The business of branding debunked!

In a new reality filled with digital marketing strategies and social media guidelines, do people still respond to brands that do more that serve their needs? Do great brands still express a unique point of view? Does this view really drive differentiation, consideration and preference? And are these truly the lead indicators of future business performance which enable companies with strong brands to deliver sustainable organic growth? After all, that’s exactly what business owners, executives and marketers are told and promised.

So what aren’t they buying about strategic branding?

Most executives are willing to invest in brand identity design and maybe a clever tagline to accompany their logo and position the brand in a beneficial way. Some strive to control brand consistency and continuity through extensive guidelines and templates. Others launch, refresh and retool branding campaigns. Some redesign their Web site, get on Facebook or wrapped up tweeting, or become big bloggers. While still others craft and share brand promise statements and new customers service standards with their employees and customers. Or produce and distribute brand coaching tools – from brand architecture charts to fancy “brand books.” And a few are more spatial and moved to create the right brand environment – complete with purchased or commissioned brand art or the latest in digital merchandising.

I’ve even seen brand briefs drafted as strategic brand management and brand coaching tools that were anything but brief and more akin to comprehensive, C-suite oriented marketing and communications plans. Too dense! Too academic! Not ready for employee consumption.

And hence, there’s the real brand truth!

All that branding work is the easy stuff. It’s the low hanging fruit and reason why many “challenger brands” never develop a unique point of view or reach their full market potential.

Great brands understand that a brand is a relationship – with a set of expectations and reputation to uphold and protect.

In a world where homogeneity and standardization dominates and word-of-mouth has been digitized and globalized through social media, great brands have proven that it’s no longer just about positioning, it’s about taking a position. These brands stand for something that people value. They create a different type of customer experience. They have become recognized as “my kind of company, my kind of people” and customers are proud to be associated with them. They work on an emotional level and have formed common bonds with their customer base.

But first and forever, their point of view is woven into the cultural fiber of these companies – not just documented in brand books on the shelf. It’s exuded by frontline employees and at every customer touch point. It has become intuitive, systemic and a point of self-discovery and reinvention. And for that to happen, these companies continue to invest time, training and thinking about how to preserve and expand their brands. Do you have the vision, discipline and fortitude to do the same? If not, then you might want to rethink your brand strategy and the dollars you’re throwing in that direction.

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