The Dark Side of Branding

It’s much more apparent now than ever before, that branding is the main focus of many companies – which makes sense because having a great brand always pays big dividends in the business.

Branding is more than a logo, clever tagline, color pallet or consistent messaging. Branding is aligning your company’s values with the ones of your consumers. It’s about making people feel good about themselves – or to put it like Jeremiah Gardner – “branding is just creating meaningful relationships with people by providing high value”.

In this sense, a brand is worth more than the tangible assets of a company. For example the estimated brand (iconic value) of the top 3 brands in the world are:

  1. Coca-Cola – With a $65.3 billion in brand equity
  2. Microsoft – With $58.7 billion
  3. Mc Donald – With $29.9 billion

As you might have guessed, Coca-Cola is the most valuable brand in the world. But interestingly enough, Pepsi has been consistently winning blind taste samples with consumers for over 30 years! So what’s Coke’s secret?

Branding of course! Over the years, Coke has created an image that is powerful enough to overcome its taste. Brain scans have shown that the simple act of seeing the Coca Cola logo activates the area of the brain associated with identity and self-image that have a very high priority in the decision making – much more than taste.
Good branding apparently contains high levels of superhero-like powers. And just like all supernatural powers, they can be used to work for good or for evil. We have all seen evil branding at work, and it cons you in to buying something because it “looks good” or “legitimate” but the product or service is completely awful.

Why invest and risk so much in a new idea when you can simply re-brand something that already exists?

Here are a few examples of how smart branding is used for evil:

  • Re-skinning a website or app to attract new users without improving the actual product.
  • Re-branding a poor service without improving the service itself.
  • Changing the shape of a bottle instead of improving the content.
  • Creating product packages for snacks so that look super-healthy box but the product itself doesn’t actually contain healthy ingredients.

The examples above are all lazy shortcuts that might create short term sales, but will ultimately set you up for long-term failure. Clients are smarter than you may think.

So if you really want to rebrand or create a successful brand, first start off by trying something new, take risks, make constant improvements on your products and services, and innovate, imagine and evolve.

Do you have any examples of  “evil” branding you would like to share?

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Ignazio Lacitignola

Founder & Designer

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Ignazio Lacitignola

Founder & Designer

Meet Ignazio, affectionately known as “Igi” to friends and colleagues. An Italian designer, creative and entrepreneur who finds it a bit peculiar to refer to himself in the third person, but he’s willing to do so for the sake of this bio.

From his earliest memories, Ignazio’s mind has been a canvas of creativity, and his love for digital design ignited as soon as he could afford a computer and an internet connection that wasn’t the sluggish 56k dial-up.

Growing up in the less glamorous corners of Milan, Italy, Ignazio defied the odds, earning honors at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti without ever brushing shoulders with the law.

Following his heart’s call, he ventured across the Atlantic to San Francisco, USA, to immerse himself in the startup and User Experience world. It was here that he kickstarted his journey with Meno Design, a digital design studio dedicated to distilling complex digital experiences into their essence, while learning through experimentation.

In Ignazio’s eyes, every piece of design is a potential masterpiece, an artistic expression in its own right. His ongoing challenge is harmonizing his meticulous attention to detail, sometimes bordering on OCD, with the practical timely demands.

Beneath his approachable and calm exterior lies a delight of colorful Italian cursing that surface whenever he stumbles upon poor design choices—though it’s worth noting that he’s incredibly friendly, and a simple “ciao” is always welcomed.