Brand Fundamentals with Nicholas Kuhne


Branding. Not a new concept. In fact, branding is said to date back to as far as 1100 B.C. in India, for a herbal paste known as Chyawanprash. But in the modern digital age, branding takes many shapes and forms. It can influence  people in different ways. For example, Uber might mean different to an Uber driver to that of a normal taxi driver. Organized by Informatics Institute of Technology (IIT), together with Informatics, this is what Brand Fundamentals by Nicholas Kuhne was all about.

Understanding brand value

Kicking off the day’s proceedings we had Nicholas talk about brand value and how important it is to understand this value. To highlight his point, Nicholas bought on the famous example of Coca Cola. He mentions how the color itself was a valuable asset to the company. The latest market capitalization claims Coke to be valued at $179 billion. Out of this, $81 billion comes under intangible value.

Nicholas Kuhne | Brand FundamentalsAccording to Nicholas Kuhne, there are 2 ways brand value is created. One, is the role of the brand. This entails what role a particular brand plays in the market, what it caters to, etc. Second, brand value is also created by brand strength as well. For example, back when Instagram changed their icon there was a backlash initially. Now, pretty much everyone has forgotten about the whole fiasco. Such is the strength of a brand.

It can take 40 years to build a brand and it can take only 5 minutes to destroy it

Its not just a concept, but a process

A brand is also a process, one that requires the effort from all stakeholders. From setting the structure to the role of the management, pretty much everything you do as an organization affects your branding and its strength. This is why a company like Uber was able to successfully undergo rebranding. Its doubtful that some of us even remember what the Uber logo used to look like.

Nicholas Kuhne | Brand Fundamentals
Uber underwent a complete rebranding along with the change in logo (Image Credits: Uber)

According to Nicholas Kuhne there are few reasons as to why certain companies fall behind in terms of branding in today’s digital age. One of them is the fact that a lot of people tend to focus solely on the product and not the packaging. This is true when it comes to certain aspects such as the lack of exposure on Social Media for corporates.

Brand Fundamentals: What about audio branding?

THX may have been acquired by Razor. But it’s deep note intro will always be a memorable tone for most of us. Audio branding may not be so popular in the local context. Nevertheless, it has still made quite an impact in our lives. This was proven perfectly when Nicholas asked us to close our eyes while he played a few tunes. As the sounds of Windows 95, Mc Donald’s theme and NBc played, it was clear how this particular style of branding can be of high impact.

Brand platform, controlling your brand and naming your product

Digging deeper, Nicholas Kuhne also talked about the importance of a brand promise. This is where emphasis is given on the customer journey, where you talk about the story of the product, rather than the product itself. But this also depends on how one maintains control over a brand. Harley Davidson never marketed their bikes talking about their specifications or anything related. Yet, their success story is one that is built over a unique culture.

But success stories also rely on the naming of your product. For example, certain times utilzing an existing term for your brand, might work (such as Blackberry). At the same time, made up names that have no real meaning whatsoever can be used to build a very strong name for oneself (Netflix).

Digital Branding and Social Media

You can’t really talk about branding in the modern context without talking about digital branding. Look at how the mobile phone has developed over the years. There used to be a time when a phone was just about taking calls or sending an SMS. Today, phones, or rather smartphones are nothing more than a platform that comes with a screen. If you don’t believe us take the Huawei P10 we reviewed recently.

The digital age has its many advantages. But it also restricts companies in certain aspects. P2P platforms like Airbnb has resulted in hotels and resorts to be completely cut off from the equation. Nicholas mentions how things have moved from B2C and B2B, to B&C and B&B.

But what about social media? How important is social media when it comes digital branding? Nicholas highlights how Social Media should be all about customer engagement. To quote, “people don’t come to you profile to see you say ‘Happy Friday'”. He further emphasized on why it would be a good idea to have separate protocols for social media, particularly if you’re a large corporate.

Nicholas Kuhne | Brand FundamentalsDeveloping a great and inspiring brand

So what does it take to develop a great and inspiring brand? Nicholas Kuhne highlighted on brand proposition. He also explained how aspects such as typography and colors themselves can be branded. But its not all about colors and how unique your typography is. Developing a great brand often requires you to develop a strong emotional bond with the customers as well. Take companies like Apple and Samsung. Part of the reason why they’re successful today is due to their ability in inculcating an emotional connection with the users.

Nicholas Kuhne | Brand FundamentalsWith that, we moved on to the final session for the day. Here, the audience had to create a new Sri Lankan brand in 30 minutes. 6 teams took part in the exercise. So what was the result? The ideas ranged from branding cinnamon and IT services, to developing a business models that emphasize on mindfulness.

So there you have it. This was what Brand Fundamentals was all about. Do you have more to add to this story? Let us know in the comments below.



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