What a brand is not

Knowing what a brand is not can save
money, aggravation and most importantly, save your company. When was the last time you approached a design or ad
shop to create you a new brand? Companies
and their executives approach ad agencies
and graphic shops every day, intent on getting a brand. They think that if they go shopping for a new logo, different colors,
enhanced collateral material and a new
message: POOF, they will have a brand.

Not so fast. An ad agency, a graphic shop
or in-house designers are not capable of
giving you a brand. You can’t order a brand
like a flavor of the month. If you’ve been in
business for any length of time, you already
have a brand, good or bad. If you’re just
starting out, then you have work to do in
order to create the kind of brand that you
really want. Today, the brand word is
thrown around like a Frisbee: everybody
needs one, but nobody knows how to go
about getting one.

The devices used in branding can be a
spokesperson, such as Priceline.com using
William Shatner. Or they can even be
designs, like the contour bottle for Coca-Cola. However, these devices can change in
the shelf life of a campaign and should
therefore not be considered the product’s
brand. Although many devices used in
branding may be unique, none of these
devices make the product more valuable to
the consumer. Just because Product A uses
the color red, that does not necessarily portray any perceived advantage over Product
B. Many executives mistake these attributes
for branding — they in themselves cannot
deliver a brand.

When you think of brands like Taco Bell
and KFC versus Chick-Fil-A and Subway,
what thoughts come to your mind? Is shopping at Wal-Mart the same as shopping at
Saks Fifth Avenue? Of course not. Each
brand has its own set of characteristics.
Today, many organizations just can’t get
the details right, and if they do — they just
can’t get them right consistently. Inconsistency also creates branding, but
maybe not the kind that you want for your

Fonts, colors and messaging

Sure, the creative zest behind your brand
is important. It reminds your customer
base of who and what the brand is; they
will be able to recognize your brand upon
seeing it. Certain feelings will come to their
mind when they see your packaging, logo
and overall marketing design. This will give
you a significant marketing advantage over
your competitors. Your creative messaging
must speak to your audience. It has to hit a
nerve. What’s in it for them? It needs to be
from their point of view, not from the executives in a boardroom. The creative and
graphics can only enhance the brand attitude; however, they are not the brand.

So what can deliver a brand?

Is it the excellence of the employees?
Could it be the high level of customer

Might it be the quality of details in the product?

What about the extra value that the
organization delivers?

It could be all of the above. It’s those distinct attributes that people remember when
they think of your product, service and/or
company. Consumers will remember every
positive and negative experience they have
with your company. Keep a focus on maintaining strong customer relationships.
Sometimes it’s about doing the simple
things and doing them well. Customers will
remember the company that insists on
going the extra mile to give them a personal

Decide what type of brand you want to
have out in the marketplace; it might be one
that requires a distinct level of customer
service. Maybe you create a contact line that
is available for extended hours, making it
more convenient for your customers to call.

Quality and price play a significant role in
branding. Evaluate your product lines and
look at your service options. Are they fulfilling your customer’s needs or do they
need to be expanded? What is the perception of the quality of your product line versus the price in your industry? Is it where
you want it to be? What feelings are
invoked when potential customers look at
your products or services?

These are the kind of questions you need
to ask yourself when evaluating your brand.
Each and every employee, as well as contractors for your company, impacts your
brand every hour of every day. Don’t let people underinfluence your brand. Positive
branding and powerful marketing will go a
long way to improving your company’s position in the market. Now that you know what
branding is, get busy creating yours.

Don’t let your company’s brand depend
on some graphic madman.

MALCOLM A. TEASDALE is the principal and “Big
Idea Catalyst” for Teasdale Worldwide, a strategic marketing firm that is headquartered in Tampa. Reach him at
[email protected]. To obtain more information
about upcoming events and possible event sponsorship, visit
www.MarketingofDistinction.com. You may also call Kathi Kasel
at (813) 868-1520 or e-mail [email protected].
For additional articles, register at www.MalcolmOutLoud.com.