‘Ich bin ein Berliner‘, the phrase uttered by John F Kennedy which has become iconic – and much debated!* Such a simple phrase, but one that’s echoed down the decades, and as a result of that debate, become better known than almost any phrase in translation.
Simple things that engage us always create identity and love, like this simple and appealing Amsterdam statement. Would you call it art? Branding? An installation? Street furniture? Whatever you call it doesn’t matter – because it creates an impression of the city of Amsterdam that is so appealing that hundreds, maybe thousands, of tourists have their pictures taken with it every day. Not only that, but many natives of Amsterdam use this brand imagery on their Facebook profiles and other social media to carry a message about their loyalty to the city … and so this brand is conveyed through thousands of conversations, in thousands of languages, in the simplest possible way.
Brand awareness is one of the greatest desires for any organisation – and it can be taken very seriously as a high strategic priority. Long and complex campaigns are planned, sophisticated programmes are designed, detailed feedback is demanded, analysed and shared. Brands that get it right: Google, Levis, Red Bull, become household names.
But even the biggest brands can get it wrong – Kellogg’s launched their world-class breakfast cereals in India, hoping for just a 2% share of the market, which would have meant around 18 million more cornflake eaters. Easy, right? Wrong. Failing to recognise that breakfast is culturally defined, that fresh cow’s milk is not universally drunk in Asia and that refrigeration is costly meant that the Kellogg’s launch cost more than it returned … but one simple fact emerged. Porridge. Yes, porridge – already deeply embedded in Indian culture as a result of the British Empire and made (in India) with condensed milk which is used in many Indian dishes, porridge has become ‘the cornflake for India’. It was such an easy story to tell, they almost missed it!
So what story does your brand tell? Does it travel? Have you thought about how to make it simple? It doesn’t matter whether you think JFK said, ‘I’m at one with the people of Berlin’ or if you’re one of those who believe he said, ‘I am a jelly doughnut’. What matters is that you know he said, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’. You get to tell the story your way – and that makes it real for you.
Strong brands, from Kellogg’s to Google, allow people to tell their own stories about their brand, and allow it to travel without insisting that it stays the same. They bounce back from potential failure by having a simple but engaging brand identity that everybody can get behind – whether it’s cornflakes or porridge, it’s still Kelloggs’s!