In the August 2008 and September 2008 tips I touched on the significance of creating artifacts for your organization. This month, I’ll take that to the next logical step: building your brand with artifacts.

As with historic artifacts, the more we find, the more we know about a past civilization. Each part holds information about how people lived, how they related to others and how they died. With an organization — a business, institution or government agency — the principle is the same in that artifacts show a lot about how it “lives”, but in practice, the objects serve a different purpose.

Organizations use artifacts as a means to broadcast their existence. And even more interesting, they also provide ways to interact with the organization. Think of it: In our daily life, we Interact with an indeterminate number of artifacts representing a huge variety of organizations. If we were able to do that with a past civilization, we would not only have knowledge of how they lived — we would have personal experience of it. We would have the opportunity to judge how we liked the transaction, if it reminded us of others, if it was worth coming back to and so on. Through artifacts, your audience is able to interact with your organization on a real-time basis and make those critical decisions that define the success of your organization.

For example, Coca-Cola, the most well-known brand in the world, has thousands of items with its name and logo on them. The equipment for consuming their product is at most a bottle opener, a glass, ice and maybe a straw. However, most of the promotional items they have produced have absolutely nothing to do with drinking the product. Posters, coolers, clocks, calendars are just a few. The list goes on and on. They’ve been producing these items for over a century.

The following is a quote from The Chronicle of Coca-Cola on its corporate website. This excerpt is about Asa Candler, the gentleman who built Coca-Cola into an empire of refreshment:

“A firm believer in advertising, Mr. Candler … promoted the product incessantly, distributing souvenir fans, calendars, clocks, urns and countless novelties, all depicting the trademark.”

The point to be taken from this is that it is not required that products and materials you put your name on are fundamentally related to your core mission. While there is strength in relating your collateral with your organizational mission, it is not mandated. In a way, this is very freeing. It gives you the ability to find something that feels right for your organization, or something that you can creatively work into your core values, rather than an item which explicitly pronounces them.

Each piece creates a familiarity of your business whether in simple name recognition or in a more focused manner such as how to become a client, additional services you offer, past achievements and so on. With every impression made, you increase the strength and clarity of your organization.

For someone bumping across it for the first time, they gain an initial awareness. Items following after that, build on the impression made by the last one and reinforce it at the same time. Therefore, objects added later can have a substantially stronger impact than earlier ones in terms of cumulative benefits. Each piece adds to the familiarity a person has of your organization. With each item or artifact you create, you build out the real world presence of your brand. Done right, it will be a brand people will want to interact with.

« Go back to Creating Artifacts, continued