Today, branding is one of most discussed topics in the business press, right up there after manufacturing going to China. Business leaders are beginning to recognize that innovation and branding are two knowledge-based areas of expertise that North America can still own, at least for now. Yet, with all the talk that a strong brand can make a big difference, there continues to be an almost universal misunderstanding of what a brand is.
Misconception #1: Brand equals logo
Now, don’t get me wrong: logos are important. They can say a lot about the character of a company and its offering, and really help people remember it. Humans are very visual beings, which is why, when we meet someone on the street, we remember their face long before we remember their name. But a brand is vastly greater than a logo. “A brand is what people think of you,” is how I define a brand. Thus your brand derives from the countless interactions people have with your communications, people, products and services. However, these touch points only build your brand when the experience that a stakeholder has this time is consistent with the ones they’ve had before. Therefore, your brand must live, and live consistently, in every single thing that your company says and does.
Misconception #2: Brands are always built with advertising
Not today. You might have thought you were limited in your efforts to build your brand because you couldn’t afford the kind of blanket coverage provided by big-time advertising. Think again. That kind of unaffordable advertising is far less effective today because people’s lives are just too busy to absorb any more unrequested advertisements. It has become increasingly difficult to cut through the clutter that envelops people in 3,500 commercial messages in a typical day. Brands are not built with this one marketing tactic any more.
Misconception #3: Brands are used primarily to influence customers
In fact, the first job your brand did as your company was being launched remains the most important: reaching like-minded people and making them want to join your firm and take up the cause beside you. Clarity around where you’re going as a company, what you do every day to get there and how your offering is different all come from a disciplined brand approach. Using your brand as the central organizing principle for the business will bring clarity and speedy response to every decision, every action and every interaction your employees have with each other.
Beyond misconceptions: You must think of your brand beyond your logo, beyond the big ads you can’t afford (and that won’t work anyway) and well before and beyond just appealing to customers. When you understand that your brand is made up of all of the touch points your stakeholders experience both on the inside and out, you’ll see that doing all the things you do every day consistently with an understanding of your brand will efficiently build what people think of you.