What's in a brand?

The importance of a well-crafted, distinct brand identity should not be underestimated, writes the AOP’s communications director, Vicky Vine

Tomato soup tins

I am hoping that it has not escaped members’ notice that the AOP and OT  brands have recently undergone a facelift. I am also hoping that members will have seen the move as a positive one, noticing a more modern creative with simplified brand marks and, overall, a more cohesive approach to our look.

I have no doubt there will be questions as to why we carried out this work. You may be thinking that you had grown to like the past identities and the familiarity that came with them.

So why did we start looking at our brand? Following AOP member research in 2014, we discovered that the words our members used about us (“trusted,” “informative” and “authoritative”) didn’t correlate with the adjectives they used about our visual identity (“boring,” “dated” and “comic”). Furthermore, our visual identity was not consistent: we used different logos for different areas of work that were not always clearly connected to the AOP. This background drove our vision to create a strong, distinct identity, which better reflected the work we do, and what our members say about us.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing’s definition of a brand is “an idea or an image of a product or a service provided by the organisation. Branding is the marketing of this idea or image so that more and more people recognise it and become aware of the brand.” Others take the definition of a brand further, calling it a ‘set of expectations’ or a ‘promise.’ A well-managed brand can aid consumer choice. It’s why you might instinctively select Heinz for your tomato soup, Kellogg’s for your cornflakes, or – dare I say – AOP for your medical malpractice insurance.

We started our re-brand process with internal workshops to define our brand personality, product values and our core proposition, basing them on the mission, vision and goals that had recently been defined by the AOP Board. To explain why these elements matter, a good example I like to refer to is British Airways (BA) and Virgin. Their product portfolio certainly overlaps, but their communications and marketing approaches are worlds apart – and that is due to their brand values and personalities.

Think BA, and heritage, tradition and proven quality are likely to come to mind, framed with the strapline ‘To fly, to serve.’ The more maverick Virgin, meanwhile, deploys a punchy feel to its advertising, often focusing on the ‘rock star’ or ‘VIP’ experience. Both put the customer at the heart of their propositions, but by doing so in a very different way, they are able to appeal to different audiences.

Our focus has not just been on brand alone. Alongside the creative work, we have made changes to our communication channels in order to better meet members’ information needs. We have undertaken a major revamp of our website offering, amalgamating three sites into one. We also made a strategic decision to protect these valuable AOP membership benefits. Going forwards, only members will have full access to AOP website content and receive OT free as part of the membership package.

Forming part of a wider programme of change, these exciting initiatives are an investment in the future of the Association, designed to better support and reflect our work in protecting, supporting and representing today’s optical professionals.