Brand signification: infecting your customer with your love for your brand.

August 4, 2021

What do you think of when you see a logo? Picture a business and its famous swoosh, arch, or pregnant minotaur. What feelings does it conjure and what meanings does it generate? More than just a logo or business card, a Brand is the all-encompassing way in which your business is perceived. It is an old axiom that a customer generates their own meaning from a brand name. This is unavoidable. Jacques Lacan coined the distinction between the “real” and the “symbolic”. You want your brand to express a “real” meaning, identifiable by anyone, and having unity of significance across every customer. Though to express the truth that’s in our hearts we must rely on the symbolic language, and in fact any kind of expression, is symbolic because it is always the reader, or listener, or viewer who is responsible for generating meaning.

Even now as you read these words you are deciding their meaning, but it is impossible that the conclusions you draw will perfectly coincide with the meanings I’m trying to mean. Such is the crux of every brand; how your business is perceived is ultimately out of your control. A customer has an entire life of experiences, and biases, and misconceptions (and favourite colours!) which they carry with them as they interpret a logo, or business card, or a brand in its entirety. No doubt this concept is frustrating. You have a vision for your brand, and this vision fills your heart and carries with it so much meaning, and if you could just transmit this meaning to your customers, it would excite them and enrich their imaginations as much as it does yours! It is also no doubt a familiar frustration.

We experience people misreading or misinterpreting our very identities all the time. No one knows you like you know you, just as no one knows your company and product as intimately as you do. We nevertheless endeavour to express our personal identity with every nuance of our actions and fibre of our expression. The way branding is expressed by your company should be as integral as the way you perform your
own identity.

Lacan’s solution to the inability of language to isolate true meaning was to ‘surround’ meaning, to isolate where it might exist, so to speak—to point towards it. What this means for the concept of branding (the actions, strategies, and symbols used to generate a brand) is that your brand must be isolated from multiple angles. Three tenets that can be used to isolate a strong brand identity are a clear set of values, a strong story, and a continuity of message and meaning. These factors triangulate like vectors on a graph, and at their intersection your brand identity can begin to cohere.

At the core of your company’s brand there must be a clear set of values. Some values are explicit statements, such as a company’s commitment to integrity, equitable treatment, and respect. Such ethically oriented values establish a company’s conscientious outlook, and can coincide with a customer’s own values and willingness to be a source of good in the world. This cohesion between customer and company values creates an innate affinity in a customer for a company’s brand. Some values, on the other hand, are expressed more implicitly. These values are made clear through a consistent tone of voice, personality, and visual identity, all of which adhere to a unified way in which you want your customers to be treated. Both explicit and implicit values begin to shape the essence of your brand, and the impact your company seeks to have in the world. If your values represent what you want your brand to be, it is also integral to a customer’s understanding of this brand to know where it came from.

Imagine a painting, like Georges Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte”. The people in it are finely dressed, some are close to one another, and they are watching boats sail by. All of this suggests a rich history of interactions: clothing purchases, getting dressed after breakfast, personal relationships, boat launches, and even the trees suggest a history of growth and life. But none of these events exist in the image itself. Your brand should offer the same expansiveness. Every interaction or purchase a customer has with your company or product should be permeated with a vibrant genetic identity that is your company’s personal story. You’ve created a company you love, but it was a winding road to get here, and so much of your hard work along the way may be pretty inspiring to others. Maybe your mission statement and company goals coincide with an enriching family history, or the values you’ve learned throughout your life.

The connection your brand attempts to establish with your customer can use your company’s story as a strong foundation. Within this story is humanness, relatability, and likeability. And a brand grounded by a good story can even imbue your product with an element of this humanness, relatability, and likeability. The connectivity of human experience can foster a strong affinity to your brand. If clear values present the current goal of your brand, and a strong story supports how your brand was formed, it is brand continuity which will orient your brand towards the future. No one person can be solely responsible for every aspect of a company’s brand at all times. A team of like-minded individuals who represent your company and brand can work to maintain a consistency of image, experience, engagement, and customer care across all facets of your company.

A brand maintained by a continuity of message and meaning in this way is made strong and lasting because it increases the recognizability of this brand, and enhances the comfort your customers experience when interacting with it. And you can see how each factor interacts with the other, in a way where they almost become one and the same; a kindness of interaction and tone of voice when dealing with customers speaks to your brand’s values, while at the same time enhancing the continuity of a customer’s interaction with your company when this is the consistent and expected attitude they come to expect. And it may all be attributed to a journey of self-discovery and kindness that exists in your story.

When these three factors, and every aspect of your brand generation, cohere to a unified theme the customer is led to the heart of what your company is and the message that your brand intends to impart. They are led towards the “real” meaning that you feel when you think about your own company and brand. This feeling should be sensible in every aspect of your company’s brand, like the theme song overplaying your favourite movie franchise. The customer should feel it in every aspect, and think to themselves that this is of course Your Brand. Through a clear and interconnected brand your customer will be unable to help feeling for your company the way you do. They will be infected with your excitement, and your love, and the meaning you are trying to impart to them. Your company will be able to have the impact you’ve always envisioned.

Lacan, Jacques. “The Agency of the Letter in the Unconscious .” Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010.
1169-1181. Print.

Author – Greg Brown


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