Lost in Translation

04 Dec 2009|Added Value

Why is it so hard to execute a solid brand strategy? Why does your agency just not seem to get the brief? Why do different agencies come back with such dramatically different interpretations of the same brief? And why does every new brand manager seem to have a different understanding of the same brand strategy?

We have all seen the brand intention get lost in translation on the journey from strategy to execution. What can be done?

Let’s start with a very simple definition. A brand is a product with a personality. It may be old, but it’s still the most useful. The product piece should be straightforward enough. What do we do, make, deliver better than competition? But there are many strong and well-known products still searching for their brand. Famous products with an elusive identity. Most will think they have defined their personality. Somewhere on the pyramid or the bulls-eye or the key, there will be a space called personality where three or four carefully selected adjectives sit: youthful, charismatic, caring, generous, imaginative, pioneering…you might even find the word dynamic, if you are particularly unfortunate.

The practice stems from the belief that less is more. Reduce to the max. Boil the brand down to its essence. That way there will be less room for misunderstanding. We used to think that too until we finally realised that less was actually just less. Less precise, less inspiring, less useful.

It’s hard to boil a personality down into a handful of words. Try this one for size: a head-strong, feisty, confident and fiercely independent career woman.

Who would you rather dance with?

Charater creation


And the decision starts to become a little bit more straightforward. Less isn’t more. More is more. The fact is you can’t write a good short hand until you have crafted a good long hand.

So how do you define your brand’s personality in a way that will inspire consistently brilliant brand execution?

It helps to start by thinking character not personality. A good brand character needs the subtlety of definition normally afforded by a novelist or a screenplay writer. Strong characters are deeply individual and crafted with soul. They are rounded and flawed. When you have captured a character well, it’s every behaviour and utterance should become intuitive. The challenge is to envision the character and then to create an authentic and inspiring articulation of it.

We have developed a proprietary approach to address this challenge. We call it Character Creation.  It starts with defining the brand’s foundational Archetype and goes on to define the psychology and the fabric of the brand’s character in great depth. From this springs the brand’s authenticity and credibility, its sense of self. And once we have this, we use it to create a voice and a style that are unique to the brand: true to its roots and consistent with its psychology. This becomes an audiovisual portrait that your agencies will find much easier to entertain.

Sometimes people refer to personality, tonality, character as simply “the how”, as if it were of much less importance than “the what”. But in a world where product differentiation is ever harder to find, it’s worth remembering that Character is what maketh the Brand.

To illustrate, we hypothetically explored the Characters of two well know British Newspapers: the Guardian and the Telegraph.  Have a look at the example deliverables and ask yourself whether you have something that truly captures the character and spirit of your brand.

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