Brands are misunderstood. People discuss brands like magic. Mysterious and ephemeral. Capable of enchanting customers and compelling them to buy products. Magic that must be brewed like a potion. Somehow cobbled together to perform miracles.
But brands, sadly, are not magic. They are not cobbled together but engineered. Designed using sound architectural principles to ensure a solid foundation and long life. Instead, think of brands as homes. It wasn’t a typo, we mean homes, not houses. The distinction between them is important.
Houses are a general term, a shell. Homes are places people live in, that are furnished, finished, and unique. The blueprints of a house can be copied and replicated. However, homes are made by those that live there and hence are unique. This uniqueness is what attracts and holds people. It is the source of the brand’s effect and what all brands seek to emulate.
For example, Tesla is an incredibly popular brand. An innovator, disruptor and juggernaut in the automotive industry. Its massive success and popularity have launched a wave of copycats and competitors. Yet, Tesla’s brand has not only endured but grown as competition has increased. Many have copied Tesla’s blueprint perfectly. However, Tesla’s brand has always distinguished itself through its owner and employees. Their work, ideas and innovations have not only kept Tesla afloat but thriving.
Now let's take the analogy another step. Let's look at building a brand like a house.
The construction process for building houses begins before the first brick is bought. The first step is the planning stage.
The planning stage is pivotal to the brand’s future. Planning converts the vision of the owners into potential. Only after becoming potential, can the vision become reality. Planning requires owners to sharpen vague ideas. Ideas such as the furniture, the placement of rooms, the pipes, and electricity. Minor but vital details that may have been hazy ideas or excluded in the vision.
The planning provides a design and an understanding. It solidifies what is being built and why. An important point to consider while planning, is that it is not done in a vacuum. No architectural style was built in a vacuum. All buildings are built from the ideas of previous works. Learning the mistakes and unique features of other works can be incredibly useful. It can help explain the vision to others and even provide novel ideas.
Planning also determines how your brand differs from others. Is your blueprint unique? What original ideas does it have? What do those ideas hope to achieve? Planning is often the most fun stage. It is the most creative space & promotes an authentic exploration into what your vision is. However, planning is not merely penning down the vision. It should include more practical points as well.
A few examples are:
How it will be built
Size and decorations
Who it seeks to attract and what they are looking for.
The different rooms that are present and each room’s purpose.
But the planning stage can take a life of its own. The planning stage has two common pitfalls. Paralysis and disassociation.
The first, paralysis is when the construction cannot move beyond the planning stage. Paralysis often happens due to fear or uncertainty. Fear is the more common reason. There are many different fears that can lead to paralysis. Some examples are, fear of failure, fear of feedback, fear of being imperfect. These fears often exacerbate existing doubts and prevent construction from occurring.
The second pitfall is disassociation. Disassociation is the more dangerous pitfall. While fear can be understood and overcome, disassociation is a blindspot. Blondspots are unknown and hence difficult to resolve. Disassociation is when planning becomes detached from reality. With grander dreams and visions obscuring the goal. Disassociation leads to unrealistic expectations and beliefs about the success, trajectory, and capabilities of the brand. The unrealistic expectations can create conflict and utopian ideas which cannot be manifested. These utopian ideals often fail, demotivating everyone and even lead to burnout.
Both of these issues can be brought under control using the budget and construction company. I.e. the capital available and employees building the brand. The budget provides a cold splash of reality. The budget is the amount needed to build the house. This amount is often fixed and cannot be overshot. This limitation adds constraints, giving the plan more structure.
The construction company refers to the people who will be building the home. Their expertise and capabilities will limit the possibilities even further. When building a house, listening to the construction company and their capabilities is vital. Ignoring their suggestions and chasing the vision will have negative consequences. Afterall, the construction company determines the quality of the home. Unrealistic notions can create conflict and lead to an incomplete and weak foundation for the house. These issues in the foundation can have long-term consequences. Hence, trust and communication are key.
When seeing the budget and capabilities, many are often discouraged. Their visions are far grander and more beautiful than reality. They believe their visions are impossible and the house cannot be built. However, this is an unfounded fear. The first house is not the final house. The vision may be grand but the home does not have to be massive at its inception. It is better to have a small, inviting home than a large and half-furnished one. Homes can be gradually improved and renovated as the budget increases. Consistent improvements can transform a small house into the house from the vision if the foundations are laid properly.
After planning, the construction begins. The most important part of the house is the foundation. The foundation is a solid structure that holds up the house. It prevents future shocks and brings stability. The foundation is the fundamentals of the brand. They are crucial for making a strong, stable home. A weak foundation is a long-term weakness that is difficult to remove. Removing foundational issues often requires rebuilding the house from scratch.
A duct-taped foundation will crumble under pressure. Therefore, if the pressure is caused by external factors, then a weak foundation may fail when it is required most. This type of failure can potentially destroy brands. The foundation anchors the house. It also acts as protection against externalities, such as natural disasters. For brands, this can be loyal fans or a sustainable competitive advantage. Assets that can protect the brand during difficult times.
After the foundation, the house is constructed. But the house must be converted into a home to attract people. The difference between houses and homes are the decorations and people. Decorations show the preferences and personality of the home. What it wishes to emulate and how it views & presents itself.
The decorations have to be carefully planned. They should all be built with a unifying theme or idea to show a consistent and aesthetic front. Unique decorations that don’t complement each other can distract people and potentially confuse them. Experimenting with different decorations is essential. Experimenting can show different ways of communicating the home's identity. This identity is what attracts and holds people.
People attracted by the decorations will stay with the home, even if they are invited to mansions. This occurs because people identify with the brand. This common identity creates a bond and preference that cannot be easily changed. However, a common pitfall is having very broad and bland decorations. This is done to make the home more appealing to more people. However, it often has the opposite effect and makes the brand appear weak and lifeless. However, the negative perception or reception of the decorations shouldn’t greatly influence the brand.
Some people may not like the decorations. They may even be turned away by it. But people do not change their entire home’s furniture because of a few negative reviews. Feedback is valuable information. However, it must be weighed and checked against the overall vision of the home. Flexibility and willingness to change are important. They help keep a home modern and relevant. However, it is important to also know when to be stubborn. Feedback should be heard but not necessarily implemented if it goes against the brand’s vision.
Finally, when constructing homes, remember that homes change. They shift and adapt as the environment changes. Homes can and should adapt. The change is vital for making home high quality. Trends come and go out of fashion, and different decorations become the norm. New furniture and features can be beneficial but can also be flops. Hence, homes should be aware of their surroundings and what is occurring around their neighborhood. But not following them out of FOMO. Chasing trends is an opportunity and a risk. Having new furniture for its own sake only dilutes the message being sent.
Homes should be built with a long-term focus but built to be flexible. They should learn from the past homes and work to create a unique perspective. The home's identity is its biggest draw and makes the bond between itself and its people. Therefore, the identity should be used as a North Star to guide the brand. Experimenting and chasing trends can dilute the brand identity and should be handled with caution.