In the branding world, we all have some references, but looking back, we see those giant companies and feel their height is unattainable. What we tend to forget (pretty quickly) is that, just like us, they started from scratch. Yes, yes, from 0!
If an element could change your company's destiny, it would be money; oops, it would be its branding.
A brand identity, a visual identity, and a personalized brand experience all come down to how your customers interact and remember you. People remember either one concept, one image, one sound, or one idea. Branding has the power to make sure they retain at least one! (That's why you picture yourself saying, "aah yes, I've heard of them!)
Some businesses are talented at creating distinctive and successful brands. So which ones have the most outstanding and most effective branding today?
Nike - The swoosh and Just do It
When branding a sports company, you think: bold, dynamic, and colorful. But when creating a message or identity, how do you ensure you'll stand out? And more than that, how can you translate your creative concept on every item of your brands? Shoes, advertising, t-shirts, jackets.
Few logos in the design industry are as well-known as Nike's illustrious swoosh. Its design was and still is genius because of its shape, simplicity, and mainly because it's easily declinable. To embrace its position as a market leader in athleisure products, Nike has also created a slogan, "Just Do It," repeated everywhere from sports arenas to street corners. Here, Nike shared more of a philosophical way of seeing life than just advertising a brand message.
Just do it truly means, whatever your physical condition, mood, energy, or abilities, do the first step, run that first mile, do this first session of abs, do it without overthinking it, without comparing yourself, and without limits. That's why it's brilliant! When all sports brands tell you to surpass yourself, to exceed your goals, to almost vomit after a CrossFit session, Nike tells you: "relax, don't overthink it, just do it, do the first step!"
Lessons from Nike's branding:
- It speaks to a vast audience while having a one-on-one relationship with consumers. It speaks to each as an individual.
- It sums up the real sports spirit: welcoming, compassionate, and everybody can do it.
- Very easily understandable, short, and easy to pronounce.
- It's timeless. It doesn't relay on a trend or an actual need.
For a quick recap, In 1971, Carolyn Davidson made the smoosh for only 35$. Years later, Nike rewarded her by giving her 500 shares of the company and a golden ring—Nike's success, which has made it one of the most recognizable trademarks in the world.
Google - A tech giant that has become one of the most influential brands in the world.
Google has developed into one of the most prominent brands in the world since its founding in 1998.
"Google" is a deformation of the word "googol" that appeared for the 1st time in 1940. In a famous work by the American mathematician Edward Kastner, it means the number consisting of the number 1 followed by one hundred zeros.
Starting from the fact that Sergey Brin and Larry Page wanted to give everyone access to information, knowledge, and resources, how could you develop a brand identity following that?
If you want to create a global product that people from all over the world with different cultures, backgrounds, codes, and knowledge can understand and use, how do you find common ground?
You get back to the basics, to everybody's childhood!
When we all played this game of blocks and shapes that we had to fit in, with the same kind of colors, blue, red, yellow, green, and some simple and primary colors and shapes!
Google built the friendliest UX/UI experience. Bright, friendly, childish but mostly playful, distinctive colors, a navigation bar as easy as possible, and a simple way to provide information: a list of websites.
If the Brand Strategy here was to make it accessible to people, they first needed to create a language to create the most accessible products. And that is branding too. (If not, the most challenging but most important part). So after creating their own culture and language, it was "easy" to make other products like Gmail, Maps, Analytics, Search Console, and more!
Lessons from Google's branding:
- If you want people worldwide to use your product, find a common language between them, and discover what links them.
- Opt for "basic" shapes and colors that speak to every culture.
- Please don't overdo it; the simpler, the better.
- It's not because it looks basic that it will be easy to build, test and learn your product continuously.
Apple – One of the most iconic and easily recognizable brands in the world
Apple, oh Apple... When it comes to branding, every designer envies Apple, and you know what? In the design field, designers agree that Apple sets new trends with each new design. The keynote of Apple is like the Mecca for advertisers! Seriously!! Obviously, they are one of the rare companies to hire the best designers on earth.
What makes it genius, brilliant, and mighty is that its brand visual identity only comes from its Strategy and message.
Meaning instead of designing what would "look good," they ask themselves from the beginning:
"How can we make the most intuitive product, easy experience, so people focus on their work rather than losing time understanding how our products work?"
Asking the question is easy, but how do you find the solution?
You focus on creating the easiest, sleekest, most minimalistic design.
Suppose the goal is to have people focus on their creation rather than the tools. In that case, it means that the brand has to be discrete => colors have to be nuanced, not too bright, not too dark => the UX/UI has to be straightforward => it doesn't have to take too much space => the wording has be clear => everything has to be sleek, grey to show the nuance, and clean for people to create.
