The Importance of brand DNA

Mon, 11/05/2020 - 11:58

We’re going through an unprecedented time. 

It’s been a trying time for all of us, and many of us will walk out of this situation as different people. But how has this crisis affected brands? More specifically, how has this time affected how brands see themselves? What’s been interesting to see are the various reactions from brands during this time, and how brand DNA is playing a role in a brand’s response.

A brand’s DNA is usually characterised by a set of values culminating in a mission statement. It exists to serve as a guide for all communication, both internal and external. It is not important how the document is structured (some brands have brand eggs, brand onions, or brand keys), as long as there is some form of expression of character, tone and personality. 

Let’s take a look at the BMW brand as an example. Their strap-line is ‘sheer driving pleasure’. We can deduce that premium quality is one of their values. Innovation is probably in there, and perhaps some kind of value around customer-centricity. Granted, the BMW brand DNA is far more complex, but just the handful of values we’ve identified can be seen in almost all their adverts and communications. BMW is clearly a brand that holds their brand’s DNA near and dear.

One big faux pas that occurred during the lockdown period was the celebrity rendition of the song ‘Imagine’. It was greeted by derision and the reason is pretty simple. A celebrity’s brand DNA is entertainment-focused. Attempting to shift that into the space of crisis can come across as completely tone-deaf if it is not done correctly. An example of a celebrity getting it right is John Krasinski, who used his clout as an entertainer to create a good news network. John knew that treating his viewers like children would not go down well. He knew that the world needed a little bit of cheering up. He carries clout as both a comedic actor and a director. Building a positive news web series was well within his brand wheel-house. 

For many brands, the last few months have been a trial by fire. Some have gotten through this time with an amazing amount of resilience. Their comms have stayed on-brand, they’ve ramped up their customer communications and dialled down their product push. They’ve used this time to build their brand. They’ve remained authentic and differentiated.

But some brands are failing. These brand were pushing out two key messages, ‘we’re in this together’, and ‘stay at home’. Now, we can’t undermine the importance of any kind of safety message. It is vital that brands act responsibly during times like this. Unfortunately, the message of solidarity is one that has become all too familiar. It doesn’t help that this kind of messaging has been recommended by some very large service providers (we won’t drop names here, but I’m sure you can find them if you SEARCH hard enough).

So, what went wrong? Why are there brands using this kind of generic messaging? 

There are three possibilities. 

Perhaps those crafting the message are not aware of their brand’s DNA. This is problematic because anyone who is working for a brand, especially in the marketing department, should be living and breathing their brand’s values. 

Another possibility is that the brand DNA just isn’t robust enough to work in these kinds of environments.  Yes, brand DNAs are crafted during relatively peaceful times, but they should be robust enough to carry a brand through a crisis.

Finally, and perhaps most worrying, maybe these brands don’t have any kind of brand DNA laid out. At the end of the day, if your brand DNA has proven useless, it’s time for a reset. 

Final thoughts  

Re-visit your brand’s values. Are they really different from anyone else's? How are the values of your organisation mirrored in your brand? Are your staff living your brand’s values? These are all tough questions, and they all need answers because if you fail to do so, the next crisis might not be so kind to you. Speak to Rogerwilco, a marketing agency which can help. Our strategists would be thrilled to consult and meet your brand’s objectives. 

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