How A Strong Brand Identity Is Necessary to Fuel Effective PR Campaigns

July 10, 2019

Apple. Google. Starbucks. When these brands come to mind, an image may immediately pop into your mind. Maybe it’s a logo, a product or even an advertisement. Whatever it is, these brands all have one true and consistent thing: identity. Identity is what gives the world’s most successful brands  a unique voice and the ability to stand out, even in an oversaturated market. 

In the book The Brand Gap, author Marty Neumeier described a brand as, “Not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.” Who is “they” exactly? Your audience. Your fans. Your employees. And the strength of your brand and your brand’s own ambassadors understanding of it can significantly impact the effectiveness of your PR efforts. More, it can cushion you in times of crisis or when campaigns miss the mark. 

Need more convincing on the importance of brand identity? Even the most established brands have roles within their organization dedicated to nailing down the right tone for their audience that remains true to their values and mission. Twitter recently created a brand new position: Tweeter-in-Chief, whose sole responsibility is to capture the brand’s voice, tone and content on its own platform. Not a simple task. 

So how do successful brands convey their message, share their story and maintain their reputation through PR campaigns? Let’s take a look at three examples of well-known brands leveraging their identity to their advantage. 

1. Nike announcing Colin Kaepernick as the face of their “Just Do It” campaign

On the 30th Anniversary of the campaign that solidified them as one of the most powerful brands, Nike announced former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick as its new face for the, “Just Do It” campaign. 

Colin Kaepernick tweet announcing campaign with Nike. 

Kaepernick became a major talking point when he kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police brutality toward African Americans. In a risky but strategic move, Nike’s choosing of Kaepernick as its face for their campaign not only aligned the company with Kaepernick’s values and statement, but also reignited the meaning of the campaign to begin with, showing the athletic giant had more to it than just shoes and sportswear. It struck a heated debate online and off, with some people declaring a boycott movement after the reveal of the campaign. But by knowing their audience and sharing a politically charged message, Nike not only separated themselves from the pack but redefined the limitations of what their brand and signature tagline could do. 

2. Patagonia and its environmental impact 

Patagonia has been an avid supporter of environmental causes for years. But in 2018, the company sent out a single tweet that was provocative enough to turn heads; coming out in opposition against President Trump’s decision to reduce the size of two national monuments in Utah: Bear Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante. 

Patagonia tweeted a call to action to protect the national monuments

How was Patagonia able to make such a bold statement like this? It’s all in their mission: “At Patagonia, we appreciate that all life on earth is under threat of extinction. We aim to use the resources we have—our business, our investments, our voice and our imaginations—to do something about it.” Uncommon in corporate America, Patagonia took a political stance that aligned with their company’s values, therefore emboldening and garnering the attention of their audiences to also take action. 

3. Starbucks and the infamous “Red Cups” 

The holiday season is a busy but opportune time for brands to grasp the attention of a wide range of audiences and deliver new, creative content in a crowded market. And with a brand as well-known as Starbucks, it’s imperative to discover new ways to evaluate, assess and reinvent. You’d be hard-pressed to find a greater example for such a heavyweight brand than the red cups Starbucks releases every year. Although at times mired in controversy, Starbucks has kept the holiday staple fresh by incorporating new designs, engaging their fans with co-creation through submitting their own art or encouraging customers to color the cups themselves. 


Starbucks started their signature, holiday cups in 1997

The red cups are expected every year, but Starbucks shows that when you leave your brand in the hands of your customers, you can still remain authentic and unique above competition. 

A brand identity is partially due to name recognition and association with a product and service. But a strong brand reaches beyond that. It stretches its influence to evoke emotion, creativity and encompasses a company or organization’s mission and values. When a PR campaign effectively uses its identity to push the boundaries or cut through the noise, the benefits can be staggering and drive change on a global stage.

-Stella Heekin, Assistant Account Executive

Other photo credits: Image by Nhat Nguyen

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