A brand is what the audience thinks it is

by Jonathan Haile

James Bond is known to drive Aston Martins. In doing so, Astons became the “heroes’ cars.” Jaguar, another English luxury automaker, doesn’t want you driving its rival, Aston’s. That means if you’re not the hero, you must be the villain. In recent years, the company has done an excellent job playing with that brand strategy, featuring popular actors we recognize as movie villains in a series of ads. The company is not really out to incite global mayhem, but inspire you with a bit of fun.

From Jaguar's Facebook page

From Jaguar’s Facebook page

I sat in Jaguar’s gorgeous F-Type Coupe at this year’s Kansas City Auto Show, and I’ll be the first to admit that the car caused me to smirk, villainously. I wished there was a key fob close by so that I could drive it out of Bartle Hall. I love Jaguar’s ads, but it wasn’t until this week that I realized the brilliance of the automaker’s strategy.

A brand is what the customers and audiences think

I started a free online marketing course, and in a short period of time, I have heard a lot about branding, strategy and messages. The instructor, in a series of videos, explained something I wish I had realized,”The real definition of a brand is whatever the customer thinks it is.” She hit it on the head with pinpoint accuracy. We all have perceptions of a brand. Our experiences with the brand shape those perceptions. It was shown, over time, that Jaguars were the cars of the mischievous, so sitting in the F-Type, I wanted to cause some trouble. That can make things tough for PR and marketing folks.

The Challenge, The Solution

More than 6.6 million people like Jaguar on Facebook. That’s a lot of differing opinions and expectations. Therein lies an exciting challenge. How do you help the customer understand the brand as you see it? The answer isn’t villainous mind games, but creating a solid brand foundation.

Whether you are branding a start-up or re-branding a well-established company in need of updates, there are questions marketing and PR pros must consider. Here are a few:

  • Why does the company exist and who is it meant to serve?
  • How is the brand positioned in the marketplace?
  • What are the competitors doing? What will you do differently?

More specifically for PR folks, how will we communicate with the people who matter most? What tactics should we implement? When the brand is established, the communication needs to be consistent and built to help the company achieve its objectives.

Jaguar, founded more than 90 years ago, isn’t really set on blowing up major cities and manipulating world leaders. Its corporate values are integrity, understanding, excellence, unity and responsibility. That said, it’s a British luxury car company with competitors. When you consider the association between Aston Martin and James Bond, you forgive Jaguar for playing the anti-hero.

I implore you not to hatch any evil schemes. Instead, find Innovative PR on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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