I’ve long championed the view that brands are essentially about brand values and attributes, and brand identities, logos, colour schemes etc., are only icons that stand for those values. It may sound as though someone who originally trained as a designer is belittling the contribution a brand identity can make, but the reality is that in most cases the best brand communications are not necessarily the best designed. The best brand identity programme in the world cannot make a bad brand come good.
However there is one dimension in which the brand communications assets can be crucial – and it’s all about the ‘halo effect’. Imagine you are interviewing and a guy come in who just look perfect for the part. Subconsciously, you make up your mind that he is right for the job in the first few seconds, then conduct the rest of the interview looking for reasons to support the decision you have already made. Usually there has to be some very powerful and drastic reason to change your mind. The reverse is also true – you can decide somebody looks ‘wrong’ and then spend your time looking for reasons not to hire them. Remember, these are subconscious decisions we all take all the time.
The same is true when we encounter a new brand. We are likely to make an instant decision based upon the brand image in the absence of any other experience or information. Of course the brand has to live up to the promise, but we are more likely to persevere longer when there has been a positive halo effect. This is where the skill of the brand image specialist comes into its own. It can help convey the right initial emotional connection, and we should not underestimate the importance of consumers emotional attachment to brands.