Fear of Branding

June 5, 2017

The Scream.jpgNot long ago, I had a handyman at the house and, after looking around, he said, “I see you’re not afraid of color.” I had to smile. No. I’m not actually afraid of color. That’s an irrational fear. Color does not put me at risk. You know what I fear? Drunk drivers, because they’re everywhere and can really hurt you. But color? Sorry, I don’t feel threatened. And yet I know of one retail establishment with an interior that’s all black and white and silver because the owner claims to be “afraid of color”. What she means is she’s afraid of making the wrong choice in color, apparently, not realizing how easy it is to change a color if it doesn’t work out as intended. I’ve also come across people who are “afraid of branding”. What they mean is they’re afraid of going through the branding process, fearful that it might reveal some inconvenient truth about the brand that will be difficult to face.

It’s a fact. The branding process can often reveal gaps between what the owner or manager of the brand asset believes to be true about the brand and what the consumer of that brand knows to be true. For example, the brand owner might take pride in believing his product is the highest quality option available to the market. The branding process will reveal if that’s actually the case. It can be quite a let down to learn people desire your product but not for the reasons you thought they did. That’s especially true if the real reason turns out to be something that’s not so glamorous, like people love your product because it’s the cheapest, or the fastest, or the most convenient.

It’s just human nature to want the world to conform to our ideas about it. Nobody likes to be proven wrong, especially about something in which we’ve invested so much of ourselves. Any parent knows the pain of seeing a child fall just short of attaining a goal that meant so much to child and parent alike. Maybe your son, as talented as he is, is never going to make it as a professional baseball player. Maybe your daughter’s singing voice isn’t quite star quality, after all. These are important moments of truth in growing up, in parenting and in branding.

The sooner we see things for how they really are, the sooner we can begin to make a success out of the life we’re given. So your son has to pick another career. So what? You still love him, don’t you? And so your brand isn’t the luxury brand you always thought it should be. So what? At least the branding process lets you know what your brand really is. It let’s you know why it matters to your market. And that’s something you can build on.

When you talk to your market: your customers, your employees, your vendors, your financiers, etc., you learn everything you need to know about your brand. And some of what you learn may be difficult to accept. (I once had to tell a client that nobody had a problem with her product. Sales were flat because the market had a problem with … her.) But, the upside is, when you’re armed with the truth, you can chart a course to success. Better to be a successful discount brand than a failed prestige brand. And maybe your brand has no shot of taking the whole world by storm, but maybe it can have real success in a niche market.

To me, fear of branding is fear of knowing the truth. It is every bit as irrational as fear of color. Brands, like colors, can be changed. Brands, like children, are resilient and can forge new paths for themselves. There’s no need to fear the branding process as long as you remain open to all of your brand’s possible avenues to success.

Best Branding Reads – Week of June 5, 2017

Marketing With Emotion Helps Build Customer Relationships and Revenue
Once again, this article is aimed, mostly, at the B2B marketers out there.

From the Age of Reason to the Age of Feeling
Every sale is based in emotion. So how does your customer feel about you?

Is Brand Experience The New Sugar?
Not every experience needs to be improved. Sometimes simple and effective is all you want.

Unboxing, unboxed: Seven principles for creating packaging experiences worth sharing
Excellent article on the mostly untapped possibilities of packaging. Plus, the world’s most adorable Spiderman. 

Uniform Branding: The NBA’s First Six Jersey Sponsors
All I ask is that the sponsorship have some real meaning, like Goodyear to Cleveland’s Cavaliers.

Why 2017 should be a time for more collaborative, participatory brands
An interesting take on design’s future. Here in Brandtalk, we’ve already gushed about the two stellar examples given.

6 Rules For Building Brand Authenticity
What's more scarce, these days, than trust? Make sure your brand is trustworthy.

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Best Branding Reads
Week of April 23, 2018

Milan Design Week 2018: The Stand-Out Brand Activations
While the rest of us were at Coachella, the great brands of the world were showcasing in Italy.

Building Brands For The Women Over 50 Market
Still under-appreciated as a market … and as a resource.

Why brands are failing to deliver the intuitive, online experiences that modern women crave
The stereotypes: Men want to buy something; they go to the store, buy it and leave. Women want to linger, shop around, enjoy themselves. To the extent it’s true IRL, it’s true online as well.

Brand Authenticity In The Age Of Post-Truth
An interesting read. I especially liked the line, “Authenticity … the cornerstone of diversity.”

New Logo for Swedish energy company, Vattenfall
I’m more enthusiastic about this than the reviewer. I think the mark is a bold solution and one that will prove versatile and memorable down the road.

MoMA Sues New Café and Gallery “MoMaCha” for Trademark Violation
You’re busted, café owner. Give it up. 

Interview: Asma Shabab Merges Creativity and Tech Every Day at IBM
Excellent interview. Stand-out quote: “60% of data, if not used immediately, is wasted.”

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