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What IS your Brand?

June 13, 2014

Brands are usually associated with a unique mark or logo emblazoned onto an item. But your Brand is way more than your logo. It represents a structured system of beliefs about the company, the products, the people, the customers, and the experience they can expect across all interactions.

This structured system of beliefs can help reduce the emotions of multi-million-dollar questions to just one simple question: “How well does this initiative support our core strengths, and brand values?” Answer on a scale from 1-5. The higher it scores, the more resources should be invested in it.

Branding is not a new concept of denoting quality. Clay pots dating back nearly 5,000 years have distinct brands on them. Nearly every culture has developed a system of associating quality with certain brands. In England, the Merchandise Marks Act of 1862 made it a criminal offence to imitate another’s trademark ‘with intent to defraud or to enable another to defraud’.

Traditional businesses like Disney, Ritz-Carlton, and Tide; as well as technology-based ones like Apple, Google, Zappos.com, and countless others have invested heavily in aligning their brand with their culture – and they enjoy many benefits from such efforts.

While I like how Keith Weed, CMO for Unilever described a brand as “a contract between company and consumer wherein the consumer serves as both judge and jury”; I think it lacks a connection to the importance of investing in building a brand.

Eating lunch with my 3yr old nephew gave me an even simpler perspective of the importance of a brand. It’s like the bread of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich – without it; we would have nothing but a sticky mess!

Sammich

Sam shows that HE doesn’t need bread to enjoy peanut butter and jelly.

In this analogy, the marketing, public relations, creative advertising, social media campaigns, and even the products themselves are merely the stuff we choose to put in our sandwiches; but the bread is what allows us to consume it effectively. The simplicity from two slices of white bread helps tremendously; but getting more detailed and specific (whole wheat, sourdough, marbled rye – toasted, or even grilled) can add tremendous benefits.

We need the structure of the brand to help us understand, enjoy, and communicate our values to others. When Apple first launched, they communicated to us that their products were innovative, easy to use, and incredible to experience with our [relevant] senses. They delivered on those original brand promises with unique look to their products, distinctive sounds, pristine fonts, intuitive organization of files, and then a weird thing called a mouse that was used to navigate around a screen of icons. All are standards now.

Decades later; they launched a smartphone without any buttons, and … well you know how strongly that that was adopted. I don’t think it is a coincidence that every product they launched that was ‘on brand’ was successful?

YES! Every company needs to be clear about what their brand means.

What does your brand say about you?

Do your people, processes, and products support the brand?

Does your brand support your people, processes, and products?

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