Branding vs. Blather
The character of Pharaoh in the classic movie The 10 Commandments (Best Picture Oscar, 1956) delivers the line “So let it be written, so let it be done” with certain confidence that his word was law, and merely stating something makes it a reality. But in the two millennia since the time of the pharaohs we find that stating a brand name does not make it a brand.
Branding is one of the most talked about yet often misunderstood notions in marketing.
New companies work to launch their brands. Established companies work to extend and defend their brands. Many work to re-energize or re-position their brands.
We are overwhelmed with brand names; yet brand meaning seems more elusive than ever. Part of the problem is that too many companies practice brand extensions until whatever once noble meaning their brands might have had is diluted into drivel. And much of the problem is that not enough attention is being paid to discovering, articulating and conveying the differentiating idea that lies at the heart of brand meaning.
Why do customers need brands?
- Brands are needed because customers are overwhelmed with choices in nearly every product and service category.
- Brands are how we package and make sense of the chaos of information that saturates our lives.
- Brands are memory short cuts – focused thought packages that permit easy storage and retrieval of what we can expect from a product or a company.
Why do marketers need brands?
- Brand provides value to products and services that are functionally interchangeable.
- Brand signals to prospects the customer experience they can expect.
- Brands work in every industry, because brands embody a differentiating value that the customer wants.
- Brands allow products to climb out of the commodity swamp. If you don’t have a highly distinctive brand, then you have to have a low, low price.
Making your brand more than a name
Sadly, some companies think they are doing branding when all they are really doing is repeating their name. It’s like shouting incessantly without having something to say. Successful marketers know that brand is more than just a name, it is a promise. It’s an idea that lets people know what you’re promising to do, what you are promising to be, what you promise your customer will experience. So, successful branding means you have to be careful about the promises you make.
Four factors impact your brand’s success
- What you want to do. Obviously your vision for your product or company will determine where you will put your energy and where your passion lies.
- What you can do. Be scathingly honest with yourself about your core capabilities – do you have them, can you get them, how critical are they to delivering on your brand promise? Nothing is worse than making a promise you can’t keep.
- What your target customers want. Successful brands are distinctive about something that is compellingly important to the customers they want to attract.
- Who’s there already? What other choices do your customers have? Brands live or die in a competitive environment. “Me Too” is not a compelling brand position. Parity is where brands go to die, wasting away while hoping they can capture a small share of a market.
Finding a brand position that works for you
- Focus on what makes you different. What things make you distinctive enough from competition that customers should do business with you? It might be a product or service feature. It might be how you work. It might be the customer type you are structured to serve. But it has to be distinctive. Bland is deadly; middle of the road is roadkill.
- Make sure your differences are important. Not everything that is distinctive is necessarily important to your customers. And not all customers will appreciate your differences. You cannot be all things to all people, so don’t even try. Some people like iced tea, some like hot tea; but nobody likes tepid tea.
- Convey your brand consistently and forcefully. A brand exists in the minds of your customers and the prospects you want to persuade to become customers. So get inside their heads. Only the brand idea that resonates with customers becomes a marketing advantage.
Some companies spend a lot of time crafting a mission statement (so people will know why they exist) but it may be more important to have a brand positioning statement, because a brand position summarizes why prospects should do business with you. And if you can’t summarize why prospects should do business with you, then pretty soon you won’t need a mission statement (RIP).
Branding made simple
Promises made; promises kept. Clarify your brand, convey your brand, live your brand.
So let it be written; so let it be done.