The question of brand remains a key topic around the board table today.
And more than ever the justification for spending money on branding is getting harder to answer and yet the businesses we often admire most, can boast strong brand.
But first we must define what brand is or perhaps what brand is not.
Brand is not a logo. With an average of 4000 new marketing messages coming your way every day, relying on a logo to stand out is not going to work in such a noisy environment.
Brand is not advertising. Indeed, those left in the shrinking violet of an advertising industry must find their promise of brand awareness and brand equity almost entirely irrelevant.
Brand is not a decorated van, packaging, a uniform, a coloured envelope, or a website.
If it is no longer any of the above it must now be complicated, hard to pin down and expensive to create. Yet here it is in its simplicity:
Brand is everything that affects the relationship between a product or service and
For a start, every trading business is branding itself from how you: make presentations, design your products, write your contracts, design your brochures, run your promotions, create your website to writing letters and even the way you answer the phone. The list of what you need to do to run a business is inevitably long. All of your systems and processes are points of contact with your business. All of these are working to gain, keep and grow your customer relationships.
And this relationship, these experiences, they are what make up your brand.
Brand is the very essence of how your business engages everyone who comes into contact with your offer. The question is: who is taking responsibility for all these interactions with your business?
Despite what they think, most people in the marketing services industry are rarely equipped to help you. They are not trained that way. Ad agencies do ads not call centre scripts, designers can make things look pretty but can’t write copy, web companies can write with technology but can’t write your brochures, PR agencies can get you editorial or help you manage a crisis but that doesn’t mean they can create you a successful exhibition.
It means that when the question 'how are we building our brand?' is asked at the board meeting, no one is prepared to take the stand and the question goes unanswered and more dangerously, often unfunded.
Meanwhile those amongst your competition who do understand the importance of brand and are branding every touch point of their business and are stealing a march by owning those all-important relationships with their customers.
What most successful brands recognise is that any time their prospects and customers come into contact with their product or service the message should be consistent - a clear demonstration of their promise and lead people to buy into their offer.
In other words, they are building a relationship that is familiar and valued.
Now one of the most recognised ways to do this is to meet with the prospect and convince them to buy by demonstrating your promise. This is the way for the future of brands.
Or is it?
The trouble with many brand owners is that they don’t realise the power they have to influence purchasers long before they meet. They are too focussed on making their particular product or service better and better enhancing their business processes to deliver these differentiated offers.
Yet they often leave the buyer behind.
This allows for brands who focus purely on the buyer to steal a march often without any control over the product or service itself. Think UBER, Airbnb, Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, Google, Expedia, Deliveroo. The list goes on and on. No products of their own, just a unique brand experience.
These brands realise that, whilst they are totally reliant on the product providers, they now hold the brand relationship and focus all their effort on that.
So why don’t we all create experiences which people want to take part in?
As a brand owner you should start with the promise of an exciting new brand relationship. You may be selling a product or a service but it is the relationship people will value most. It is also the only way to differentiate your offer from other ‘me too’ products and services and rest assured you are not the only one in the market.
After all, is this not what the prospects are buying into and customers are happy to have spent money on, a relationship with you over and above all others. A unique way of delivering your value.
And it has to work at every level.
It’s no good having fancy advertising or a smart website if I can’t get through to you when I have a query or problem. Or you treat me like I am the only prospect in the world and then I’m herded together in generic customer communications.
There’s a hang over from a world of pre-sales, sales and aftersales. Different departments doing different things, often unconnected, to deliver one relationship.
It is an imperative that you give your marketing people ‘access all areas’ to enhance the relationship at every level so everyone involved in creating the experience understands their role from shop floor to senior management.
Get this right and the strongest relationship will be with you and for that people will thank you with their money. The art of brand is in everything you do, a fundamental you cannot afford to ignore unless of course, you believe brand is dead.
Long Live Brand.
Barnaby is a brand creation expert with over 457 to his name. He is the founder of The Brand Bucket® Company pursuing a vision to help every business in the world create a brand that matters by making their marketing work.