We could talk for hours about Apple's branding and how it created a new way of communicating, creating art, work, and a lifestyle. Apple also created a group and a feeling of belonging. When you own a Macbook and show it in a coffee shop while working or in college, you don't send the same message to the rest of the group as owning a Dell computer. You are one of the cool kids. You are rich; you are trendy; you are a trendsetter; you are creative; you are modern, etc. These logics correspond more to its product's overall design and price tags, which resonates more with its marketing strategy, than the branding itself of its products.
Lessons from Apple's branding:
- If your product/company helps people create, organize, work, and live more easily, your brand has to be as discrete as possible for them to focus on what's most important.
- Regarding UX/UI, sometimes the most accessible buttons, animations, and cards are the most efficient designs.
- Be consistent! Apple's design evolves but never truly changes.
Starbucks - an ultra-personalization at a wide-scale
When it comes to personalization on a large scale, Starbucks is a prime example of how personalization can make even a corporation feel personal. As the biggest coffeehouse chain in the world, Starbucks doesn't just offer personalization of drinks to its customers but also personalization within its initiatives. They are a leader in using green and sustainable practices, aiming to be eco-friendly in everything they do. Their goal is not just to deliver personal drinks but personal experiences on every level — from personalizing sales tactics to thinking through their sustainability efforts.
Dale Carnegie used to say, "A person's name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language".
So you can imagine that the Strategy to ask each customer their names to get their order was, at the time, absolutely genius.
Even when they wrote "Marc" on your coffee instead of "Mike". But nevermind...
In addition, Starbucks has built a strong bond with its customers by offering rewards and loyalty programs that help to create an ongoing relationship between the brand and consumers.
Not only about keeping a relationship with its customers, Starbucks personalized also its stores offering cups branded as "Paris, London, San Francisco," which would also make it more local instead of global. Smart Starbucks, brilliant!
Lessons from Starbucks branding:
- As soon as you can incorporate your customer's name, do it!
- People love to feel precious and appreciated, so personalize your brand experience.
- If you want to go global, no problem, but adapt yourself to the local culture.
- Green doesn't have to mean "eco-friendly" even when it is necessarily; it can also simply say nature and authenticity.
McDonald - Adapt itself to the local culture.
Mcdo in french, we would say, is known for being the most accessible, delicious, but not-so-healthy fast food chain. Over the years, McDonald kept his red solid and yellow clownish branding, installing an overall message in people's minds. "The easy and cheap way to get a meal" Even the "happy meal" for kids with games seemed to follow the Strategy. A restaurant for everyone from every background and every culture. The kind of fast-going restaurant where you could find an 18-year-old rapper hangover, sitting next to a wall street banker! Crazy right?!
Moreover, McDonald's strong branding has been attributed to its ability to adapt successfully to the local culture. It demonstrates a deep appreciation for specific geographical regions, trying to find ways of customizing the menus to reflect each country's unique cultures and preferences. Like creating the McBaguette in France, the Noodles in Asia, the Israeli Salad you can find in Israel, etc.
In addition, it employs locals to achieve authenticity and a greater understanding of what customers in different areas need. As such, McDonald's can create strong ties with local markets and ensure that its products are tailored to meet the needs of all kinds of consumers worldwide. Furthermore, their versatile branding allows them to adjust themselves not only for the customer's needs but also for the local culture of the country.
Because it's true, people worldwide have different habits, so how do you speak to each one of them? You adapt yourself!
Lessons from MacDonald's branding:
- Stick to your core values but adapt yourself to the local ones.
- Treat everyone with the same care and respect.
- If you need a rebranding, don't go 180°; simply refresh it.
- Invite kids, grandparents, and parents at the same table by offering a specific product for each of them.
The success of Nike, Google, Apple, Starbucks, and McDonald clearly shows that developing a strong connection with the local culture is essential in creating a powerful and unique brand. As these companies have demonstrated, understanding the customer's needs can go a long way when it comes to branding. When you create this type of rapport with your customers, they not only continue to support the brand but also create their own positive word-of-mouth buzz. A commitment to authenticity and adaptation is the key to success in any branding campaign. So, if you want to stay ahead in today's ever-evolving consumer landscape then remember—your customer's local culture is your greatest asset.
All these companies are very successful because the client's needs are in the core of their branding strategy. They asked themselves the question: "What do the clients expect?" This question can only lead you to find the best execution possible. If you're lost, we're here!