How often do you get approached by a person that does branding? Outside of cloud computing, the term branding has been brutalized to the point of having no meaning. Just a few years ago, branding was reserved to the the professionals that offered brand positioning and strategy that translated into the the tactical elements of your marketing like logo design, visual identity and messaging platforms. It was a legitimate service that helped drive customer loyalty by focusing on a consistent customer experience. Now it’s a catch phrase for anyone offering any type of marketing service.
In the last decade branding has become a term adopted by nearly every aspect of marketing making the term that much more murky. The tactical aspects of building a brand have now been offered up as branding itself. While logo design, naming, and marketing are a part of brand building they are not branding anymore than using a hammer can be called structural engineering.
The rise of social media has added another layer of mud to the branding cesspool with “personal branding” becoming a popular trend made famous by celebrities and abused by everyone seeking celebrity on twitter or facebook. The truth is branding by it’s very nature is personal — you’re expressing the characteristics of your product or service to connect on a personal level with your targetbase. People already have personalities that we’re born with and cultivate all whole lives. So, there is no need to create a brand for yourself.
Just last week, I met two small business owners that said they both did branding. When I asked what that specifically meant to them, the first person explained that he offered a full branding process that helped speakers decide what they should wear, as well as, what their business cards should look like. The next person told me that he offered web development and SEO services. I asked both business owners about how they approached brand positioning and strategy, and neither had an answer. I’ve had several similar encounters, and I can only imagine how a Marketing VP or CMO feels when an agency approaches them offering branding.
The reality is that we all do branding, but it’s not what you think. Every marketing effort reflects the brand, and hopefully your efforts are consistent. But it goes beyond your marketing. Branding is everything that your business touches. It’s your logo, name, message, your employees, your office, the clothes you wear, but most importantly it’s your customers.
Your audience controls your brand, like it or not. Social media has made this more obvious with your customers constantly tweeting and posting on facebook what they think about your brand. Truthfully, it’s always been this way. Your customers’ feelings about your product or service are central to the life cycle of your brand. You can’t manipulate the feelings your audience has about your company, however you can do your best to make sure that their expectations are met consistently. So, it makes much more sense to talk to your customers directly about their experience.
Creative Squall does not sell branding. We create strategically backed logo design and visual identity that can be applied across your brand portfolio. There are a handful of awesome agencies out there that do branding, and they do it well. Odds are that you haven’t worked with one of these agencies, but you have worked closely with the marketing consultant that does “branding.” Understanding the difference between tactics and the strategy might just help bring life back to branding.