People are talking a lot about it. Everyone wants to do it. But few get it, “What is branding?” It’s the question that has mystified the masses, while at the same time, its elusive answer has shaped and run our lives from the time we are able to see, hear and speak. We are all influenced by brands, yet we can’t quite grasp what makes them powerful or what they really are.
Even the most stubborn of us who say, “I purposely don’t buy based on brand,” are still influenced by brands. But people like that are in the minority. Most of us are brand loyal whether we’re talking shampoo, cars, clothes, software or sports teams. Yes sports teams are brands. When you cheer for the Packers or the Lakers, you’re supporting brands masquerading as teams.
What everyone wants to know is “How do these brands get inside our head?” The better question to ask is “How do they get inside our heart?” The answer to that second question not only reveals what a brand is, but also how to create and build one for your company.
Caution: these truths that once and for all answer the question “What is branding?” are actionable!
What you’re about to learn is not a theory. It comes from 20 years of doing this work in practice, not through branding mumbo jumbo. Ironically, or perhaps, naturally, we’ve given it a name. A brand name. It’s called Heart & Mind® Branding and it is field tested, measurable, proven and powerful. With it, you may for the first time believe branding can actually happen within your company.
Truth 1: A brand is the Promise you put out there. People develop their first perceptions of your company on all the stuff which precedes you, like your website, your Google presence, your promotional material, your social media, your blogs, your press and what others say about you, which is the most important kind of promise. If your promise is funny, outlandish, startling, annoying or otherwise memorable, people may talk about it. But they might not; people have seen and heard just about everything.
Truth 2: A brand is the Experience people have with you, your company, your products and services. Once the promise gets people to give your company and its products or services a try, they experience it and that is what gets them talking. Keep in mind they either talk nice about a brand experience or bad about it. People never talk mediocre about it. And their talk about an experience is much more powerful than their talk about a promise, no matter how memorable that promise was. In most cases, people talking about the experience is what gets others to give the product or service a try for themselves.
Can it be that the definition of a brand is simply two words? Promise and Experience? Can it be that simple? Yes it can be that simple, and it is. What makes these two words so powerful—beyond the fact that they answer the question “What is branding?” is that they are actionable in every nook and cranny of your company.
Branding, then, is the act of creating promises and experiences for the people you wish to serve. Lots of people in your company are responsible for creating brand promises—your marketing team, your sales team, your receptionist, and anyone who else who has walked through an airport or played golf wearing a shirt with your logo on it. Every contact with your brand creates a perception and those perceptions add up to the promise. Think about that the next time your company settles for “good enough” or you pitch a fit because the airline lost your logo-emblazoned duffle bag.
There are also lots of people in your company responsible for creating brand experiences. Your marketing people, of course, and your sales people, but also your operations, supply chain, training, customer service, and all the people who connect with others—which means everyone is in the brand experience business. Can you see now how branding isn’t just pretty pictures? It’s not just catchy slogans? And it is not your logo! It’s everything you do in your company, so it is measurable.
In other words, your brand is your culture and your culture is your brand. The best brands are no different outside their four walls than they are inside them. And that leads to the last three truths about a branding—which answers the question:
“Now that I know what branding is, what should my brand be?”
Truth 3: A brand is genuine. You have to feel your brand and believe in it if your expect anyone else to. When a brand is true to who you are, it comes alive inside and outside your company.
Truth 4: A brand is meaningful. If what your brand is about does not connect with people, you’ll never be a brand because no one will care enough to talk about it.
Truth 5: A brand is different. If your company is not much different than the one down the street, then you are not a brand. You must “own” something unique, otherwise you are a commodity.
So there you go, five simple truths that will change the way you think about brands forever. But I hope you’ll do more than just think about them. I want you to act on them.
What is branding? Heart & Mind® Branding. Get Started NOW!