First Steps

Great Ideas Stay On-Brand

New Ideas Are Only Useful If They Fit With the Brand

By Published on .

My absolute favorite part of working on marketing projects in college was coming up with ideas. Whether it was an ad campaign, guerilla marketing, event promotions or social media, a good idea is the difference between success and failure. It's the difference between a grade of an A or a B, and your dream job or an okay job.

One epic failure of generating ideas, however, is coming up with ones that are off brand. It's easy to think something is on brand if you don't have a deep understanding of how a brand is structured and functions in-market. Different elements of a brand, like the brand promise, personality, voice, and messages, allow the brand to have a living and flexible identity that makes it unique.

The better you are at thinking about the intricacies of brands you're working with for a project, the better you'll be at coming up with ideas that are not only good creatively, but that make sense strategically -- all while reinforcing the right kind of image that the brand is trying to project.

Let's look at Nike as an example. Nike has a strong brand that would be among many people's first picks for a project. Because of the mass appeal of Nike's brand, it would be easy to misrepresent what that brand is about through a related, but off-brand idea. Some people might say Nike's brand is "Just do it." Well, it's not. That's Nike's tagline. Some might also say the brand is about pushing yourself to try harder. That's fairly accurate, but not descriptive of what Nike is about at its core.

Nike's core brand idea is "If you have a body, you are an athlete." All of Nike's products are designed to utilize your body as a way to make you an athlete. Nike's personality is about being a challenger, tough, direct, and inspiring. Nike's main messages are around seizing the moment, pushing yourself to do more and using Nike products to get to the next level.

If you were coming up with ideas for Nike, you would want to ask yourself questions like:

  • Does this put the onus on the person and their body's capabilities to take action?
  • Is it challenging?
  • Does it push people to do more?
  • Is Nike the catalyst?

The point of this isn't to get you to come up with good idea for Nike, of course -- it's to understand how brand needs to be considered in everything you do. Now, ideate away!

About the Author
David Trahan is a Consultant at Interbrand New York focusing on customer insights and digital strategy. At Interbrand he has worked with more than 20 leading Fortune 500 brands including United Airlines, NYSE, Nissan, Johnson & Johnson, and UPS. Previous to Interbrand David worked at social media agency MRY (formerly Mr Youth) in New York where he worked as a strategist for brands such as Norton, Microsoft, Nestle-Purina, and Pepsi. Find him on Twitter at @brooklyknight.

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