You Don’t Know Jack About Branding

Branding LogosPaul Rand. Does that name ring a bell? How about Saul Bass, Henry Steiner, or Lindon Leader? If you googled it, you already failed.

Today there is a lot of talk about branding. As more people are realizing that you need to put some real marketing behind your business, they look to “branding” as a silver bullet to polish off their efforts. While branding is not the end all be all play to a marketing strategy, it is the cornerstone, and it is important.

You Reap What You Sow

As online professionals turn for help with branding needs and education, they are forgetting one thing: crap in, crap out. Looking to your favorite social media site as a study in branding is like trying to develop an ear for music by hanging out in a high school parking lot.

Internet brands are full of life, color, cheer, and excitement; but when it’s longevity you’re after, these qualities are thin and fleeting. What most don’t understand is, internet brands are created to capture today’s audience, to spark this week’s conversation. While some may disagree, when was the last time you were on MySpace, 43things, orkut, friendfeed, Xanga, or bebo? Not to mention the countless sites that have long since closed doors.

Is this what you aspire to? To have your brand rise to the top, just to slowly decline until you are eventually forgotten about and replaced by the newer, shinier version of you?

Learn From The Pros

Like any discipline, students should look to the masters. If you’re my age, several of the brands above have been around your whole life, and their branding consistent with minor changes for decades. This is the mark of a master.

Calling Card

Wikipedia defines “Brand” as: “a name, sign, symbol, slogan or anything that is used to identify and distinguish a specific product, service, or business.” In other words, your calling card. When you look at the logos depicted above, you relate to each one not only with a recognition of who they are, but with a feeling.

Likewise, you want your customers to relate to you. Your brand, your brand image, should convey an emotional response to your audience rather than just serve as a marker for you are. Your brand isn’t your name-tag, it’s your identity.

4 P’s

Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. At the epicenter of the venn diagram of the 4 P’s is your brand. Your brand should be able to establish and make your audience feel good about each of these 4 things in one consolidated message. The 4 P’s are essential building blocks to establishing your brand identity, and your branding is your representative.

Consistency

Consistency is key. Establishing trust, authority, and community are difficult enough one time around, don’t shoot yourself in the foot with multiple re-brands, complete re-designs, or 180’s with your offering. Take the time, get it right the first time, and all of your efforts will be consolidated down the road.

Any sudden changes or sporadic moves make customers question stability. If changes need to be made, better to boil the frog slowly.

Get Rich Slowly

By now, most are weary of the ability to “get rich quick” or the numerous “make money online” schemes that are out there. Building and growing a business into a trusted brand is a slow and arduous process that takes lots of time, with many hard fought battles. But as it is written: “Good things come to those who wait.”

15 Replies to “You Don’t Know Jack About Branding”

  1. I am an Ecommerce Marketing Manager and in-house SEO for a “small” software firm that has been around since 1998 and one of the most important things I can identify in increasing that brand awareness in a positive way is through something you mentioned: Consistency.

    No company is perfect, and I’m sure we all have our bits and pieces to straighten out. I really think that Consistency in your processes, consistency in your promotion, prices and EVERYTHING is far and away the most important thing.

    Over the years in my various positions with companies both Ecommerce and brick-and-mortar, customers return when you a) provide quality products and b) provide consistent results. If you can’t do that, you’re not going to be able to push that brand to the top of your niche’ no matter how hard you try.

    Excellent topic. I come to your blog to read about Branding a lot because you definitely know what you’re talking about. You’re consistently on point!

  2. Amen Kenny!!
    I think a lot of companies don’t necessarily take the time to sit down and really decide what their brand is. Document it. Decide who you want to be and stick to it. It takes a lot of work to do this, but so worth it. And only then, when that’s complete does the real work begin. Like you said, it is a very long process building a brand that can withstand the text of time.

    1. Agreed, too many people are in too much of a rush, this is one area where you want to slow down and make the right decisions.

  3. Great info on branding in this post. I think that a lot of people/businesses want the recognition instantly and they don’t put their heart and soul into what they are doing. Creating a brand that is well known does not happen over night. It takes time, persistence just like you mentioned above. I also think that branding is more that just being recognized by a logo or tagline. To me, creating a successful brand is also about your reputation. Have you built trust with your customers, followers, readers, fans, etc? Are you consistent? What would your users say about you and would they recommend you to their friends or family? To me branding includes two levels. The first one is the recognition. The second is trust. We as consumers seem to auto-trust companies based on their commercials or ads, which is what those companies are aiming for. We should be building our trust based on experiences that we have with those companies.

    Really good post Kenny. Thanks!

  4. Kenny:

    Overall the post is right on point, slow and steady reputation building through great products, service, and consistency. Absolutely true.

    The problem I see, is when a company has been around for, let’s call it five to ten years, and STILL doesn’t know what they want to be when they grow up. It’s like they’ve been in puberty for all that time. A particular problem for SMBs, to be sure.

    And, as with any SMB, turnover of crew is an issue. Clearly, you’d think strong leadership at the top would have the company personality nailed down, but powerful crews often re-shape / re-work company image and mantras. This is to say, the change is often quick and controlled-violence within the organization.

    If it can be kept under wraps, appear as though the surface is calm to clients, then the company that emerges will be better for it. And, if your company doesn’t have an identity/brand/persona, then it better to go through a hard-revolution than to be listless.

    Two-cents. 🙂

    1. Agreed Tony, when things aren’t working often changes need to be made. It’s more of the OCD mentality that many new startups take, trying to put their hands into too many baskets that I was talking about.

  5. I don’t know why more companies don’t put as much effort into branding. Maybe it’s the perception that branding is too costly with no short-term benefits?

    But with more people talking online about your company, products and services…it doesn’t take long to get the word out on whether you’re company is reliable & trustworthy, or if your company doesn’t live up to it’s tag line. Regardless of whether you’re #1 in Google for your targeted term, and regardless of what you may say about yourself and your products. Customers have multiple resources to research who your company’s true identity is.

    IMHO, almost everything you do affects your brand.

    1. Honestly I think it’s just that most are uneducated. They don’t put more time and effort into things that matter like this because they are simply ignorant. 🙂 It’s our job to help educate them.

  6. Pingback: What is Branding?
  7. Consistency is such a key to longevity and expansion. The reason McDonald’s has more than a gazillion served is because when you buy a double cheeseburger in Tokyo it is the same as the double cheeseburger you get in Peoria which is the same as the one you get in Marseilles… of course when in Marseilles I prefer the vol au vent de la mer.

  8. Excellent advice. As with most things, the effort you put in over a period of time pays off. Doing a rush job won’t get you anywhere with anything – and branding’s no different.

    Rick’s point above about consistency is also key.

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