Everything is a Brand
Professionalism begins where ordinarity ends. The best photographers can see an outstanding shot even in the most basic surrounding; the best designers learn to approach everyday objects from the most unusual angles; the best musicians use the same 7 notes to create dramatically different sounds. We’d like to believe that we are the best in branding, so naturally, we try to see brands in everything that surrounds us.
We claim that everything is a brand - and Easter is no exception. Neither is Christmas, by the way, but let’s focus on the Bunny for now. Make sure you read till the end to see if we're lying and you may just as well learn some interesting facts about both branding and the Spring's main holiday!
Every branding specialist will easily identify 10 main elements every branded product should have and every branding agency has to address. Well, if Easter is no different, so it should have all 10 of them easily identifiable, right? The elements in question are brand identity, image, positioning, personality, equity, experience, differentiation, communication, gap, and extension. Now let’s see how each applies to the church and the eggs.
Briefly, brand identity is what allows people to recognize your brand among all the others. Normally, those are all the tangible elements that determine the outside of a brand. They greatly depend on design, as the companies want their exterior to perfectly reflect what they stand for. So, naturally, such elements as logos, packages, website navigation, workers’ uniforms, and social-media posts greatly contribute to the development of a brand identity.
“But Easter doesn’t have a logo!” you say. Well, first of all – in some Christian traditions it actually does. For example, Orthodox Easter identifies with “XB” letters that stand for “Xристос Bоскрес” in Cyrillic alphabet which can be translated as “Christ has risen”. It is the greeting Orthodox Christians use during Easter celebrations and it became the official symbol (aka logo) of the holiday in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine. The letters are always typed in the same typeface and have a more-or-less-defined color palette with the dominance of vivid red and brown colors (to signify Christ’s blood).
In fact, color is, perhaps, one of the most definitive tangible elements of Catholic and Protestant Easter traditions. While their Easters don’t have any specific logos, they are generally associated with soft pastel hues of green, yellow, and pink colors. Now picture a bunny or a chicken next to a pink egg – won’t you immediately connote Easter? And that is how tangible color exactly is.
Many people actually mistake the brand image for the brand identity, well, let’s hope this article will help you clear things out. So, brand image is the idea people have about the brand and it is not exactly under control of the brand managers. Image is more of an independent feature that develops over time and is very hard to change once fully formed. It shapes the way a brand is seen by all the potential customers and indirectly affects the target audiences. So, if you want the right people to pay attention to what you have to offer – it’s best to reflect some of their values from the very beginning.
In relation to Brand Image, Easter is a bit more tricky. Today, there are two dominant opinions about the holiday. For some people, it remains one of the oldest and the most sacred Christian traditions that celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. For others, it is simply an opportunity to celebrate the official beginning of spring with some eggs in the basket and chocolates in the park.
Both are valid and important images that say a lot about the approach those two groups of people have towards the holiday. As such, the religious image speaks about the holiday’s centuries-long history and traditions, while spring-related perceptions result in the family activities and the overall liveliness Easter suggests. In the end, these two aspects support and enrich each other, resulting in the holiday being the way we know it today.
To be honest, this is my favorite branding element because this is where you can really stand out. Brand personality literally speaks of what your brand would be like as a person. Is it happy, reckless, caring, clever, or brave? Some people go further and associate brands with specific characters or real people for those to reflect the brand’s personality even better.
To apply the main idea of brand personality to the example of Easter try to personify the holiday, imagine a persona behind it. Given the color palette, the season of celebrations, as well as the religious idea about re-birth and the new beginning, it would probably be a woman. To enumerate some of her character traits, think of what the holiday stands for and what values it tries to reflect.
As such, Easter is perceived as someone very kind, forgiving, and hopeful. At the same time, she is energetic and loves life. She knows her history but is not afraid to change together with the world around her. It is an example of a person everyone would like to have as a member of their family or at least as a close friend. And that is the major reason behind the holiday’s success.
