Building Brand Equity: Want me to know why I should love you? Show me, don’t tell me.

March 1, 2011

Apple, Guinness and Nike are all brands who have all successfully, over time,  shown us who they are, without having to tell us.

Building Brand Equity

I’ve been involved in some interesting brand deep-dives recently, and the same thing has been coming up again and again and again. In a world of brand-savvy consumers who are crying out for authenticity, brands who are trying to build brand equity need to stop telling us who they are and start showing us.

A clever comrade in advertising arms argued recently that Dunnes Stores is an example of a brand that has been left behind in this regard. Dunnes tell us they’re better because they’re Irish. Is that good enough anymore?

Do we believe that something can be better by virtue alone of being Irish? Well, no, not really.  For that matter, we’re not really sure we can put our finger on what makes one supermarket ultimately better than another. There’s lots of things that matter to us, including buying Irish. Ultimately,  if Dunnes want to centre their communications around the fact that they’re Irish, that’s fine. That’s as good an attribute as any upon which to hang your hat. But we’re a culturally distinct people; there’s a rich supply of Irishisms there to exploit without having to simply say ‘I’m Irish’.

Simply put, I trust myself, so if I interpret what a brand does and says and sum those things up as that brand’s identity, I believe myself. The job of the brand owner is to nudge the customer towards the right conclusion. 

My feeling is that there is a vast spectrum on this, which goes all the way from “Buy me, I’m X”, to a brand so perfectly identifying and embodying X that they never need to talk about it. Yes, getting it right is where the magic is; Apple, Nike, Guinness, these are all brands that perfectly embody their own values, and appear to do so with ease. Some brands, (Jamie Oliver?), try just a bit too hard and come across as a little contrived. In the modern world of branding, the ‘Buy me, I’m X’ brands come across as cheap and desperate and do little to help their own brand’s health in the long run.

Apple don’t talk explicitly to consumers about their brand values, (Simplicity, ease of use, user focused, fun & humour, memorable and different, innovative, personalisation, coherency) they just are those things, and it’s reaffirmed in every single interaction we have with the brand. As a brand, you know you’re there when people use your brand as a descriptor for other things.  This, of course, is the Holy Grail, and achieving it requires confidence, courage and no small amount of investment.




2 Responses to “Building Brand Equity: Want me to know why I should love you? Show me, don’t tell me.”

  1. Neasa Cunniffe said

    Great post Claire. Think it’s probably the difference between achieving something obliquely vs. directly. Apple set out to create products that were gorgeous and functional, and the brand image was a byproduct. If they’d set out to become a brand synonymous with being gorgeous and functional, they probably would have failed. Reading John Kay’s Obliquity at the moment – you’d like it. 🙂

  2. theinfluentials said

    And isn’t it only sitting on my bookshelf waiting to be read! I’ll get on it this weekend so 🙂

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