First, the basics…. let’s play the “define branding” game. Let’s start with the source….the ones who successfully “captured” the domain name. according to Brand.com,
“Brand is the proprietary visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image that you associate with a company or a product.”
HUH? A bit esoteric for my tastes…. See, it wasn’t all that long ago that the term “branding” was used to describe scarring an animal to denote ownership. Oh how times have changed.
Branding is now the hot BUZZ word to describe, in essence, marketing or advertising messages that work at conveying what you do in your business to the casual observer. It’s the magic bullet, the mystical trick, THE WAY TO WIN at this whole marketing game.
The traditional thinking goes that if you effectively “brand” your messages, that consumers will be better able to recognize your ads as belonging to you and will then be more likely to do business with you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is value to creating easily recognizable cohesive advertising campaigns. However, creating cohesive advertising campaigns filled with creative and compelling content is only the TIP of the “branding” iceberg.
Allow me to reveal the other 98% of the branding iceberg to you…..
Branding is not something you choose to do to your business. It’s something that your CUSTOMERS do to you.
Just as the unsuspecting calf is branded by searing metal pressed into it’s flesh, so is your business branded by your customers.
That’s right. Branding is not an “inside out” process, though it is a process that begins deep within your company. Instead, branding is the process through which you imprint what it is your company is about upon the minds of your target audience.
Because branding is an ongoing activity, it occurs constantly. Every interaction between your business and your customer (or potential customer) is building your brand, whether you like it or not. With that perspective on branding, it’s easy to see that the task at hand is to control your customer’s perceptions of your company as much as is possible.
With this perspective, you may suddenly realize that the surely angst ridden teen who is running your cash register after school is helping to building your brand. Nancy, in accounts receivable is also building your brand as are your technicians who go out into the field.
Every time someone you employ has contact with other people, they are in fact helping to build your brand. If this doesn’t frighten you, nothing will.
The “experts” want you to believe that branding is something you can buy. Can you blame them? It’s much easier to say, “Run your ads here and be sure to use use the right colors and font faces in those ads,” than to look beyond the ads at the business behind the ads.
Advertisements, even well branded ones, are simply invitations to your business. Invitations to strangers asking them to do business with you. Implementing a methodical identity program (a.k.a. branding program) will allow you to determine exactly how you want to portray your company or product to the outside world. However, what happens once those customers do business with you will, in the end, determine your company’s “brand.”
In the end, your brand is merely the way you are perceived by your customers. Branding is merely identifying the image you want to portray to outsiders. Your goal should be to make certain that brand accurately reflects what your business does. Once you’ve done that, then you can determine what promises you should make for your business to deliver.