Brands who balance their identity and perception through storytelling see the most success
Let’s start with a simple exercise. Think about the last impulse purchase you made. Maybe it was at the check out line at the grocery store or a Netflix-and-binge night while Amazoning. Whatever the scenario, objectively ask yourself:
- What is it about that brand that made me buy the product?
- Why did I take it off the shelf or place it in my online cart?
- What about this thing convinced me to spend money on it?
Experts Michael Benjamin, Anthem Branding creative director, and Jacki Ognibene, the agency’s senior creative strategist, discussed this very idea with our friends over at Upslope Brewing Company and snack food company Weller at this year’s Denver Design Week.
Put simply, finding the right balance between identity and perception is no easy feat, especially for those brands that are just starting out.
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How Upslope Brewing Company found their balance
Nearly 10 years ago, Upslope Brewery found the balance to be one of their first challenges. Sam Scruby, owner of the now multi-million dollar craft brewery with over 50 employees, wanted the Upslope brand to be perceived as a premium craft brewer for outdoor enthusiasts.
“I think that was the first line of my business plan,” recalls Scruby.
Discovering who you are is the first step to set you apart from your customers. But let’s get real - it’s all about the story that your brand tells, and at the end of the day, your customer wants a damn good story.
Upcoming Event: Join us this Saturday, Nov. 3 to celebrate Upslope's 10 Year Anniversary from 2-8 p.m. for 40+ beers on tap, food trucks, live music, games, and so much more — it's an event you can't miss out on.
Lasting, emotionally-backed brand stories are developed as part of an ongoing process — not crafted overnight
The brands that do storytelling well are the ones that relentlessly get customers to buy their products and/or services because they look cool. When the question was asked at Denver Design Week, “Who all has bought something because of the product’s packaging?” multiple hands shot up. Someone even said, “I do it with wine every damn day.”
Perfecting your story as a brand, and the way you tell it is a process. The journey is of getting customers to grab your product every damn day takes a lot of hard work from insights from art directors that understand what your client to what your product needs.
Here is a checklist to craft an effective brand story that hits the mark with your target audience and loyal customers:
- Shape your brand identity around its mission and overall vision. For example, Upslope is a craft beer business for outdoor enthusiasts. Own what you are and really push it with your brand identity.
- Understand the experience. Think back to the first time that you used your product ever and try to replicate that personable emotion.
- When discovering your brand identity, make sure it is flexible enough for new product lines. The simple curve of Upslope's logo is visually simple and allows for new craft beers that they release to easily adapt to their brand.
- Look at your competitors products on the store shelf. How can you be different? If your product blends into the shelf, you have got it all wrong. Translate your unique differences as a company into your visual identity to set you a part from your competitors.
Upslope and experience
At Denver Design Week, the panel was asked what their experience was the first time they drank a beer. Beers like Natty Light, Budweiser, and PBR were thrown around. They described their experience, and how every time they snatch a Natty or Budweiser or PBR, they remember that very first time.
Ognibene spoke up about her experience with one of her favorite beers. The first time she drank the beer, she was out on the lake in Northern Minnesota, fishing with her grandma. Today, it doesn't matter where she is, every time she grabs that beer, she remembers those fond memories with her grandma. That is the kind of emotional connection we are talking about. Branding experts try to establish those kinds of emotional experiences when brainstorming possible brand logos for companies.
When Anthem Branding sat down with Upslope Brewery to create a unique and impressionable visual identity, they wanted to reflect that kind of experience within their logo — where people can spend a day in the outdoors and come home to thirst quenching and refreshing craft beers with their buddies after. Nothing too cliche or shoved down your throat, good brand storytelling amplifies the intent of the company without trying too hard.
But we get it, creating a story for your brand has more than a few challenges
In the world of CBD supplements, for example, cannabis brands used to be able to get away with subpar branding and packaging design. Due to the emerging cannabis industry and market, the benchmark was as low as consumer expectations.
But, that’s not the case anymore. Brands like CW Hemp are modernizing their narrative as their products scale and head toward a mainstream, mass appeal.
If you find your brand stagnating in yesteryear, the risk of it being perceived as homegrown or immature becomes very real, very fast. Don’t fall into this trap! You might need to sit down with a branding expert, think about a rebrand, or chat about ways to adapt your logo into something more nuanced.
Last but not least, hire branding experts
You have your mission and vision locked down. You know what you want. Now, let's talk to the people that can creatively execute on them.
It's important to find a branding agency that you trust. Brand storytelling is a process, and if you can't find an agency that carves out the time to establish a healthy relationship with ample communication and consideration, then what's the use?
Start telling your story early, and hire the experts that can make your consumers want to experience your product every day.