From time to time, someone will ask me whether they really need to worry about branding their company. It’s usually asked by the leader of a B2B enterprise that markets to a select few customers and where the sales relationships are one-to-one, very personal. If I’m basically selling to my golfing buddies, goes the reasoning, why do I need to spend money on a logo or a website or whatever? Well, that may be true but improving sales is not the only advantage to having a brand. In fact, there are eight economic advantages to developing a strong brand. See link at the end of this article.
A variation on the question is: Do I really need a personal brand? The reasoning here is: The people I work with know who I am so why should I have to formalize it in any way? But personal branding, as a deliberate activity, sprang from the need to be noticed in the first place. It is difficult to gain recognition in a working world where people have been commoditized. Bankers, lawyers, accountants, carpenters, nurses – anybody – seem interchangeable on the surface. It’s not till you get to know people that you appreciate their strengths and weaknesses. I wrote about a perfect example of personal branding in A Brand Of One. Again, there’s a link at the end of this article.
But how to answer the original question? The best way to determine if you really need a brand is to first review what, exactly, is even able to be branded.
Jay Gould is a noted businessman, a turnaround specialist who takes on troubled business lines and brings them back to profitability. He’s worked his magic at Newell Rubbermaid, Graco, Pepperidge Farm and, most recently, at American Standard. Gould is first to say that his successes come, in large part, from “viewing all … decisions through the Brand Lens”. What is the Brand Lens? It is the lens through which you view your brand positioning. It’s nothing less than a vital management tool that helps you make the correct strategic decisions – every time. Use it to “future-proof” your business.
If clothes make the man then visual identity makes the business. In an ever-accelerating world, decision-makers use your brand’s identity as a short-cut to make instant judgements about your business, your offerings, your values and, ultimately, your worth to them. That’s why it’s so important to understand, exactly, what your brand is saying about you in any given moment.
In our branding workshops for startups, I show a slide that expresses how branding requires a focus on three aspects of your business: strategy, marketing and operations. Strategy, to build a strong brand platform with a unique and differentiating brand promise. Marketing, to communicate that promise effectively. And operations, to consistently deliver on the promise. In effect, we show how true branding demands the efforts of the entire company. I go on to break down the three categories, detailing specific tasks and activities within each one. Under operations, the first thing listed is effective leadership. The last is accountability. Right now, the news is reporting on two branding calamities – one, in which leadership appears to be doing everything right and one, where leadership is doing everything wrong. I’m thinking, of course, of Samsung and Wells Fargo. Each is suffering through a branding disaster. Both brands will emerge from their respective ordeals with some wounds to lick. But one brand, if it continues to handle things well, will recover fairly quickly. The other may have dealt itself permanent damage.
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