Silent branding: Airport clothing ad leads to thoughts on brand culture

On the way back home from a business trip earlier this year, I saw this advertisement on the airport wall. And while we are all bombarded daily with ads, for some reason, this one grabbed my attention long enough for me to snap a photo and think about it later.

It’s a retail ad which is terrific, as all businesses (including banks and credit unions) are in the retail business, whether they know it or not. As you can see, it simply reads, “Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak.”

I don’t know who penned that, but it is a terrific job of summarizing the very essence of branding in only thirteen words.

Think about it for a moment — and how it applies to your business. This ad is trying to sell clothing. But style is something more ephemeral – which can just as easily be said to apply to a variety of businesses, such as your style of dining, your style of entertainment, even your style of financial institution. And it is these businesses — restaurants, entertainment venues, banks and credit unions – that seek to establish their own style via a unique brand that will resonate in the hearts and minds of consumers with very little, if any, prompting. See the swoosh? It’s Nike. Think about a smart phone? Odds are, it’s Apple. Smell a pumpkin latte? You probably thought about Starbucks.

Businesses that endlessly talk about how cool they are, are rarely actually that cool. If you have to talk a lot about how great your brand is, odds are, your brand is not all that great.

So, in what ways is your business looking to establish its brand without actually having to talk about it? Posters, billboards and online ads that position your brand are fine. But what is your brand culture? What are you, when you cannot actually speak (or type) about it?

For many businesses, the best way to exemplify this brand culture is by the behavior of it’s staff. If your brand promise is friendliness, are your employees all that friendly? If your brand promise is speed – can your staff deliver? If your brand promise is innovation, are you really on the cutting edge and when was the last time you came up with something new and cool?

The ultimate goal for any marketer guiding a brand is to reach that ultimate level of consumer awareness (such as Nike, Apple and Starbucks) in which people think about or reference your product with an almost Pavlovian demeanor. To attain this however, you actually have to talk less about your brand and live it more. Or, as the ad reminds us, to say who you are without having to speak.

Is this your brand?


Jeff Kjoller

Jeff Kjoller

Jeff has extensive experience in branding, art direction and graphic design, having served employers and clients in a creative capacity for more than twenty-five years. After graduating from the University ... Web: Details