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Industry Contributor 9 Jul 2021 - 5 min read

Balancing brand and emotion: How much branding does your campaign really need?

By Charlie Rose - Associate Strategy Director - Principals

The greatest minds in marketing have long championed distinctive brand assets but how do marketers and their agency partners effectively deliver coded branding without compromising on impactful storytelling? Charlie Rose asks the question.


We all know a good campaign when we see it. It’s exciting, clever. Different. But clever campaigns don’t always build brand.


Good campaigns often tell an emotive, impactful story full of big images and compelling emotional triggers. After you’ve felt all the feels, the brand’s logo pops up at the end.


It’s a missed opportunity, particularly for a new brand or one that has recently refreshed or renewed its identity. Why settle for just a logo when you could embed a tagline, illustration style or character – it’s the cheapest and fastest way to build brand equity.


The value of distinctive brand assets is well documented with the masters Binet & Field, Ehrenberg Bass and others making it clear why you need strongly branded comms.


But the question of how to effectively deliver coded branding and strike the right balance between brand and emotive storytelling remains a central challenge for Australian marketers.


So, what’s the trick?


The first step for marketers is to work out which assets to focus on and build equity in.

Conduct a brand inventory

Before you go out and build a whole new suite of brand assets, take stock of what you already have at your disposal.


While not every brand has a national network of prominent stores, you may have a car fleet or uniform with livery and latent design opportunities.


Identify prolific and visible touchpoints that could be integrated across your communications. The answer might be staring you in the face.

Embrace timeless symbols

Visual symbols have always played a fundamental role in how humans define themselves. Whether it be a star, tree, or animal, some symbols come loaded with cultural capital which can be tapped into to signal significance and accelerate your brand building.


For example, the NAB star signals the brand’s leadership and its positioning as a guiding light to customers. Humans have been looking at the stars for thousands of years and, as a result, this timeless symbol is rich with deep cultural meaning that NAB can leverage. 

Not all brand assets are equal

Research has shown that characters and audio logos significantly outperform other assets in branded attention.


ING’s recent shift away from Isla Fisher to bring the brand’s lion to life is a perfect example. As is HBF’s embrace of the quokka.


Conversely, quantitative brand asset measurement studies have proven some assets such as icons and illustration are much harder to make famous. That’s not to say they don’t play an important role and can’t do the heavy lifting with quality execution – take the example of the Red Bull Wings Illustration. But it pays to understand how high the bar can be with these assets.


Now that you have clarity on which assets you’re looking to focus on and build equity in, next comes the question of what good looks like.


As the guardian of the brand, it’s on you to ensure implementation teams and agency partners are committed to consistently creating comms that are unmistakably you.


Look to brands such as Spotify for inspiration. The music streaming giant does a great job of integrating its distinctive UI and visual identity into above and below the line comms. The brand has smartly repurposed the Coca Cola bottle asset approach for the digital age. By leveraging media spend to build equity into its unique experience, and coding the creative with distinctive brand assets from the outset, the brand’s comms are always unmistakably Spotify.


On a practical day-to-day level, the challenge of embedding brand assets into campaigns varies based on the type of communications. While comms such as small scale out-of-home, digital display ads and EDMs are generally strongly branded – limited space and view time sees creative teams lean heavily on branded elements – tier one campaign elements such as show stopping billboards and TVCs are a little more tricky to navigate.


The inherent tension and balance between strongly branded communications and emotive cut through storytelling takes considered management. Naturally, you want as much storytelling latitude as possible to tell an impactful story, but this should not be at the expense of coding the creative.


Here are some principles to help navigate this conundrum:

  • Don’t settle for just the logo. As a rule, strive for every output to contain two or more unique brand assets
  • Frame it as a creative sandbox – an opportunity to breathe new life and richer meaning into a well-known asset
  • Bring the inherent symbolism of your assets to life – if it’s a tree, have it grow. If it’s a bird, set it free. And don’t be afraid to align the timeless story of your asset to your strategic messaging
  • Add new assets into the mix – AAMI’s ‘Does’ campaign is great example of maintaining key assets (characters, tagline and jingle) while adding a new campaign platform to reinvigorate the creative.

By harnessing the symbolic power of your brand, you can best optimise your identity without having to scrimp on emotive storytelling.


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Charlie Rose

Associate Strategy Director - Principals

Market Voice

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