Every organization has the opportunity to express its brand identity in differentiated and meaningful ways, but few do it well. Why? It takes dedicated resources, requires executive commitment, and depends upon sustained stewardship within the organization to make this a reality. However, as these seven examples attest, a unique brand identity can be very powerful when done right.
Seven Examples of Brand Identity
- Disney is one of the few entertainment brand identities that means something specific: family entertainment. While this has been a terrific asset in some respects, it also thwarted Disney in the feature film industry, where 90% of movies viewed involve adult themes. Rather than undermine its existing brand identity or fail to attract adult viewers because of its family-centric reputation, the company created a new brand identity, Touchstone, to provide quality, mature-themed movies at a distance from the Disney name. This effort was so successful, it became Disney’s business model: to acquire or create quality, franchisable entertainment brands while maintaining its existing brand identity for family entertainment.
- Steelcase is a major case goods manufacturer, providing office furnishings to companies around the world. The company wanted to enter the crossover live/work space, dominated by design-focused custom furniture companies, yet couldn’t credibly enter this market as Steelcase. To get around this, Steelcase created a new brand identity – Coalesse – that reflects a progressive way to develop live/work environments and embraces the distinct aesthetic of the company’s California location. The Coalesse name implies “bringing things together” in new ways. With a visual design that emphasizes experiences over objects, this fresh brand identity set a new standard for crossover furnishings and differentiated Steelcase substantially from traditional design houses.
- Information security is a rapidly changing field, with large, dominant players increasingly under threat from smaller, edgier startups. McAfee, one of the original brands in the space, had just been spun out of a larger corporation and positioned once again as security specialists. To compete effectively against one-trick tech startups and larger generalists like Microsoft and IBM, McAfee chose to double down on its core identity, which it articulated as “proven security.” The security focus differentiated it from the giants, while the “proven” piece set it apart from newcomers. This brand identity also expressed a somewhat aggressive attitude that originated with the company’s founder and lived on the organization. McAfee’s renewed focus and credibility in the space led to much greater visibility and appeal among consumers and businesses alike.
- The Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago was the #1 ranked hospital of its kind for 30 straight years, but its CEO wasn’t satisfied. She had a vision for a new building that would integrate research and care in a patient-centric model yet require hundreds of millions of dollars to realize. The CEO knew that to raise this amount, she would need to express her vision more clearly and compellingly. We recommended that she elevate her concept of an “Ability Lab”, where science and care come together, into the identity of the entire organization. The new name and identity were instrumental in enabling the CEO to tell a story that successfully raised the money for her new hospital.
- Adobe is a huge and successful software company, but many years ago it was perceived to be a niche company, only for creatives. Adobe had a new technology that would revolutionize business but it lacked a clear story. Moreover, while the company had released enterprise solutions before, they were always baked into printers or other technologies and therefore invisible. In creating its brand identity, Adobe focused on the benefit of its technology, “amazing feats between platforms,” rather than on the technology itself. The name and expression, Adobe Acrobat, conveyed this new value in a highly visible way. The brand identity successfully introduced a big idea that has stood the test of time.
- UC Berkeley is one of the world’s best known and most respected brands in public higher education. When faced with state budget cuts and other headwinds, however, the university had a hard time maintaining confidence in its future. A large and decentralized organization, Berkeley had strong leadership who rose to the challenge of identifying and articulating its unifying brand identity. Rather than point to facts and figures like most universities do, Berkeley focused instead on its culture and the idea of “challenging convention” in everything it does to “shape the future.” This idea, and the many expressions and stories it inspired, unified UC Berkeley’s presence and helped restore confidence in its ability to continue leading.
- When CNN began, nobody thought there would be enough news to fill a 24-hour period, much less all day, every day. Besides, who wants to watch the news all day? However, Ted Turner, the company founder, had a bigger idea that wasn’t about delivering news all day long, but about delivering news NOW, when a viewer wants or needs it and is able to tune in. By committing to this idea, Turner created a new category that fueled a revolution in media. Cable news has evolved, and it is not without criticism. But the idea of providing relevant and timely information at any time of the day precedes the Internet and remains at the core of CNN.
While there are endless ways to express your brand identity, the principles behind it are fewer and more fundamental. Know your audience. Set clear objectives. Work with the reality of who you are and what you aspire to be. Establish a singular, differentiated, and sustainable idea and then commit to it. The brands outlined above have all followed these steps to achieve great results – and so can you. Contact Marshall today.