A woman in an orange top holds a Canon camera to show the rear display to her daughter, who wears a pink jumper. Although only their faces and shoulders can be seen, they appear to be against a background of a sandy beach.

Big brand questions for businesses of any size

There are some brands that are instantly recognisable and loved in all four corners of the globe and Canon is one of them. But this doesn’t come without work. Brand building is a science, with a splash of art and a lot of strategy and graft. It’s not something you can pick up and put down when you fancy. A great brand needs nurturing and attention to grow and flourish. And, like times, a brand can change – especially when the world is transforming around it. It takes sound judgement and a steady hand to transition a brand into a new stage of its life.

With all this in mind, being the guardian of a global brand in one territory of the world takes care. We frequently balance decisions that sit comfortably with our customers’ world view of Canon, while speaking directly to them at a regional level. However, the core tenets of growing and maintaining a powerful brand are the same whether your company is an international powerhouse or a small family business. You need to continually ask yourself the same questions and put the answers at the heart of every decision you take. These are the questions successful brands ask themselves.

How well do you know your current and future customers?

If this seems basic, it is. And with good reason. When you present your brand, it is with the intention of resonating with the people who loyally buy from you or may choose to buy from you in the future. So, it’s absolutely critical to have a solid understanding of them. For example, we are privileged to have customers who buy Canon products for a multitude of different purposes, so our customer understanding is complex and spans photographers at all levels, of course, but also content creators of every conceivable kind, such as filmmakers, online influencers, fine artists, designers, students and even families. But we also supply a huge number of businesses – from small home start-ups to multinational organisations. Each have their unique needs, issues, wants and priorities, and we do a lot of research to understand what these are. Clearly, we investigate purchasing habits through data analysis, but we also talk to our sales partners and customers, even going as far as to work with them in our Ambassador and Partner Programmes. “This approach gives us a unique insight into their world,” explains Cyprian da Costa, Corporate Marketing Director, Canon EMEA. “Don’t limit yourself to what you already know – actively seek out the people you want as customers and learn everything you can about them. Build a picture of them and use this as your model customer or customers.”

A brand is far bigger and more powerful than any logo.
It plays a part in every communication you have with the world,
so what you say must be natural and authentic

What do you do that sets you apart from the competition?

Dare to be different, as the old adage goes. What do you offer that your nearest competitor does not? Why should your ideal customer come to you over them? Price comes into it, certainly, but there are always other important factors that customers take into consideration. Is your product more environmentally friendly? Do you offer a longer guarantee? What’s your aftersales care like? Are you more local? Or do you offer a nationwide service? Do you solve a problem that others don’t? There is always an edge, you just need to clarify what it is and, most importantly, how it helps your ideal customer.

What do you want people to think when your business comes to mind?

Once you have defined your ideal customer and what you are able to achieve for them that others cannot, you’ve found your power. This is your positioning statement and with a little polish, it paints a compelling picture of how you want your target market to perceive your brand. By distilling it down even further, you discover what we call the ‘brand purpose’ – and it creates a concrete understanding between you and your customers. For us it’s ‘Imaging to Transform our World’. “It’s an elegant way of communicating precisely what we do as a brand,” explains Cyprian. “We will continue to innovate, create and deliver world-class imaging products and services to our customers, through which they can, and frequently do, change the world.” Think of your positioning statement and brand purpose as the brain of your brand. Everything that follows is how the body of the brand acts to deliver the brain’s message.

A Canon camera with a single hand holding it as it rests on an orange tarpaulin. Besides the tarpaulin are ropes and beyond them is the sea. Together it appears that the photographer is on a boat at sea.
Our customers transform the world through our technologies and innovations and their stories shine through when we present our brand.

Are you being true to your goals and beliefs?

“A brand is far bigger and more powerful than any logo,” stresses Cyprian. “It plays a part in every communication you have with the world, so what you say must be natural and authentic. The image you present and the language you use must reflect the genuine intentions and values of your business.” This applies to the big stuff, such as social media and advertising, right through to something as seemingly small as sending an order acknowledgement or even speaking on the phone to a customer. Because if it doesn’t and you create an artificial brand persona that simply isn’t who you are, but you think will sell your products, it can backfire very quickly. This is why, for example, there is a current backlash against ‘green-washing’ and ‘rainbow-washing’, where businesses leap onto a cause temporarily in order to raise their profile, but don’t actually have any credentials in the long-term. “To find yourself, think for yourself,” as the old wisdom goes. Our brand promise to our customers also extends into the way we conduct ourselves through our EMEA-wide Young People Programme and our commitment to minimising our environmental impact.

How do you look and sound?

The order in which we’ve presented these questions is quite deliberate, as it’s only when you understand the kind of company you are and have identified your point of authenticity that you’re ready to translate your brand into something identifiable, giving it physical ‘muscle’ (to extend a metaphor). Here, you need to be thorough and consistent. This is the time to match what’s on the inside of your business with what’s on the outside, working with design and copywriting to create a style that runs through your website, social media, advertising, and packaging – even right down to the nitty gritty details, such as headers and footers on your invoices or delivery notes and email signatures. The voice and image you present as a business should be recognisable everywhere, not just from advertising campaign to website, but across every touchpoint you have with your current and future customers. Even the way your customer service representatives greet your customers should be on-brand.

Your brand is your initial appeal, yes. But it’s also the promise you make, your identity and the symbols you use to share it. It’s the unique way your business conducts itself, your words, your voice, your personality. When you get it right, it feels like magic (but the kind of magic that doesn’t disappear in a puff of smoke) and, hopefully, leads to a long and happy bond between you and your customers.

Find out how Canon is Inspiring a World of Change.

Written by Pete Morris, Brand & Sponsorship Senior Manager, Canon EMEA