Don Williams, CEO of brand specialist pi global, gives us the second tranche in a regular series on how to avoid the pitfalls of brand-building

Bake a loaf, put in a brown paper bag and sell it. What you’ve just sold is a loaf of bread a product. It’s just bread, no matter how delicious. Put it in a bag that has the words ’Shepherd’s Bakery Established 1898 Purveyors of Fine Baked Goods’, however, and all of a sudden you have the genesis of something that transcends the mere functionality of a product and starts talking to consumers on a different level. A product is a function. A brand is an emotion.

What do you think of when you think of Hovis? Do you just think brown bread? Or are images conjured up in your mind? Do you hear music, for example? A brand appeals to the heart as well as the head. It needs to be communicated appropriately and consistently to the consumer, who needs to learn what ’it’ is, what ’it’ stands for and why ’it’ is different.

In the early days of Apple, advertising agency TBWA recognised the importance of clearly differentiating this brand from the plethora of other computers. So they didn’t talk about computers they talked about ’thinking different’. Apple’s success has been largely due to the fact that it concentrates on the desirability of its brand. The technology is there only to make the consumer experience as simple yet engaging as possible. It may be brilliant but it’s almost invisible, hidden by a beautifully crafted brand personality.

’A soft drink with vegetable extracts’ recognise it? How about ’The real thing’? They are both Coke only the former is the functional product descriptor, the latter is what consumers actually buy and love.

Brand personalities need to be built on truths: what is it about this company, these products, this provenance that we can leverage in the creation of a distinctive and motivating brand? Everything the brand does should stem from, and relate to, this perso-nality, from R&D right through to how the consumer uses it. If it doesn’t, it becomes blurred and the resulting mess is usually extremely expensive to repair.

Building and maintaining the salience of a brand is crucial to its long-term success.

l Next month: visual brand identification.