Decoding Design Speak: Brand Communication & Positioning

Brand Communication

As Designers, there many different facets to our jobs. The end result of the fruits of our labor are visible and tangible. A website, a marketing packet, a logo, an advertising or marketing campaign… But the road to the end result is largely intangible.

The planning, brainstorming, research, preliminary ideation and client collaboration is about testing, tweaking, casting out and refining an idea, message, image or concept until it is distilled to a point that the core values of the organization can be brought to life in a real world way.

Ideally, every step in the creative road, from conception to execution will fall under the banner of either Brand Positioning or Brand Communication. 

Brand Positioning is the engine.
It is the driving force that governs everything an organization does and, by proxy, defines who the organization is. Brand Positioning is also a major factor in why many of the most dominant global brands (Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola as examples)  are as successful as they are. While they evolve and grow as entities, they never lose sight of the core concepts that have helped to create the brand.

Brand Communication, on the other hand, is the frame that surrounds the engine.
It is the context, or differentiating messaging and visualization factors, that set one company apart from another. It is the life that is breathed into a brand that creates emotional connections with an audience in order to communicate the brand positioning.

(As a side note, and to leverage the analogy, there is really no fundamental difference between any land vehicle in existence. Every single one is a combination of wheels, engine, seats and frame that help people to travel greater distances then they could as efficiently otherwise. The differences come in the brand positioning and communication. Is the car (see brand) big and safe? Small and fuel efficient? Fast and Exciting? All of these concepts go into creating the interpreted and perceived differences between a Hummer, or Prius, or Lamborghini as well as how the different products are presented to the world.)

Brand Positioning and Brand Communication in Action

Over it’s 34 year history, Nike brand communication has emerged in different ways, but have never strayed from the core concept of Nike’s Brand Positioning: our products can make all the difference.

Nike Historic Brand Communication

Just Do It, Bo Knows, It’s Gotta Be the Shoes, Live Strong, Find Your Greatness…each line is creating an positive emotional connection between the consumer and the brand. But Nike, like a lot of other successful companies, are constantly tweaking, changing and adapting the message to stay in front of their audience. One of the most recent adaptations of Nike’s Brand Positioning came in the 2012 Summer Olympics with the US Women’s Gold Medal Soccer Team.

recent Nike brand communication in action

After the US Women’s team defeated the Japanese team, they donned boldly printed “Greatness Has Been Found” Nike T-shirts. There was immediate backlash from around the world that the brazen and audacious Americans would celebrate in such a way (There are currently close to 41 million search results for “us women’s soccer olympics t shirts”), and most of it was directed at the US Women’s team. But did they create the shirts? Did they go to Nike and say,“Hey, we are going to win gold in London and we want a shirt that says Greatness Has Been Found.”? Well, they might have….but a more likely answer was that the AD or Creative Team at Nike in charge of the US Olympic Soccer account came up with a really impactful way to not only commemorate a monumental victory in a rematch of the previous year’s world cup, but to also keep their company’s brand in front of the public eye (Did I mention the 41 million hits?)

Part of Nike’s brand DNA is about greatness, about working hard, striving for a goal, and achieving it. So why shouldn’t their marketing reflect that ideal? I just wonder if Adidas had a similar tactic for brand communication if the Japanese Women’s Soccer Team had won…


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