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 organization.
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 service?
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 touch.
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 Malcolm@Teasdaleworldwide.com. 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 Kathi@MarketingofDistinction.com. For additional articles, register at www.MalcolmOutLoud.com.