By Sybil Sam
Howard Fish and Noah Simon of Fish Partners, a New York-based identity design firm that works with both new and more established business ventures, spoke to fellows about what is important in building a brand. They pointed out that while there is no manual for brand building, there are still frameworks that can be used to guide the process.
One of these frameworks is the object value system advanced by French philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard.
Writing about consumerism, Baudrillard deconstructed the value that we assign to objects, asserting that this value comprises four separate components:
- Functional value: Based on the utility of an object.
- Trade value: The worth of an object in terms of its value in other goods or in currency.
- Symbol value: The personal value that an individual ascribes an object.
- Sign value: The prestige associated with an object, its value within a system of objects.
Until the latter half of the twentieth century, people prioritizes functional value because lots of products didn’t actually work. As a result of this, goods of the period were sold on the basis of function and trade value. But advances in modern manufacturing technology eventually leveled out the production playing field, ensuring that the quality of the majority of products was consistently high.
In this new world of standardized production, digital presence and government regulations, where high quality became the norm, true differentiation for products is derived from the sign and symbol value associated with them. It is important therefore to be able to identify, articulate and incorporate the sign and symbol value of a product into its brand.
Noah and Howard focused on what not to do:
1. Don’t define yourself for the present – define yourself for the future. Noah and Howard advised fellows not to focus solely on the present state of their business or product when crafting a brand identity for it. This is because businesses change, expanding or narrowing focus over time. If one focuses only on the present when defining a business, it will prove difficult and costly to redefine it in the future when things change.
2. Don’t build your whole identity around the idea of being disruptive. Building a business identity around being disruptive or revolutionary removes the possibility for flexibility and change. It’s important that the brand a company or product builds today is still relevant and suitable tomorrow.
3. Don’t think, “Someone else will figure out how to market it.” It is always helpful to think about identity early; it’s not advisable to wait until later on in the product/business development process to get someone to do the marketing for you. An MIT study showed that student projects that took into consideration the brand and identity as part of the development process more often launched successfully than ones that did not. Making the branding piece of the puzzle a part of the conversation at the very beginning contributes to the ultimate success of a venture.
4. Don’t focus all your thinking on the immediate audience. Once again, it pays to be forward thinking. Even if there are current customers or VC firms committed to one’s product, it is important to think about potential customers and how one would define a brand that also appeals to them.
5. Don’t make a decision about name based on the URL that’s available. Many entrepreneurs build a brand identity around the url that they are able to obtain. This is not the most helpful strategy – rather one should build a brand centered on the product or business and its audience and then develop a digital strategy to suit their brand.
Brand identity is not separate from one’s product or enterprise, it is a crucial component that provides a sustainable competitive advantage for a product or venture. As such, any investment in brand should be looked at as a capital investment.Read More