Introduction #3

by raymanookian

We live in a world dominated by brands.

Brands are a set of manufactured perceptions and images that identify and persuade our everyday decisions from the food we eat, the way we look, the way we think, even where we live is influenced by brands. This is because in the world we live in today, there are very few (if any) organisations that have not adopted the concept of brand. Everyone from the commercial and corporate sector, government organisations, celebrities, even countries embraced the idea. So much so, that the term brand and branding are now part of everyday language.

However, it is often misinterpreted. As Wally Olins articulates in The Brand Handbook, despite the ubiquity of brands and branding, and despite all the talk, surprisingly few people seem to understand what they are actually about. The subject is confused and confusing. This is partly because brand and its various applications branding (which will discuss later) can encapsulate both big and important and apparently superficial and trivial issues simultaneously’1.

For the purpose of this thesis, it is important to define what the differences are between brand and branding.

What is brand?

A brand represents the full ‘personality’ of the company and is interface between company and audience2. A brand’s construct is a promise that links a product or a service to the consumer. Whether words, images, or emotions, or any combination of the three, brands are, mental associations which are stimulated when you think or hear about a particular product (car or camera), organisation (Apple or Virgin), a corporation (Tesco or Harrods), celebrity (David Beckham or Germaine Greer), even a country (Brazil or Japan). It is something that lives in the brain. Brands are the cognitive associations that exist in the mind. When those mental associations make the associated product, service or organisation more salient, more interesting, or more compelling than the alternatives, they create value. To use a modern analogy it is the ‘file we save in the minds mental desktop’3.

If you look at any of the best brand in world, old or new, it is possible to tell what makes them different from its competitors within its category or sector. The strongest of brands are successful not merely, because they have established a differentiated meaning of their brand, but that they have ensured that it has relevance. What sets them apart is they can reduced this meaningful difference to a simple and understandable thought, or to put in layman’s terms – an idea people can get and connect with the second they see and recognise it. A successful brand is all about detail. Every facet of a brand must be apparent in the organisations communications, behaviour, products and environment4.

As touched upon earlier, brands now cover a broad range of genres, but within the last three decades, the brand landscape has changed in that dominant brands are no longer controlled, and influenced by the commercial and corporate sector. Brands from the charity sector now have a prodigious existence in the minds of the consumer.

What is branding?

Branding is the conveyance of a brand. It is an application of an idea. Figure x shows the many methods in which organisations convey the brand into people minds. They are commonly referred to as the brand ‘touchpoints’. They are the means in which an organisation raises awareness, communicates its values or proposition and builds relationships.  Anything that is an expression of the idea of the brand is a brand touchpoint. Advertising is one of the various touchpoints of a brand and their relevance is to be examined in detail in the next section.

Charity branding

Branding has been increasing employed by the charity and non-government-organisations (NGO) that compete in the emotional territory of people’s hearts and minds with commercial brands for the money in consumers’ pockets5. Since the late 1980’s this sector has been developing and shaping the way in which we interpret their organisations. In 2010, the United Kingdom the charity sector was valued at £53 billion6, with £10.6 billion of this figure coming from the public through voluntary donations7.

Many of our current popular charities and NGOs beginnings started anti-establishment and counter culture movements of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Some can trace their heritage back to the Victorian age. The struggles of the 1960s started to changes that would eventually grown into the ‘personal politics’ of the 1990s8. Charities and NGOs have long been in existence and as global organisations before these events. However, it was during this era that the idea of campaign awareness, through a global community, all coming together as one powerful force, through the potency of mass media that laid the foundations of much of the global awareness campaigns being employed by large international charities and NGOs today.

Charity brands came to prominence in the later part of the 1980’s by the endeavours likes of Band Aid and Live Aid: Famine relief efforts and the AIDS awareness campaigns. Band Aid and Live Aid were both engineered by Irish musician Bob Geldolf. The sales of the Band Aid single, released in 1984, raised over £10 million for the Ethiopian famine relief, and in the summer of 1985, Live Aid the sister event was broadcast to 152 countries around the world in the most ambitious satellite link-up that at that time had ever been created. Live Aid also produced a legacy of charity events, in both Europe and America. These included Fashion Aid, Cartoon Aid, and Artists’ Aid, all of them trying to recapture that precious feeling of goodwill, some more than others9.

The AIDS awareness campaigns of the latter part of the 1980s incorporated the methods and tactics of corporate design and advertising to fight government in action on AIDS issues10. ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) made good use of brand touchpoints, for example developing a reference point (or logo), advertising campaigns, merchandising to name but a few, to reinforce the need to keep the pressure on governments and as a communication tool to educate their benefactors and the general public at large of the issues. The strategic planning and execution established the movement and made sure AIDS remained in the public’s conscious.

Within five years, ACT UP had become a large network of independent city chapters with an international reach spanning two-dozen countries11.

ACT UP represented two important developments; the first was the trend towards ‘personal politics’, and the second the incorporation of professional marketing and brand theory within this sector.

  1. Wally Olins: The Brand Handbook. Thames Hudson 2008, Page 8
  2. The Fundamentals of Branding. AVA Publishing 2009. Page 12
  3. Allen Anderson. Brand Simple by Palgrave Macmillan 2006. Page4.
  4. Brian Boylan, Chairman Wolff Olins. Design Brand Identity (Third Edition). John Wiley & Sons, Inc 2009. Page 275
  5. Wally Olins: On BÒand. Thames Hudson 2004 Page 14
  6. http://www.charitycommission.gov.uk/About_us/About_charities/factfigures.aspx. 15 August 2011
  7. UK Giving 2010. An over view of charitable giving in the UK, 2009/2010. December 2010. National Council of Voluntary Organisations
  8. Liz McQuiston. Graphics of Agitation, social and political graphics since the Sixties. Phaidon 2006. Page 134
  9. Liz McQuiston. Graphics of Agitation, social and political graphics since the Sixties. Phaidon 2006. Page 123
  10. Liz McQuiston. Graphics of Agitation, social and political graphics since the Sixties. Phaidon 2006. Page 96
  11. Liz McQuiston. Graphics of Agitation, social and political graphics since the Sixties. Phaidon 2006. Page 128
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