Gather
In a complex, digital and interconnected world, clarity is key in branding, says Gather’s Julian Gorham
Apple, GE, IBM, Starbucks? Corporate brands come in many shapes and sizes, but the most successful share one characteristic: they are clearly and simply expressed at the centre. Without a fierce focus and a ruthless determination for simplicity, brands are weakened from the start: communications get diluted or misrepresented and actions that support the brand lose their power to connect with stakeholders.
Clarity and simplicity are not easy – in fact they are very, very hard to achieve. When you consider the noisy world we now live in, one that’s getting noisier, seemingly, by the day, being heard at all is a challenge. What counts for organisations is being consistent, whilst being relevant to different stakeholders. And clarity is the first step.
If it was easy to be simple and clear, everyone would do it. The trouble is, few actually do.
While lots of successful organisations may be recognised for having an award-winning logo, a great product or a knockout website, the true measure of their success stems from a common understanding among stakeholders of who they are and where they are heading. The brand, clearly articulated, is the means by which that understanding is communicated – through messages and action. If organisations don’t have a steely determination for simplicity, using clear words to define culture, they can’t possibly achieve the consistency they need to build their reputation
Clarity is the springboard for success. Organisations that focus on identifying the absolute core of their character and are relentless in abandoning the superfluous, are typically far more successful. They cut through the increasingly noisy marketplace by ensuring that their positioning and storytelling is consciously undertaken, seriously executed, passionately driven through the organisation and constantly reviewed.
When an organisation really works well, all the bits that make up what it is make sense to whoever might be looking at it – and from whatever angle: customers, investors, employees, partners – even competitors.
They may only see certain bits of the story, they may receive different messages and have different experiences, but all of it adds up to tell a coherent, credible, consistent story.
The digital context magnifies this truth. We all know that inconsistency kills brands. But in a digital age you need to be insistent on being consistent across every single channel through which you broadcast, or through which people can interact and engage with you, because you need to be consistent enough to everybody, all the time.
There is no hiding place. The gaps will get you. But when everything adds up, the positive effect is plain for all to see.
Clarity is important to branding because for years people have been talking about brands as being ‘What people say about you when you’re not in the room.’ But it’s harder now, because that room is pretty much the size of the planet. Organisations therefore need to adapt and be prepared to invest in how they communicate with their stakeholders both inside and outside their business.
The organisations that do the hard work to clarify and simplify will be the ones who are able to rise above the rowdiness, get their messages heard, and hopefully make a difference in the world in their own way.