One of the key elements of a brand is the experience a customer has while interacting with the product. Brand experience starts with the availability and the quality of information regarding the product, stretches throughout all the tiny elements of a pre-purchase period (that often includes the atmosphere of a shopping place, the attitude of the workers, and the general approach the brand has towards its customers), and ends with the brand’s reaction to its users’ post-purchase behavior. To put it simpler, it is the attitude your brand has to its potential customers and all sources from where it originates.
For most of the “customers”, the Easter brand experience starts at primary school, where we all learn the holiday’s background – develop brand awareness. At this stage, we are able to evaluate how important celebration is going to be to us and if it will outshine the “competitors”, such as Christmas or Halloween.
After gathering enough information and evaluating the offers, the customer develops a certain attitude towards the product. If it was a soap or a new menu they would be able to immediately go and try it out. But Easter, just like all the other holidays, is a somewhat “limited edition” that can only be sampled once a year. So anticipation grows and so does the demand. Much like after the announcement of a new iPhone.
Finally, when the day comes, people get to finally directly interact with the brand. It involves decorating the public spaces, the availability of Easter-related products in the shops (isn’t it heartbreaking when you don’t manage to find some white eggs to paint?), the preparation of a special meal, all the family arrangements, school projects – all the chickens-eggs-and-bunnies mood that prevails for at least 2 weeks in Spring every year.
At the end of a customer’s journey, there is a post-purchase behavior and evaluation. Now, probably no one has ever asked you “How likely are you to celebrate Easter again?”. Well, that’s because strong brands don’t really need to have verbal confirmation of a tangible success! And I dare to say that an annual $18.2 billion pure revenue is quite tangible! Easter doesn’t leave its “consumers” a choice not to like it – and it works!
Now that we mentioned the financial side of the holiday, let us say a few words about Equity. Usually, the term relates to how much the brand itself is actually worth. In rare cases, it can be limited to the actual revenues, but normally equity also implies the worth of the brand’s intangible assets, such as reputation, strategy, etc. In a way, equity is a more pragmatic approach to the elements described above. It selects measurable aspects of the brand and tries to see which may require improvements.
Of course, Easter doesn’t sell anything. It doesn’t have a tangible product to offer so that its revenues and market shares could be measured. However, just like the majority of the holidays today, Easter is not spared of the sense of consumerism. According to the data provided by NRF – last year Americans spent around $18.2 billion on Easter-related shopping (a stunning result, given that at the beginning of the century Easter spending had barely reached $1.9 billion). That roughly adds up to $151 per person.
Apart from the actual spendings, there were also investments the companies carried out in order to produce and promote the goods that were eventually purchased, the materials used for that secondary product placement, etc. By the way, the materials also serve as a tool for promoting Easter’s brand identity and positioning. Add a few hundreds of years of such a commercial approach and a-few-century-long tradition of celebrations and you would have a basic understanding of Easter’s Brand Equity.
It is easy to confuse brand communication with brand identity, personality, and experience because, at the end of the day, they all try to persuade people in a given brand’s uniqueness. However, each does it through different channels. Brand communication, per se, deals with the message the brand sends to the people. It’s the most direct element of all, as instead of subtly suggesting something, it has to turn it into a loud and clear statement.
Easter is about Christ’s resurrection. But it’s not the main message it delivers to all the faithful Christians out there. In fact, if it did – it probably wouldn’t survive much longer than a few decades. Resurrection is great and all, but it is also a constant reminder of death because it is indirectly connected to it. And death is not something worth celebrating – at least in the Christian tradition.
Instead, the holiday focuses on the good aspects of Jesus’s re-birth and presents itself as a time for family, unity, and hope. It doesn’t mention the end – instead, it speaks of the new beginning. That’s why Spring is a perfect season for it. Easter wants people to be always reminded that nothing is lost forever and there is always a place for a happy ending.
Brand gap reflects the differences between the promise it makes as a part of Brand Communication and the actual Brand Experience the customer has. In general, brand gap is always there because most of the branding strategies build on evoking emotions and raising expectations. We all know that pictures of the burgers in McDonald’s rarely reflect the outcome we receive in the box. The question is how much the picture actually distorts the reality.
