Q. What is a brand?
Originally, a brand was a physical mark on a product — an identifier of some sort. But in modern business circles, a brand is much more than just a name and logo stamped on your company letterhead. And branding is an entire business discipline.
When business executives talk about “the Nike Brand” or “the Pepsi Brand” with a capital B, they’re not referring to the new logo. They’re referring to something more wholistic. More conceptual. And far bigger than just design.
Wikipedia says “A brand is a symbolic construct created within the minds of people and consists of all the information and expectations associated with a product or service.”
“Symbolic Construct” seems a bit academic to me. How about “gut feeling” or “first mental image.”
Or this definition, from the book, BrandSimple: “A brand is what your product or service stands for in people’s minds. Brands live in your head… Mental associations that get stirred up when you think of a particular car or camera or watch or pair of jeans.”
Scott Bedbury, of Nike and Starbucks fame, concurs: “Brands become living, psychological concepts we hold in our minds for years.”
Q. What is branding?
If a brand is a set of mental associations about a product or company, then BrandING is the process of helping people formulate those associations. If advertising is “getting your name out there,” Branding is attaching something meaningful to your name.
“Some companies equate branding with marketing,” says Jasper Kunde, author of Corporate Religion. “Design a sparkling new logo, run an exciting new campaign, and voila, you’re branding. They are wrong. Branding is bigger. Much bigger.”
Branding is a never-ending effort to conduct business in a way that will result in a better “brand”. It goes way beyond advertising or marketing communications.
Because what you SAY does not carry as much weight as what you DO.
In Brand Warfare, David F. D’Alessandro, former CEO of John Hancock said, “A brand is whatever the consumer thinks of when he hears your company’s name. Branding is everything.”
And everything is branding…
The words you choose. The way you behave. The conversations you have. The card you hand out. The promises you make. The people you hire. The values you hold dear. The values you could care less about. The vendors you choose. The money you make, or don’t make. And, of course, the experience people have with the product or service you provide.
Like it or not. it all matters. Because it’s the culmination of all those little things that makes “the brand.”
Branding is really about doing the right thing.
In The Best Of Branding, James Gregory said: “A corporate brand is the product of millions of experiences, with vendors, employees, customers, media, etc.”
If you’re doing right by all those people, your “branding” efforts will pay off in spades. On the other hand, if your company has no heart — and stands for nothing more than making money — then your branding efforts will flounder in a sea of unkept promises and unbelievable marketing hype.
Q- Where do I start if I want to build a successful brand?
The branding process begins with your personal passion. If you’re not passionate about what you’re doing, you’ll never build a successful brand.
Great brands are built by business owners who stand for something beyond making a buck. Howard Shultz is very passionate about coffee, and the coffee house experience. Phil Knight’s very passionate about athletic shoes, fitness, and athletic performance.
They had grand vision for changing the world, somehow, with their businesses and that vision got communicated, clearly, to everyone involved.
Your brand values, vision, mission and promise need to be spelled out, on paper. After all, your employees are your best brand champions and you can’t expect them to stay true to something they don’t even understand.
That’s something we do for our clients… we research and write the book on your brand. We craft the message and then help you communicate it internally, so all your managers, front-line employees and business partners are on the same page. Literally.
It’s a tremendously helpful tool. When you’re thinking about hiring new people, when you’re developing new products or services, when you’re considering a fundamental “pivot” of your business plan, the brand book stands as your foundation. Your manifesto. Your bible.
So start there.
Q. How much does it cost to build a brand?
That’s a tough one. I’ve known businesses that started out with miniscule marketing budgets that became highly successful brands. But they did a lot of other things well… They had a highly memorable, disruptive product or service, they ran a highly efficient operation, hired great people, and provided exceptional service.
On the other hand, there are plenty of examples where companies spent hundreds of millions to cement a brand image, only to flounder and eventually fold.
The cost really depends on the competitive landscape. If you’re trying to launch a new athletic shoe to compete with Nike, it’s not going to be cheap. But if you’re doing an ecommerce business in a very specialized, highly-focused field, it can be done for as little as five thousand dollars.
One thing’s for sure, building a successful brand is an on-going investment. You can’t just throw some money at, and expect it work magically. It takes discipline, consistency and dogged persistence.
It’s the cost of doing business.