In July, the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) unveiled its new brand identity, which included a new company logo, tagline and market positioning. This rebrand emerged from the need for ARC to reposition itself in the marketplace to better align with the corporation’s current business strategy and initiatives.
At ARC, the organization took a broad and collaborative approach to rebranding, leverage in-depth research and feedback from employees, customers and partners. It was important for the organization to obtain as many points of input as possible, as a brand is more than just a function of marketing—it’s an organization’s identity that must reflect both its employees, as well as its customers’ expectations.
For more than 50 years, the ARC brand evolved mostly organically. There were a few logo changes and some additional light work around fonts and colors, but this was the first time the organization took a strategic approach to branding and codifying what the brand truly is in order to better manage it.
But, what exactly is a brand? Widely defined any number of ways, a brand is—at its core—the essence of an organization. It’s a company’s identity—who it is and how it makes its customers feel. For many people, the idea of a brand is most closely tied to a logo, but a logo is only one aspect of an organization’s visual identity. A brand is so much more than that.
So, what can you and your agency learn from ARC’s experiences? Here are two tips that will hopefully set you on a path to better define and manage your company’s brand.
Tip One: Create a Strong Foundation
This is probably one of the most difficult parts of any branding exercise. It requires you to closely examine your company, your offerings and your employees, and clearly explain why your customers should choose you; why they should care enough to select your agency.
A great way to get started with this process is to write down how you want to be perceived. Do you want to come across as knowledgeable? Flexible? Affordable? Then, describe how you want to make your customers feel. Safe and secure? Like they got the best deal? Confident in your knowledge? Like they’re part of an exclusive club?
If you can actually ask some of your clients similar questions, that’s even better. Understanding how you are perceived in the market is critical to creating a brand that truly represents your agency. Three questions you could use to poll your clients are:
- “What are three words you would use to describe my agency?”
- “What’s the primary feeling you experience when working with my agency (e.g., excited, confident, understood)?”
- “Why do you choose to work with my agency?”
To a degree, your brand needs to be aspirational—you need a path to follow in order to grow. So, in addition to identifying who your company is right now, also identify where you want it to go – how you want it to be perceived in the future. Put a list together of brands you admire. These can be companies like Coca-Cola and Disney or even people like Taylor Swift and Bill Gates. Think about what draws you to these brands and these people. What sets them apart?
Once your research is done, it’s time to narrow the results down to a few primary brand statements. A good rule of thumb is somewhere in the three to five statement range. For example, ARC defines itself as:
- A trusted provider of financial settlement services
- Built on high-quality data
- Customer-centric in our approach to innovation
- A unifying leader who connects the travel industry
Once you have your brand statements, you then need to roll them up into a high-level brand platform. This is the essence of your organization and probably the most important part of your brand strategy. It should be a reflection of your statements and singularly describe your organization. Your agency is [brand platform] because of [brand statements].
As an example, ARC is the premier driver of air travel intelligence and commerce. This is the company’s overarching brand identity and a driver of not only its positioning, marketing or content strategy, but also its organizational strategy. Everything ARC does should tie back to its position as the premier driver of air travel intelligence and commerce.
Tip Two: Identify Your Brand Personality
This step is a lot easier after you’ve created your underlying brand architecture with a brand platform and supporting brand statements. It’s also one of the most fun parts.
With your brand architecture in mind, ask yourself, “If my company were a celebrity or character, who would it be?” For example, would it be:
- Steve Jobs: innovative and forward thinking
- Yoda: wise and experienced
- Margeary Tyrell: refined and regal
- Tony Robbins: inspiring and transformative
Don’t be afraid to be a little aspirational here, too, and use your research from earlier.
This will help you identify your company’s brand archetype: one of 12 well-defined personalities that all brands fit into, each with distinct characteristics and traits. For example, The Sage is a seeker of knowledge and truth. It’s an organization with a willingness to learn and grow and who values delivering that knowledge to its customers (i.e., The Wall Street Journal and Google).
You can learn more about brand archetypes with a quick Google search or through a great book called The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes.
Read through them all, make notes and think about how your brand architecture and research aligns with each of them until you find the best fit. Maybe your brand borders on two of these. That’s OK, too!
Identifying your brand personality will make the rest of your branding process easier. Knowing your brand archetype will help you with your brand voice (e.g., do you speak with authority or playfulness) and visual identity (what colors, fonts, imagery you use and – yes – even what your logo looks like).
Branding isn’t an easy process. It’s not meant to be. Just like it’s hard for individuals, “To thine own self be true,” in the words of William Shakespeare, it’s also difficult for an organization to look inside and figure out who it is, what it stands for and how it’s perceived by customers.
But, by being more strategic in your branding, your customer experiences become more consistent. It’s easier to identify the types of customers you want to target, the services to provide and how you promote your company.
Most importantly, make sure your brand is a genuine reflection of your agency and your employees. Today’s travelers are hyper-sensitive to authenticity. They want to trust the brands they work with.
To quote Sir Richard Branson, “Too many companies want their brands to reflect some idealized, perfected image of themselves. As a consequence, their brands acquire no texture, no character.”
To learn more about ARC’s new brand, click here.