Burgers are an easy example because if there was a tomato in the picture and there’s no tomato anywhere between the buns – it’s not what the customer ordered. Easter and its promise of hope and unity is, of course, different.
Today many people notice the commercialism behind any sort of a holiday and use it as an opportunity to proclaim yet another evil that has to be defeated. It’s true that chickens, chocolates, and decorations have nothing to do with the original religious meaning of the event. Neither is Santa mistaken for one of the Wise Men.
It’s also true that almost any form of business – big or small, private or corporate – tries to profit just a little bit on the whole Easter hype. But also, when it really comes down to it, all the commercial madness gets the job done and brings people together on that Holy Sunday (family), usually leads up to the church (unity), and almost always leaves positive memories (hope).
In branding, Positioning refers to how the brand is placed in the market – who it targets, how it presents itself. Usually, there is a specific feature of a product that allows determining its positioning. For Easter, its Image is very important because, likewise, there are two ways to approach its Positioning.
On the one hand, there are highly religious Christians, who strictly follow the fasting and celebrate Easter according to its original routes. But it is a rather limited segment that would not guarantee the holiday such a global popularity. Instead, this is ensured by its family aspect and the overall lightness Spring suggests as a season. The snow is finally gone, the days are longer and the sun is warmer – and that makes it a reason good enough to take an extra day off to properly appreciate the approaching summer.
As a result, the holiday covers a much wider audience. Apart from the persistent believers it now engages whole generations of family, stretches far ahead of the influence of the church and becomes much more about the social values rather than solemnly a religious background.
Just as a name suggests – Brand Differentiation reflects all the features that put your brand aside from the competition, not only visually, but also step by step in all of the previously discussed elements. Each of the religious holidays is a powerful brand because it is based on something that has proven to be trustworthy.
Easter celebrates the re-birth of Jesus, just like Apple prospers on their idea of innovative design. And that would be enough, if there were no other brands that base themselves on the same grounds – for instance, Apple’s main competition is Android, while Easter has to race with Christmas.
The easiest way to differentiate the brand is with – once again – its tangible elements in comparison to the competition’s tangible elements. For example, Christmas has Santa Clause – Easter has Easter Bunny, Christmas is all about vibrant colors like red – Easter favors pastel green, Christmas is the most iconic event in Winter – Easter follows right away in Spring. They are very similar in many aspects, but they also work hard to underline their differences. No one would picture an elf in the middle of the Easter picnic. And that’s why differentiation is important.
For most of the elements described above Easter has been a rather challenging example. It is much simpler to explain them on the common and widely abused cases like Coca Cola or Ikea. But Brand Extension is different. In brief, brand extension is about developing a new product or service that is not directly connected to the original idea of the brand. And Easter is a perfect example of how it works.
Today Easter is known as a Christian holiday commemorating the resurrection of Christ. Yet, originally it was a pagan celebration of the spring equinox. English Christians thought it would be easier to adopt the new religion by connecting it to something already familiar, and, well, it worked. It also was a brand extension of a sort, but let’s focus on more recent times.
The best illustration of Easter’s brand extension over time is the adoption of new traditions. Originally, the traditional Easter meal was lamb – as a part of the animal’s image in the Christian tradition and sacrificial image in Hebrew culture – that could be accompanied with eggs, bread, and cheese.
Painting of the eggs was only added in the 13th century because the church forbid eating the eggs laid during the Holy Week and they had to be somehow differentiated. The egg hunt, however, was only introduced in the late 19th century and had next to nothing to do with religion. Yet, the tradition was warmly accepted by the people and so it can be considered a very successful brand extension.
So, Is Easter a Brand?
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. In our case, if 10 out of 10 brand elements can be found in Easter celebrations – who are we to say that it’s not a brand? In fact, holidays should be considered as examples of the strongest non-profit brands in history, given their lifespan and durability.
We hope you enjoyed this article and if you have any ideas about other non-conventional brands – let us know, and we will happily prove to you that Everything is a Brand!
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