While it’s likely in my best interest to convince you that branding should be the end-all-be-all of your business needs, secrecy makes me feel all icky.
So, here’s the truth about branding. And it ain’t all pretty (okay a lot of it is, but it’s fun to be dramatic).
In case you were confused, a brand is simply: how consumers feel about you or your business. I’ve said it before in Marketing vs Branding: You Still Don’t Get It, if marketing gets you the first date, branding gets you the second. It’s your personality, how that personality is perceived, and what makes people come back (or turn and run).
Now that you’re all caught up, we’ll start with the bad news.
From companies to personalities, if you don’t have a brand in today’s market fagettaboutit, you’re dead in the water.
Worse than that, if you skip branding altogether, people will define yours for you.
Similarly to neighborhood housewives judging the new stilettoed transplant at a committee meeting, consumers will determine your place in the world if you don’t do it for them. Better to assert yourself and make a purposeful impression before they mentally file you under ‘fresh meat’.
Branding, by business standards, is unreliable.
There is no way of knowing for sure whether or not success or failure has resulted from the brand or was caused by something else (pricing, offering, luck, scandal…an act of God).
Assurance that branding will equal ROI doesn’t exist because any attempt to measure it would be futile.
Branding is not an exact science.
As a branding expert and creative director, I work with clients to make informed decisions based on the knowledge that we have available. While we try our darndest, nothing is exact. Too many variables exist: opinions, trends, market conditions, reliable (or unreliable) client data, etc. to formulate a brand that will turn a business into a surefire success.
We aren’t accountants. Branding is about feelings, remember? And feelings can be fickle.
Said no one, ever.
Now that I’ve completely sold you out of the entire concept of branding, allow me to convince you that, in spite of it all, the brand, rebrand or brand refresh you’ve been contemplating is worth it.
And no, Smarty, it’s not just because I need to retain employment or because society has forced you into it. Sheesh.
While there is no bottom line representation of the benefits of branding anything, branding creates lasting benefits that impact your big picture. It’s an investment in the long game.
Here’s what I mean:
Alignment: As humans, we attract and retain whom we align with. You’re not friends with everyone for a reason. Branding works similarly in that values, morals, stances on topics all come together to create a personality with which an audience wants to associate.
Blueprint: True north. Guiding light. Plan. Design. Whatever you want to call it, branding creates direction–it clarifies decision making, creates culture and gives purpose to decisions that might otherwise be a shot in the dark.
Consistency, Confusion and Confidence: Like any relationship, trust is paramount. The brand’s fundamental purpose is to build that trust between you and your target. To do that, the brand becomes a system for consistency (consistently presenting itself) to avoid confusion with the intended audience and, as a knock on, instills confidence in the brand owner (ie. you) and the target.
Differentiation: Being that brand is the majority personality, it helps you stand out from your competition. It strives to distinguish you and your business from everyone else in your industry, giving consumers a reason to choose you.
I’ll say it again: Branding does not, on paper, serve your bottom line.
It’s bigger than that.
Branding is invaluable. It transcends facts and figures in favor of defining the most critical aspects of a business–the aspects that tell your story, run your company, define your place in the world and speak directly to the subconscious of a consumer.
Branding is the process of making you (and your business) who you were meant to be.
Now, tell me please, where’s the Quickbooks feature for that?
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