You’ve probably heard a lot about the difference between your “product” and your “brand”, but what does that mean? Let’s put buzzwords aside for a second, and look at a potent example, one of the fastest growing car companies in the U.S.: Subaru.
Ten years ago, Subaru was “niche”, known mostly for their Forester and Outback models, which in the 2000s were considered crunchy, granola station wagons for hippies. At that time, Subaru was synonymous with their product, and the message gleaned from the niche audience that had latched onto that product.
Subaru’s growth over the last few years has been largely fueled by their fantastic and impactful “Love” campaign, with which Subaru has been able to re-define their brand. Now, when you think of Subaru, you don’t think about any specific product, you think about an emotion. You think about Love.
Thinking about Subaru’s growth, especially related to the “Love” campaign, is a perfect example of how the message your brand is communicating can impact your company in huge ways at every level.
Obviously, branding starts with the visual. It’s a logo, sure, but that’s just part of it. It’s font choices, color palettes, line weights. Is your website clean, modern and visually pleasing? Is your social media presence consistent across all networks? Think about Subaru’s visual choices. They are warm, accessible and inviting. Contrast this with the darker, more aggressive choices of a company like Acura.
It’s important to remember that your brand isn’t just on the web. It exists in the real, physical world. Every time a person gets a chance to look at any tiny piece of your company, whether it’s your Twitter avatar or your product manual, that’s your brand. And each one of those interactions with your logo, your website, your app, etc., sends a tiny message to someone’s brain.
Now think again about Subaru’s “Love” campaign. What makes it so impactful isn't just visual, it’s visceral. It’s emotional. You feel something. And it’s the same with your brand. Branding isn’t just about what people see when they look at your company. It’s about what they experience, and how that experience makes them feel. Is using your website smooth and intuitive on mobile? That might engender confidence. Are you engaging in playful back and forth on Twitter? That might tell people that your company is fun, and your products inspire feelings of joy.
The visual and visceral aspects of your brand go hand-in-hand, and together form an impression about your company that your brand communicates to the world. The lesson learned from a company like Subaru, is that targeted, specific branding sending the right message and evoking the right emotion can make your brand competitive with the biggest companies in the world.