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Your brand is not your logo – it’s your whole business

“A great brand deserves a great logo and great graphic design and visuals. It can make the difference when the customer is choosing between two great brands. But these alone cannot make your brand great.
Ultimately, brand is about caring about your business at every level and in every detail, from the big things like mission and vision, to your people, your customers, and every interaction anyone is ever going to have with you, no matter how small.
Whether you know it or not, whether you have a swanky logo or not, you do have a brand. The question is whether or not it’s the brand you really want.”

DAN PALLOTTA blogs.hbr.org (15 June 2011)

Watching Kenya Power & Lighting’s recent ‘rebranding’ reminded me Dan Pallotta’s forceful blog on HBR online last month.

Pallotta pointed out that a logo and signage are the smallest part of a brand. They are just a visual depiction, an aspect of communication. A brand is THE WHOLE BUSINESS. I really wonder whether Kenyan organizations, with their emphasis on periodic showy visual overhauls, get this point.

Take KPLC, which decided to call itself ‘Kenya Power’ and introduce a brand new logo and a rewritten set of noble words to describe its aims and ideals. The company undoubtedly spent a large amount of money on this effort, but Kenya as a whole noticeably and vociferously shouted “SO WHAT?”

This must have been a bitter pill for the company, but what did it really expect? For several months now, Kenyans have been subjected to unplanned, regular power outages, often on a daily basis, often for hours at a time. Indeed, last week’s much-publicised rebranding event presaged some of the worst power cuts to date, when the whole capital city seemed to be in darkness.

In my opinion, thinking of a visual rebranding at a time like this is entirely self-defeating. It causes more anger than appreciation. Kenya Power has only one brand promise: to provide reliable, affordable power to as many Kenyans as possible. That’s it. When that promise is patently not being kept, a new logo and new set of values means nothing. A swish, patriotic TV advert means nothing. Full-page newspaper displays evoke only anger, as people question why the money is not used to just provide power. The reaction on social media was vehement – Kenyans alternated between heartfelt anger and mocking criticism.

If you’re going to rebrand, you have to fix everything. Your systems, your processes, your strategy, your people, your style, your message, your essence. A brand is not what you PORTRAY, it’s what you DELIVER.

All businesses should take note. Brand is everything – every manifestation of your organization that is felt by people in its ecosystem. For Kenya Power, unanswered customer telephone lines are its brand. Sudden power cuts in the middle of important work or a favourite TV programme are its brand. Long, snaking queues at its payment points are its brand.

For the rest of you the same applies. That surly, indifferent receptionist is your brand. That vehicle overlapping with your logo on proud display is your brand. That convoluted refunds process is your brand. That unfriendly, out-of-date website is your brand. That tatty, crumpled billboard is your brand. That torn sofa in your reception is your brand. And no logo, no advert can help those of you who ignore any of those things.

The best part of the Kenya Power rebranding? The company is learning to apologize. Its CEO acknowledged having let Kenyans down. Sensing massive public anger, it put off a planned tariff review. That’s a start, but there is so much left to do. The only thing Kenyans want from the company is reliable power. That is the only thing it should seek to deliver. The rest of the brand will take care of itself.

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