> The New Hacking
Hacking has taken on new meaning in the 21st century. Previously considered an offensive move, hacking has come to be understood as a creative act. Take the massive internet community of “life hackers” who seek to make routine tasks more efficient, or scientists studying how we can “hack our brains” to perform better. Hacking now implies working creatively on a problem to find the most elegant solution.
Creative problem solving is the core of branding. The branding process considers evolutions, challenges and goals to determine the most effective strategy to claim market and mindshare. Branding is a kind of hacking. It’s all about finding the best way in.
In order to hack a system, the hacker studies intensely how it works. It’s an in-depth process that involves investigation, analysis and comparison. This foundational step can be time consuming, but it’s the only way to find an opening and know how to best exploit it. Once an opportunity is identified, the hack goes quickly. It all depends on finding the right plan of attack.
Building brands starts with the same idea. Hackers study the computer system, brand specialists study the business system. A deep understanding of your operating system lays the foundation for an effective pivot. Flux begins the branding process with the IGNITE phase, looking at four core dimensions of your brand data.
This process results in a snapshot of your brand’s critical infrastructure. Like scanning a computer program for points of entry, determining the right opening for your brand in the marketplace should be based on who you are, who you’re up against, and who you speak to. Armed with these insights, it’s possible to create an authentic and effective identity.
Raw data is the first stage, but information alone isn’t enough to hack your brand. Hacking means movement. The next step is to create a strong brand position based on previous analysis. It’s a creative process that reveals and establishes the core of who you are, providing solid ground to grow from. At Flux, we call this the DISTILL phase– distilling insights into action. We create the Brand Platform, a curated document that lays the foundation for all internal and external messaging. It’s the code of your brand, made up of five essential elements.
The Brand Platform is an internal facing document that explains how you work, providing a strong base for cohesive communications. With a clear code to build from, you can successfully create outbound messaging materials that resonate with your audience and a bold visual identity that speaks your brand loud and clear.
You can effectively hack your brand, but the market can hack you right back. Brands are co-owned between you and your audience. If the public detects anything inauthentic, questionable or hyperbolic about your brand, reactionary opinions could surface. As information trends globally on social media, these opinions have the power to define and damage your brand– regardless of if they are true.
The massive reach of online communications opens up new opportunities as well as new dangers for brands. It’s never been more important to understand your audience, your competitors and the context in which your brand is heard. The media-scape is always evolving and changing. To stay relevant and resonant, it’s critical to keep your eyes and ears open.
Hacking your brand isn’t something you do just once. Just as hackers continually scan for opportunities, brands need to stay alert both for new openings in the market as well as internal vulnerabilities. Branding is an ongoing, evolving process.
Computer security firms often bring in outside hackers to intentionally find weak points in their systems. When you’re too close to something, it can be difficult to see potential pitfalls. An objective third party can be vital in identifying underlying problems and strategizing solutions.
That’s why bringing in a branding agency can make a major difference. Personally involved in company dynamics and history, assessing your own strengths and weaknesses is a challenge. A good creative agency helps you see yourself with new eyes.