Be under no illusion, as we emerge blinking in the sunlight from the darkness of the pandemic it will be your brand that needs to shine, not your product or your service.
Now before you rush off at a tangent this absolutely does not mean your branding. Branding is something entirely different from brand and these two assets for your business are quite separate from each other.
Whilst a brand can survive without good branding, the other way around simply does not work for a business. Branding cannot exist without a brand behind it. Marketers who cannot tell you the difference should be cast aside. Immediately. Branding is the way your business presents itself in the market. A look and feel or logo at worst.
Brand is the way you do everything.
Buyers want your approach to sorting their problems, not what you look like! Sure, it is better if an association with your business does not cause embarrassment but, in truth, no matter how smart you look, you are only a shelf wobbler promotion away from that not being important.
The key to brand is that you need to build a way of doing business that differentiates you from everyone else. You need to create a style of interaction that serves the value you provide people when they buy from you.
In 1999 a team of 15 brand creation experts worked together to define brand in a Top 200 agency in Central London. It was a challenge set by the apparent shifting sands of the way buyers interacted with their respective market places caused by the world wide web and the increasing impact of a free service called Google which had launched a year earlier.
I was proud to lead this team who had identified that the ‘colour it up and shout at the unsuspecting prospect’ approach to marketing that had characterised all our work for the previous 30 years was about to end.
Together we spent some three and a half months coming up with a definition of brand.
We could see this through the lens of a unique methodology created for SAAB in 1985 and applied to literally thousands of brand building campaigns every day called The Brand Bucket®.
Now we all knew what a bucket was and indeed why it was so much better than a funnel (now the f-word in our business and used only for comparative purposes in this article). Indeed, it seemed illogical if not fraudulent to try and sell campaigns that were purposefully designed to allow any leads gathered to simply pour out on the floor. The business did all the heavy lifting, leaving the lead generator to walk away rubbing their hands with glee as they took your hard-earned profit and left you with all the work to do still. No, the bucket model was a better way of retaining leads.
But when it came to brand, well that was a different story.
Indeed, even today when asked what a brand is people still trot out it’s a logo, an ID, something in the consumer’s mind, what people say about you when you are not in the room.
What utter nonsense when you think about it.
If you are ever lucky enough to sell your business (few ever are) you’ll be placing a value on your brand. Do you think people can value what other people might or might not have in their minds about your business? Do you think people place a monetary value on conversations going on behind closed doors? Do you think a logo or look and feel is so permanent that it will last forever?
I do hope not. So how can these be an asset of your business for which people will give you money at exit or indeed tomorrow?
For brand to be a true asset it must be in the very fabric of your business as per the following definition:
Brand is every experience that affects the relationship between
a product or service and its buyer
The key to this is that the heart of the definition is the word “relationship”.
Your business is simply systems and processes that provide access to your value proposition, a machine that replicates a tried and tested relationship that people value having more than they value the money in their pocket.
Now if everything you do as a business contributes to that value relationship then it is an imperative that you let the marketers have sight of everything and to apply their natural desire to create relationships to all aspects of your business experience.
Now pre-pandemic your commercial relationships marketing machine was operational and its benefits and failings apparent. Post-pandemic you have no idea if the systems and processes still work or are fit for purpose.
Before you throttle up to full service you need to revisit how you do everything, especially where your people are concerned. Can they operate in a hybrid environment, how did furlough affect them or what was it like having no work at all. Can they do the job asked of them from home or from an office or within a set up that’s different with some at home, some in the office.
Whilst there is still time you need to walk the journey of your prospects and buyers, then walk the journey of your staff and reframe your systems and processes to deliver the value you offer.
Just putting a lick of new paint across your business in the form of new branding might risk putting lipstick on a pig. It may look good but it is still a pig and your buyers may not appreciate being fooled like that.
Review the way you do things and create an experience that forms a new style of relationship and a brand of which you can be proud.
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.