Aberdeen Strategies

May 20, 2013

The Simple Truth About Brands

Guest blogger Dick Mitchell, President, Dick Mitchell & Associates

 How can something so simple be so hard?

The simple truth is that a brand is a simple truth. Let me share something I learned from 36 years of brand development that may help illustrate that statement.

Many people – including “branding” professionals – talk about logos as brands. No, sorry, logos are not brands. Logos visually help identify brand ownership – just like a name does verbally.

Ironically, a simple brand truth is much more than a logo, a market position, a product, a cause, a leader or a culture combined. No doubt all of those elements are important to a successful, competitive brand. That’s why some companies find it difficult to recognize or define that one simple truth that can guide growth, recruitment, product development, values or customers.

Disney defined a brand truth that guides every move made by the enterprise. Yet, that truth doesn’t restrain the company from appropriate, commercially successful opportunities. The simple truth established for Disney is: Keep alive the magic of childhood. Now, that’s elegant. And, above all, it’s the honest truth. (I wish I had created it.) That simple truth applies to all the complexity of Disney’s business. It works for resorts or cartoons. It even works for music and cruise lines. But, if the enterprise wants to make an R rated movie, the enterprise does so using the Touchstone brand. The Disney brand is protected and remains a reliable truth.

Many companies are actually too close to their simple truth to clearly define it or even agree on it. It’s hard for them to gain internal consensus over something so important. There’s no shame in that. It isn’t easy. That’s where a brand strategist can help. A creative brand strategist will convert the complex facts into a useful, unique truth -- making the hard thing, well, simple.