“A brand is your logo, right?” Those of us in the branding business get that question all the time. And, no the logo is not the brand. The logo is actually a form of marketing communication. It communicates a) the presence of the brand and, hopefully, b) what that brand is all about at its core. The Nike “Swoosh”, as abstract as it is, has been used so frequently along with the slogan “Just Do It.” that now, just by seeing the mark alone, one is reminded of that never-surrender mindset. Marketing communication takes many forms because communication itself takes many forms. Advertising is communicating with the market, whether it’s through a two-minute Super Bowl spot, a one-color pamphlet or a biplane towing a banner at the beach. One can communicate through a blog. One can also use flag semaphore. The medium doesn’t matter except in determining the best use of one’s budget. (Word to the wise, semaphore has a notoriously low ROI.) But, if any sort of messaging can be defined as marketing communication, what is branding?
The City of Santa Clarita was first incorporated back in 1987 when I was a freelance graphic designer. Almost immediately the new City Council announced they would commission the design of a new logo to represent the city. As a resident, I was excited. I knew my portfolio was good, plus I had done volunteer work for the campaign to incorporate. I thought I had a good chance of landing the job so I eagerly attended the City Council meeting where the new logo would be discussed. That evening I looked around the room, wondering who was there to compete for the logo and who was there for other city business. Finally, the agenda item came up. A councilwoman, much respected for her tireless efforts to achieve incorporation, began speaking about what the new logo would have to express. There would have to be a house to represent our residential community. There would have to be a factory to represent business. There would have to be an orange tree to represent agriculture. There would have to be an oak tree to represent strength and heritage. On and on she droned, listing item after item that were must-haves, all to appear in a space that, most often, would appear no bigger than your thumb. My heart sank as I realized they didn’t really want a logo. They wanted a city seal.
When marketers set out to determine the best positioning for a brand, they often start by examining the market they’re targeting. They segment the market into the different groups of customers that might be enticed to purchase. Then they conduct a survey of the competitive environment. How are the competitors branding themselves? What kinds of relationships are they trying to build with the market? How do they want to be perceived? The end result of this kind of exploration, hopefully, is the identification of some sort of advantageous “territory” the brand can claim for itself. We often use this geographical metaphor of occupying a certain “space” but, of course, we’re really talking about establishing a beachhead in the market’s collective mind. We want to create a feeling or experience that comes to mind the moment one hears the brand’s name or sees its visual identity. The idea is: Whatever the competition is, we’re not that. We’re something different, something better. But, there’s a converse way of determining optimal positioning; one that relies less on defining the “territory” and more on knowing the customers in great detail. I’ve found that the two methodologies often compliment each other.
Every business has a brand. Every business has relationships with customers, employees, vendors, etc. Every business has its reputation. It is perceived by the market in a certain way, for better or for worse. Unfortunately, that perception is usually left unexamined. Management just decides that their brand “is what it is” and leaves it at that. Typically, the brand is given a brief moment of consideration at the birth of the company. Someone designs a logo and prints up stationery. And the brand is never given a moment’s thought for rest of the company’s life. It’s a sad state of affairs because these neglected brands could be leaving a lot of money on the table. Tending to your brand is tending to your relationship with the market. And tending to that relationship is always a profitable endeavor. A marketing consultant friend once told me he had a client who claimed “Branding won’t increase my sales.” While that may be true (it isn’t), there are eight economic benefits to branding – and increased sales is just one of them. And, because these are eight economic benefits, they all lead, one way or another, to more business success. Which, of course, means more sales. But a neglected brand will never be able to leverage these benefits. To reap the rewards, management teams have to become active stewards of their brands. Let’s take a look at the good things that happen when you give your brand a little care and nurturing.
This subject has come up frequently in the last couple of months so I thought I’d pull up an old blog post to see if it still holds up. It does, more or less. Branding, marketing and selling are three distinct professions that require completely different mind sets. I grow apprehensive when I see titles like VP of Branding and Marketing because those are two completely different jobs! It may be manageable if there’s only one brand at stake. But, if there are two brands or more to manage, two professionals will be necessary. Same thing with VP of Marketing and Sales. A marketer does not think like a salesperson. And a true salesperson is built for sales, not marketing. Still, at the end of the day, commerce requires somebody to sell something to somebody. Let’s look at how branding and marketing set the stage for that to happen.
Sign up – Brandtalk
Best Branding Reads
Week of October 15, 2018
Sears, Drowning In Red Ink, Finally Files For Chapter 11 Bankruptcy
This was a long time coming. See what I wrote about it back in 2015.
Let's stop pretending that corporations have any 'values' beyond making money
This article misses a salient point. People want to buy from brands that support their values.
Brands: Society’s Change Agent
What’s more, if corporations don’t have values, their markets will assign values to them.
How Emotions Drive B2B Purchase Decisions
Turns out it’s the limbic system that provides the basis for that so-called logical decision.
How Many Of These Brands Can You Recognize When We Take Away The Logo And Just Leave The Name?
Is this for real? This quiz seems amazed that we can read. No, this has to be a joke.
Toys R Us brings back Geoffrey the Giraffe -- and its laid off employees are furious
Bipedal giraffe back from the brink of extinction?