Yes& General

Escape Simple. Give Your Brand Purpose

Jacob Ottenheimer

Safe. Generic. Blends in. Nothing a company would want to be associated with regarding their brand identity. Unfortunately, many companies suffer from a lack of uniqueness, memorability, and diversity within their branding strategy. This can be attributed to several different factors including struggling to keep up with customer demands and competitors, a lack of purpose behind branding efforts, and playing it too safe or oversimplifying branding efforts. When it comes to a successful branding strategy and digital experience, many say that “simple is always better.” However, this thought process often oversimplifies a company’s brand assets and customer experience. 

Ensuring your brand is digestible and easily understood is important. But while simple is good, minimalism is not. If your brand assets, such as your logo, website, mission, and positioning, are too simple, they may appear unfinished or unable to effectively capture your target audience. Top executives agree that having unique, effective branding is one of the most important aspects your company needs to be successful. Now more than ever, a brand’s purpose is one of the most important aspects of the brand experience. Customers are drawn to brands they can connect with and feel have a true, defined purpose that also allows for an easy transactional experience. 

During the past few years, there’s been much higher pressure to evolve to ensure your business is keeping up with ever-changing demands in the marketplace. Unfortunately, as a result, many companies are playing it safe and not differentiating themselves by venturing out of their comfort zones to truly connect with what they stand for and their audience’s needs. The homogenization of the marketplace often leads to brands standing for what’s current and relevant and not portraying who they authentically are. The trend of typography, color schemes, and trends generally becoming more generic is apparent in more areas than just branding. This article exhibits a viral social media post representing just how homogenous many aspects of life have become. Luxury brands Burberry, Balenciaga, and Saint Laurent are a recent example of branding with extremely similar re-branded logos. Some of this can be attributed to the culture of instant gratification we’ve seen as a result of social media or the ability to have your next purchase delivered quickly through services like Amazon Prime. 

Don’t equate being authentic with playing it safe—being authentic takes courage. You can differentiate yourself and have impact if you push your limits and focus on a truly defined vision and purpose. One main reason we see oversimplification or homogenization across brand identity and digital branding is a lack of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Oversimplified branding can occur because minimalism is subjective. Many times, one person within a company has a dominant voice and drives all aspects of branding, creativity, and marketing, but a lack of diversity within decision making can be detrimental. 

This can silence company teams who worry their opinions may not be valued because dominant voices in the company have drowned them out or shot down their input. Every company needs diversity regarding age, gender, race, cultural background, thought, and creativity. Without diversity you lose potential customers and revenue, as well as perspectives on personal and company levels. Ensure your brand isn’t driven by the most dominant voices, but instead focuses on people who are the driving force behind your brand’s overall purpose. 

Having a defined brand purpose and strong relationship with your audience isn’t as daunting as it may seem. Simply do your research on what your core target audience is and ask yourself what exactly it is you want your brand to stand for. Once you have a defined purpose, finding your brand voice becomes that much easier. You can’t control your audience’s perception, but you can control your core values, mission, and purpose behind all that you do. Adidas, for example, has incorporated sustainability into their culture and overall purpose. Starting in 2024, their company will only be using recycled plastic, and by 2050, all their production will be climate neutral. 

The relationship that audiences have with a brand should be simple, genuine, and based on core values, but that does not mean the brand strategy itself needs to be simple. In today’s marketplace, a single brand can have multiple relationships with different audience groups. There are tiers to that relationship and strategic positioning to ensure that your central audiences are at the heart of the brand. This doesn’t, however, mean diluting your branding to appeal to a larger scale, because then your positioning and messaging can be ineffective. 

It is important to analyze data and digital reporting and to understand the needs and demand of your competition to have a defined, recognizable brand. But you also must ensure you’re not relying entirely on data-driven analytics as that can take away from creativity. People want humanization, personalization, and relatability. By striking the right balance of diversity, data-driven analytics, and creativity, this can be achieved with your brand strategy and digital branding efforts. 

Simplicity in your branding strategy is important, but balanced, purpose-driven branding will always be most effective. Remember, don’t chase trends or blend in. Your brand was meant to stand out, and you hold the key to that success. 

Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

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Jacob Ottenheimer
Integrated Marketing Manager