Brand is not a verb. Branding is for cattle, and our organisations are not cows, nor are the people who work for them – it’s time to think about brand in a new way.
I know the whole brand thing started in a different way, and yes, maybe it was simpler when “branding” was something that people did to cows, but times change and so has brand.
Our organisations aren’t cows, and nor are the people who work in them (despite the way they may act and be treated on occasion). How is it possible that while our thinking around what “brand” is has evolved, we still talk about it in terms that evoke the aroma of singed hides and campfires.
Brand is the combination of what you believe and what your actions show. Understand what those are, how they have shaped your organisation, what they mean to your employees and your customers, and you will begin to uncover and understand your brand. The result of what you find is your Brand (with a capital B) in all its messy, complicated, hard-to-define and harder to put value on it, glory.
Your brand is who you are; you don’t choose who you are based on what other people think or tell you (well your shouldn’t), With apologies to maths geeks everywhere, if you’re a maths geek, you’re a maths geek – you can dress like a football player all you like, but all you will be is a maths geek in football clothing.
Marketers and creative types take note. The brand of your clients is not an opportunity to head for the wide open pastures of your imaginations. And business leaders, next time someone tells you that it’s time for “branding” (or even more painfully “rebranding”), head for the nearest door as fast as you can!
That is not to say that you shouldn’t work to build the strongest brand you can. Just that the way many approach it is all almost guaranteed to be reminiscent of the feeling the cows with those singed hides have. So if you are contemplating your brand, here are three things to look at and consider:
1. What does your organisation stand for, what do you believe, and why – then make that the foundation of your brand. It doesn’t matter if you call if vision, mission, promise, purpose or cause – what does matter is that it drives your organisation and if it does that, then it should be part of your brand (if it doesn’t then maybe brand is not your only problem).
2. Do you think about your brand when you are making decisions. I don’t mean decisions like ‘what should our next ad say’; I do mean decisions like ‘what should our new product be; who should we hire; should we offshore our manufacturing and/or customer service; should we use automated voice systems instead of real people to answer the phone?’. And on and on. If your brand doesn’t show up in these decisions then it isn’t brand.
3. Does your brand inform the everyday actions of your organisation. This is really where the brand rubber meets the road. If you aren’t doing it, then it’s just for show. For example, if the quality of your products is a defining part of your brand, do you give a 100% unconditional money back guarantee? Do you have quality assurance processes in place to minimise defect rates? Do you work to source the most durable components so they will last longer? All these actions are part of your brand. It’s not true if you don’t walk the talk.
I have yet to see a long-time successful brand that needed someone else to tell them what it was. So to get you started on a new path to your brand, here are a few resources to explore:
- An article from Harvard Business Online for all those B2B groups out there.
- Good to Great author Jim Collins talks about Aligning Actions with Values and also gives some great examples of practical disciplines that can help you stay on course in the Power of Catalytic Mechanisms.
- What happens when your brand transcends awareness to become truly loved? It becomes a lovemark! Does yours measure up? Find out here. (Don’t be put off by the consumer focus – B2B can become lovemarks too!)
See you next week.
Alignment is Michel’s passion. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia, and Brand Alignment Group in the United States, she helps organisations align who they are, with what they do and say to build more authentic and sustainable brands.
To read more Michel Hogan blogs, click here.