Besides having distinguishability as a functional purpose, brands also have a symbolic purpose. Defined by the way we use brands to express our own identity and to identify or distance ourselves from groups we are surrounded by. Creating a brandscape is, therefore, focussed on developing and determining the most effective and fitting symbolic definition of a brand, in part by looking at the symbolical playing field wherein a brand ventures.
A brandscape concerns the landscape in which a brand operates and consists out of cultures, markets and societies. That landscape also serves as an inspiration for the brand itself.
A brandscape is created by analysing the following subjects:
- Culture and society
- The consumer
- A brand’s history
And is meant to:
- Better align the brand’s image and the customer experience
- Foster innovation
- Predict and then produce popular content
- Help you strengthen and expand a brand
- Address new target groups successfully
- Discover new brands and concepts for products and services
- Reposition brands effectively
The brand’s message should convey a deep and nuanced understanding of the cultural categories in which a brand is situated – from their own legacies to the consumer culture and dominant or popular culture- Laura Oswald 2012
In this article, we will discuss how to create a brandscape affiliated to the position of your competitors:
Researching a brandscape
The moment you decide to define the symbolic definition of your brand, you will start by looking at the symbolic definition of other brands on a product and market level. This is done in order to find out if any gaps or possibilities exist that your brand could use to its own benefit. Analyse your competition by placing the following characteristics in a brandscape:
- Brand images
- Associations and sentiment of target audiences on a product and on a market level.
- Rituals around the use of a product or service
- Used metaphors by the others brands on a product- and market level.
This information can be found everywhere. For instance, you could analyse the positioning of certain design elements in print, digital media and on social media. Look at advertisements, packaging, logos, colour schemes, illustrations, pictures, spots and jingles. When analysing consumer behaviour you could look at current research, popular radio segments, films, television shows, social media use, fashion trends and music (cultural elements).
Establishing your brandscape
When drawing up your brandscape you look at the most important symbols you extracted from your research in the consumers market and its cultural context. These symbols are defined further by listing common associations and through determining if they correspond with your brand’s interests.
Imagine that you have come to the conclusion that one of the most fitting symbols concerning a specific product is “warmth”. Part of the process is to give meaning to the word “warmth” by creating a list of associations:
When talking about warmth the following associations could spring to mind: friendship, compassion, temperature, fire, love, family, home, fireplace, cosiness, company, entering, life, history, development etcetera.
The next step in this process is to analyse them. Determine if the associations fit in with the current culture, the society in general, the target audience and with your own brand identity. Then categorise the symbols you selected further by placing them in one of the subsequent groups: Unique characteristics, important and valued characteristics and expected characteristics.
The unique characteristics consist out of the symbols you feel are truly distinctive from your competitors. The important and valued characteristics are symbols that are deemed important to your target audience and the expected characteristics are those that are simply expected from a brand within a specific market. This exercise will lead you to drop some symbols because of their commonality and will leave you with a smaller set of symbols (6 to 8 preferably). Those are the symbols you will use to fill the brandscape grids with. Choose one symbol based on your product associations and place a contrasting symbol on the other side of the axis. Combine this symbol with a second one derived from the market associations in order to create an extra dimension.
In the end, you will have several possible brandscapes that reflect all of the chosen associations. It is then time to include the analysis of your competitors and place them into those brandscapes (it is advisable to use a focus group to execute this step). When done correctly, you will find out where your opportunities lie. Some brandscapes will be completely filled, meaning they don’t offer that much room to stand out as a brand. Other brandscapes will remain empty, these show you the unique (or rarely used) symbols and associations your brand can use to position and define itself successfully.
A brandscape offers us a clear overview of the landscape we operate in, helping us recognise the opportunities within a market (or segment). That means a brandscape holds true value for all of us, not only to determine how a brand should be positioned when it is formed but also to determine how it should be “loaded” later on in its brand cycle.
Never forget that your landscape is constantly changing!