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Your brand must be doing the heavy
lifting, making your product easy to
identify and buy.


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Let’s start at the very beginning.

Memory is one of life’s most wondrous gifts. Our capacity as humans to recall, recognise and then respond is how we make complex decisions quickly and easily. We use all of our senses and react in milliseconds, often completely unconsciously.

Take this example - pause for a moment, then take a breath and complete this sentence:

“Let’s start at the very beginning,
a very good place to start. When
you read you begin with ABC.
When you...”

So, what happened? Did you complete the lyric and do you know where it’s from? Did you smile? Have you heard it once or seen a thousand times? Can you recall who you were with or where you were?

Having an answer to any of those questions shows the power of the human mind. By using a previously embedded trigger, we may have helped you recall from a mountain of memories and, if you smiled, relive an emotion. All with just a few words, completely out of context. (If this made entirely no sense - there is an incredible movie experience awaiting you. The lyric is the opening line of the song Do, Re, Mi from the timeless “The Sound of Music.” It may be intriguing to know that Mandy (AMBA MD) met the real Maria von Trapp in the 1970’s at the Von Trapp family lodge in Vermont, USA. Imagine that - you are now only one-person removed!)

Branding works in precisely the same way. Over time your Brand is embedded within the minds of your consumers so that when needed, your product or service comes quickly to mind. Good branding makes life easier by helping us find the things we want fast. Humans are all emotional beings who occasionally think, emotional triggers trump rational argument every day. Brand is the bridge.


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Talk to some entrepreneurs/business managers and you’ll hear that arguably none of the brand stuff matters because it’s all about the product or service - the differentiation, the quality, the price, etc. Without a good offer, they say, the brand is meaningless. And, of course, they are right.

You do need to have an offer.

The reality for most, though, is that their competitors do or say much the same thing. They even share the customers with those competitors (let me show you the data) and then seemed surprised to find that most consumers believe all products in the same category are basically identical. Think about Banks, Baked Beans, Milk.

Despite how great your product is, consumers will always gravitate towards (and pay more for) brands they recognise and understand. In the long run, brand is key to capturing commercial value. Change the recipe, update the product, just don’t change my brand. While a great product may be crucial to gaining repeat purchase, brand forms the anchor.

What makes a Brand strong?

  1. A clear understanding of what the brand is and does.
    In just 2 or 3 words! Human attention span is now measured at 8.25 seconds (a goldfish is at 9!!), so it’s short and tight.

    What does your consumer know your brand to be? (Think beyond your team). Consider each of these for just a moment - what is KPMG? Harrods? Kellogg's? Coke? (What does Coke say it is on it’s pack?) Most people answer those questions in just a few words, even though each brand has an array of offers and much depth. Those few words outline precisely what people understand that brand to be. We call this Salience. The power comes from aligning with (and owning) this definition.

  2. Know who the brand is talking to.
    Narrowly targeting specific segments risks alienating highly profitable prospective customers.The magic here is to be as broad as possible (so as not to limit opportunity) while being clear on who the brand resonates with. The focus is external, with the insights are often found in your sales data and consumer research.

    Targeting is a more appropriate subject when talking about advertising placement. A brand can be appropriate for a very broad audience (like Popcorn for example), while an ad campaign can be targeted to a specific audience or location.

  3. Know why customers want this brand.
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    Emotional cues, even in business, override the rational.

    What drives the emotional connection to the brand? Does it reward the consumer, solve their dilemmas, make them feel safe or help them become better people? Tap into the emotion that your consumers feel when your brand does it’s thing.

    • Equally obvious are the rational benefits the brand offers. Answers are short, just a few points.
    • Most buying decisions are emotionally driven but all will be rationalised. Example - Why did you buy that new Tesla? Well, it’s about saving the planet…
    • Great brands understand the messages and triggers that need to be reinforced.

  4. Have cues that make the brand irresistibly fascinating
    A few facts:

    • The vast majority of shopping trips are for just a few items.
    • People know what they want BEFORE they make contact with a sales person.
    • Most buying decisions are made in less than 30 seconds.
    • Only 24% of buyers consider three or more options at any depth (and that includes B2B).

    In this context, the most fascinating option wins. Always. We live in a cluttered world, so embedding triggers that draw me to your brand first is the competitive advantage. It could be Modern or Classic. Oozing Trust or Innovation. Or trigger Prestige or Passion.

  5. Codify the brand and ensure assets are distinctive.
    From the name to the logo, to the tag and other distinctive assets, great brands follow a formula to ensure every asset connects. Distinctive assets by definition are unique and can become famous over time. Think of the big yellow ‘M’ alongside a major road.

    The key to success is the consistent and continuous use of brand assets. A good brand should speak with a single voice, no matter the medium.

  6. Have a documented brand strategy that aligns all stakeholders
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    Brands are developed over the long haul. Everyone has an opinion. Internal teams often get bored way before the material is tired. A good system provides tools to both manage brand direction and curate creative work as it is produced.


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Good brand strategy must be easy for all stakeholders to understand or implementation will forever be compromised. AMBA, for example, has a system that collates all of the meaningful data into 3 page report that focuses all the important decisions. Page One defines the brand in words (10 small handfuls), Page Two captures the essence with visuals, and Page Three outlines all distinctive assets. We use this format as the basis to create brands from scratch or to refresh and reinvigorate.

The AMBA BRAND BLOCKS system is very much ‘Follow The Evidence’. from what’s happening in the market to what the sales data shows, to insights from consumer research and social media.

Why use a system?

  • To manage complexity (and make it a strength).
    • This fast-paced, ‘always-on’ world has completely changed the way we think. Human attention span is now measured at 8.25 seconds, down from 12 seconds (in 2000). (a common goldfish is measured at 9 seconds).
    • Be fast and to-the-point. Ten blocks, three pages. Got it.
  • Everyone has an opinion.
    • Managing stakeholders and maintaining clarity can be a challenge. By gaining agreement on each step (or Brand Block), broad consensus on the direction and format automatically follows. It makes the brand process collaborative, yet focused.
  • The brand strategy strengthens the creative output.
    • As part of every ongoing brief, a system like AMBA Brand Blocks provide the tools to curate creative output effectively. It guides creative reviews to be more strategic and always ‘on brand’.
  • Systems shorten the development timeline.
    • Developing brand is akin to innovation - it means doing what hasn’t been done before. It takes time to do great work. Build a solid base, and it’s easier to set direction and move quickly.
  • Systems are better on the budget.
    • It is a natural but fantastic byproduct of getting the basics agreed up front, the work that follows is brief and on the mark. The investment in your brand is focused beyond just ideation.


AMBA consults with clients on strategy and how to maximise impact of brand across all marketing comms. A good place to start is with a brand/market review - with the analysis being from the market’s perspective (market orientation).

Be Distinctive
Fundamentals of Brand
Discover the key elements of living and breathing your brand strategy.
Define it, develop it, and make it yours.