What is a brand? How often do we ask ourselves this question as brand professionals? If you think about it, probably not enough. As public relations professionals, it is our job to protect the brands we represent, and shine them in their best light on a daily basis.
It was my turn to choose a book for the HMA Book Club. I selected “Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits” by Debbie Millman. And after reading it I now have a fresh outlook on what it really means to manage a brand.
Millman sat down with more than 20 of the world’s nationally recognized brand experts, ranging from the former vice president global creative of Starbucks AND former creative director of Nike (yes that’s the same person) to the individual in charge of the brand redesign for Coca-Cola to the vice president and global design officer for Procter & Gamble. These individuals are fascinating to say the least.
When it came to their insight on branding, they all seemed to agree on one thing- branding tells the story of a product or company, while simultaneously creating an emotional experience for the connoisseur.
Picture yourself in a grocery store deciding between brand X and brand Y of paper towels. If you automatically choose brand Y, chances are, you remember sitting at your grandmother’s kitchen counter as a young child, spilling your milk, and seeing her clean up the mess with brand Y paper towel. More than likely, brand X and brand Y are similar in a majority of aspects, but your personal experience made your decision. Brand experts are in charge of creating this experience for consumers.
The three most influential nuggets of information and inspiration from this book came from Stanley Hainsworth. He’s the chief creative officer of Tether and former vice president global creative of Starbucks and former creative director at Nike. Basically, he has run some of the most successful brands in the history of forever.
According to Hainsworth:
“I describe it as experience first and product second, because no one is going to pick up your product and try if they don’t want to buy into the experience ”
“For me, it’s all about having a story to tell. This is what will enable you to create an experience around the brand”
“I think the best brands are those that create something for consumers that they don’t even know they need yet”
Mind blown, right?! If I could have a conversation with anyone in the branding/communications/public relations realm, it would be Mr. Hainsworth. If you’re out there Stanley Hainsworth- I’d love to get coffee (at Starbucks) anytime.
In order to be successful at supporting our brands, we need to ask ourselves this question- “What story are you telling? ”