You Don’t Know Jack About Branding

Marketing

by Kenny Hyder

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.”

{ 13 comments }

Nate Schubert April 23, 2010 at 10:15 am

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!

Kenny April 23, 2010 at 11:40 am

Thanks Nate! I definitely agree, and thanks for reading!

Kristy Bolsinger April 23, 2010 at 10:15 am

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.

Kenny April 23, 2010 at 11:41 am

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.

Jeremy Martin April 23, 2010 at 10:16 am

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!

Kenny April 23, 2010 at 11:41 am

Absolutely, it is definitely more than just being recognized by your tagline. Your customers should be your social proof.

Tony Verre April 23, 2010 at 10:40 am

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. :-)

Kenny April 23, 2010 at 11:44 am

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.

Marc Bitanga April 23, 2010 at 10:44 am

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.

Kenny April 23, 2010 at 11:45 am

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.

Rick April 23, 2010 at 1:11 pm

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.

Kenny April 27, 2010 at 1:22 am

Absolutely, all of the world’s major brands are masters of consistency.

Andy @ FirstFound April 26, 2010 at 2:57 am

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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