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July 25, 2022
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 min read

It’s Not About How You Look or What You Say

It’s about how you make us feel!

It’s Not About How You Look or What You Say

This article is all about what makes a great brand and, as you can probably tell from the title, it’s got nothing to do with having a nice looking logo or saying what you think people want to hear. Those things are easy, that’s why people like to focus on them! On the other hand, building a brand is extremely hard.

What is a Brand

Most of the time people get brand mixed up with branding and messaging. So before we carry on let’s break down what each of those three terms means:


The visual identity of a company:

  • e.g. we can easily identify McDonald’s Golden Arches or the Nike Swoosh


How a company communicates with us, it’s voice in the market:

  • e.g. 'I’m lovin it’ or ‘just do it’


How a company makes us feel and what we trust about the company:

  • e.g. When we go to McDonalds we feel comforted -  not just because they serve comfort food but also because we trust McDonalds to deliver a consistent experience - there’s comfort in consistency
  • e.g. When we wear a pair of Nike trainers we feel cool - because we either trust the brand or we trust our idol that Nike has used to market them

All three of these are powerful in their own right and, when combined properly, add up to more than the sum of their parts. Brand is the most important though and the most difficult to build. Anyone can design a nice logo and say nice things - but it takes time, discipline and excellence to build a brand.

Without a true brand then branding and messaging have far less impact as words and visuals will only invoke emotions if there are emotions to invoke. The goal of a brand is to make the us, the customer, feel something and attach that feeling to your branding and messaging. With a strong brand, your branding and messaging become reminders of the way you make us feel, so every time we see them we’re reminded of that emotion.

Trust Builds Brands

Brands are difficult to build: it takes time, discipline and excellence to get your brand to a point where we will care about what you say. The more we trust you, the more we’ll listen. So, how do you build trust with us? You do it through being consistent.

For example, if we get a haircut from a barber and it’s a great haircut then we’ll definitely be going back the next time we need a trim. When we go back one of two things could happen:

  1. We get another great haircut - we’re starting to trust this barber, a brand is being built on consistently good haircuts and we’ll definitely be going back for round 3.
  2. We get a poor haircut from the same barber - the inconsistency makes going back a risk, we don’t trust this barber and don’t go back.

Let’s stick with scenario 1, we have a new barber - one that we trust to deliver a consistent quality haircut every time. After the fifth cut our barber recommends we try a new hair product, as we now trust him, we’ve started to care about what he says so we take his advice. We walk out of that barber shop feeling even more confident than ever thanks to the new product we’re using.

None of this could have happened without consistency, consistency is absolutely key. We need to trust that your brand will consistently deliver on how it makes us feel. So really the word brand is just a short way of saying ‘consistent experience’.

Emotions Grow Brands

As we’ve established a strong brand is one that invokes emotions within it’s target market. Invoking emotion is also key to a brand’s growth, as we are much more likely to share an experience we’ve had with someone if there is a strong emotion behind it. Going back to our barber example we’ve just walked out of our 5th haircut feeling better than ever thanks to this new product. Thanks to this new, greater than normal, feeling of confidence we post about it on social media. The feeling of confidence we get from this barber is worth sharing with the world and we want others to know where to go if they want to feel this way.

Thanks to us posting about our experience the barber now has three more customers who all want to achieve that feeling of confidence they saw in my social media post. This social proof of the barber’s brand has fast-tracked the trust building process that I had to go through to get to a place where I wanted to share my experience with the world. Without a strong emotional response I’d have kept my feelings to myself, this is why brands need to really focus on how they can go above and beyond in order to invoke the level of emotion that will inspire the kind of organic, unprompted sharing that will transfer trust, growing their brand.

The Feelings Don’t Have to Be Good

There doesn’t have to be a good feeling to have a successful brand, in fact, using negativity can help a brand grow quicker with people being quicker to share negative experiences then positive ones. Take RyanAir, there’s a lot of negativity around their brand. Rather than stir up positive emotions the RyanAir branding and messaging brings up negative ones, but this is exactly what they want because it’s helped make their brand a very successful one. Yes, we feel negatively about their brand, but we still trust that there’s no cheaper way to fly to our holiday destination. We are willing to go through the battle that is flying RyanAir in order to have more money to spend on our actual holiday - and flying RyanAir is definitely a battle.

Their strategy is to pray on us when we’re in ‘holiday mode’ and will be more impulsive with our money than we were months before when we booked our flights. When we booked the flight we didn’t want to pay extra for an airline that included a complimentary drink… but now we’re at 38,000ft with RyanAir we’re officially on holiday and we really want that Gin & Tonic. This makes the RyanAir brand phenomenally successful, their negative press spreads their brand far and wide. BUT, we feel like we’re going to be able to have a better holiday because, even with the negativity, we trust RyanAir is the cheapest way to fly. Which it is… if we have the discipline win the battle on the day we fly.

Brand Should Be Ever-Present Internally

In order to provide a consistent level of experience externally companies need two things. First, they need to implement their brand ambitions in everything they do internally to deliver on a consistent internal experience. Second, they need the discipline to ensure this consistent internal experience translates and provides us with a consistent experience.


Your values need to be tangible and in service of your brand ambitions. What feelings do you want to invoke in your customer base and what behaviours will ensure your people consistently deliver this kind of experience. For example, if one of your values is honesty (and for most people it is) then you need to communicate some context around that internally - in what way is honesty going to help deliver the desired emotions to your customers?

Training & Coaching

Growing skills within your business is absolutely necessary to succeed in the long term. A mix of internal and external training is great, but are you ensuring the training is delivering new skills in such a way that it ensures your brand ambitions are being realised? Creating an internal coaching ecosystem to help develop these new skills in the right context will be invaluable in helping deliver on your brand ambitions.


A central knowledge and communication hub is a cornerstone of a consistent internal experience. Giving people a one stop shop to access all the information they could possibly need on your business and brand ambitions will help make sure everyone is on the same page, and nothing is lost through uncertainty or bad communication. Best read the article ‘Why Everyone Should Create Their Own Central Operating System’ to read more on the topic.


Incentivising the same things as all your competitors will homogenise all customer experiences within your industry. In the long term people will deliver what they’re measured on in the path of least resistance, it’s human nature. Therefore, to be truly unique you need to measure different things to your competitors. Incentivising the delivery of both a consistent customer experience and those ‘5th haircut feeling’ moments will help build and grow your brand.


The final piece of the puzzle is patience, you can’t build trust overnight so you can’t build a brand overnight. Going back to our barber shop, if our barber had tried to sell us a new hair product on our first visit we’d have seen it as shameless upselling. However, they waited until we trusted them enough to listen to what they had to say. The messaging is the same and the only difference is the presence of trust. Thanks to the barber having the patience to build trust, the same actions that may have invoked negative emotions on the first visit actually invoked positive emotions on the fifth.

It’s so important to think long term and focusing on building a brand, not just having eye-catching branding or good messaging. That is because the emotions we attach to a brand frame how we interpret what we see, read and hear. That frame will alter our perceptions and turn something that once would be a shameless upsell into a ‘fifth haircut’ moment.

It’s easy to say what we want to hear and create eye-catching branding, but not many companies have the discipline, organisation and patience to create a great brand. No matter what they say or how they look, if they take us for granted after our first haircut, they’ll lose the ability to build and grow a brand.

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