From badge to brand

Branding is not just about the logotype. Not even the logotype is just about the logotype. That’s what every branding expert will tell you. And they’re right!

But still, once you have managed to build a certain image and confidence, it is striking how strong the effect can be in changing both expectations and experience. Only by changing the physical logotype. There are some cases where you can actually do that, like basic commodities. Imagine a Heinz olive oil, everyone would know that this is mainstream ordinary oil, but it might feel more appropriate on the american diner table. Given that American diner guests increasingly drizzle olive oil on their salads, like the europeans.

However, in general you need to do something more with your product to make it trustworthy and to complete the experience of it. The car industry has learned the hard way how to do this. Adding the brand from a car with one set of values, to a car with a different set of values often proved disastrous. That’s when you talk about badge engineering.

Look at these examples: the Simca that wanted to be a Talbot, a Chrysler and a Dodge. The Alfa Arna, a 1980’s product with  japanese 80’s car charisma and italian 80’s production quality (congratulations!). The DAF that tried to be a Volvo. The vivid and sporty Lancia Delta that failed to meet the expectations of a safe and solid SAAB (SAAB-Lancia 600). There were many examples of this badge engineering practice in the 60’s and 70’s, and most of them failed.

Today many cars are sold under different brands, but they always have enough unique properties to make the product trustworthy. An Audi, a Volkswagen, a SEAT and a Skoda of the same size are all based on the same platform, sharing many components, but as a result of working with the experience as a whole, they are perceived completely different. Everything you see and touch has been taken under consideration, and revised if necessary, so that the total experience is in line with the brand and market differentiated. You don’t just change the logo on the grill, you change the entire hood.

Still I see many areas where marketing, branding, communication and product design are made separately, without interaction. You stick on a campaign just as you would stick on a badge. Maybe we can learn something from the car industry in that respect?

My recipe for success on a competitive market is to make, sometimes small, but coordinated actions in communication and delivery, including the product or service. Then you can get a good 1+1=3 effect and build confidence through credibility. Just like the car makers.

And in order to achieve that, the various competencies involved must collaborate. The process cannot be linear. The aspects cannot be isolated. See the whole experience, develop it and be successful!

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