Search Amazon for books on branding and you’ll get over 10,000 results. Since brands are never finished, it’s important that we write about them, to uncover new ways to connect and create meaning with customers. As marketers, we need the toolkits and playbooks to stimulate new ways of thinking and give us better models to use.
But like so many aspects of our modern life, it can be easy to get caught up in all of the abstractions and theory, losing sight of what building a great brand is all about. Bob Hoffman concludes, “[The word ‘brand’] became a verb and all hell broke loose. ‘How are we going to brand this?’ ‘This idea needs to be branded.’ ‘Good job on the branding!’”
His point is that brands aren’t built by branding. A strong brand is a by-product of doing a lot of things right.
A few things in life work in this indirect way. As Hoffman says, “You can’t be happy by trying to be happy. If you want to be happy you have to go fishing, or eat a pizza, or clean out your closet. And when someone tells me she’s ‘working on’ her marriage, I’m pretty certain within a few weeks her house will be crawling with attorneys and real estate agents. You want to have a good marriage? Stop trying so hard. Go to Hawaii. Play Scrabble. Or even better, leave each other alone.”
The more we try to build a great brand through branding, the further we move from the source of a brand’s true power. If you get these three things right, the rest will fall into place:
1. Sell Excellent Products And Services. As Scott Gallway shares in his article, Why Product is Experiencing a Renaissance, “while it may seem that the value explosion brought by the technology revolution comes from the addition of new features and capabilities, its greater contribution comes from removing obstacles and time killers from our daily lives.” Your products and services should be built around customer needs, not novelty.
2. Take Excellent Care Of Your Customers (And Employees). Niraj Dawar answers the question, ‘Why do your customers buy from you?’ with, “[The reasons they buy] reside almost entirely in the interactions that take place in the marketplace: trust, reliability of supply, service, knowledge, and experience cannot be made in a factory, nor packaged and sold off the shelf.” One of the best ways to understand is to experience the customer journey for yourself — A kind of ‘secret shopper’ way to validate how you make customers feel. Also, putting employees at the center of your brand and your brand at the center of employees creates ambassadors, and enthusiasm can be contagious.
3. Create Excellent Ad Campaigns That Differentiate Your Product To Show How It Is Better Than The Competition. Your brand needs to be meaningfully differentiated, which is an ongoing exercise. Your competition are either repositioning themselves, or doing their best to deposition you. Celebrate that differentiation in bold advertising. As Richard Shotton advised in his article, How Advertising Signals Brand Power, “Brands must recognize that much of advertising’s impact comes from implicit communication. There is a role, even in the era of procurement, for bold brand statements. The occasional extravagance displays a confidence that mere ad claims cannot emulate.”
There’s great value in growth hacking brand innovations. But we must never lose sight of the basics.
The Blake Project Can Help: Build your business and brand advantage in The Brand Positioning Workshop
Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education