7 Deadly Myths Of Branding


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You’d be surprised how many business owners think they know what branding means but are often a little off in their perceptions. Even among those who understand what branding is, not all of them understand the way to develop a brand that accurately reflects who they are as a company. So it’s a good idea to be on the safe side by identifying the 7 common myths of branding. And then avoiding them every chance you get.

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7 Deadly Myths Of Branding

  1. 1. Deadly Myths of Branding You’d be surprised how many business owners think they know what branding means but are often a little off in their perceptions. Even among those who understand what branding is, not all of them understand the way to develop a brand that accurately reflects who they are as a company. So it’s a good idea to be on the safe side by identifying the 7 common myths of branding. And then avoiding them every chance you get. www.thecreativeunderground.com
  2. 2. My business doesn’t need a brand. Do you have customers? Do you have a product or service? Do you have a competitor? It’s safe to assume you have all of these. It’s safe to assume your competition has all of these as well. So how do you plan on making sure people buy more of your product or service rather than someone else’s? The fact is, yours and every company in the world needs a brand. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. What else can communicate your difference in the marketplace, unify your company culture and connect with the audience you value most — all at once? Now, we’re not talking about a specific type of product, piece of advertising or your company logo. A brand is much bigger than any of that. A brand is the identity that you choose to carve out for your company. The feeling, the emotion, the mental image that the customer associates with your company is a brand. It’s also an identity that demands that you choose a specific target audience to cater to instead of trying to please the masses. The stronger that emotional connection to your name and the more accurately the customer experience lives up to what the brand promises, the more powerful your overall brand is going to be. By NOT having a brand, you’re showing your customers that you don’t care about your business and ultimately, you don’t care about them. Think about it. Every point of contact you have with a customer is an opportunity for you to make an impression. And if you lack a strong presence, you lose out on a sales opportunity you may or may not get again. By the way, this applies to your internal customers too. If you don’t have a brand, you’re essentially saying that your employees are just like anyone else’s. And that’s not a message you want to be sending to your own people. Without conveying to the world how your company is different or special, you cannot hope to be a tremendously successful business and energize your company culture. That makes having a brand as important as having a computer or a business card. No exceptions.
  3. 3. I have to spend a lot of money to brand myself effectively. Sometimes when we meet with clients, they think they can’t afford a brand. “I don’t have $5 million dollars and locations across the country! I’m just a small business!” Branding is not about spending more money. It’s about spending money more wisely. You have more choices then ever in how you spend your marketing budget because markets are more fragmented, customer needs are more diverse and technology is ever-changing. That puts a premium not only on being very creative in your message but creative in which tools you choose to convey that message. In the 1960s, you could reach 80% of U.S. women with a TV spot aired simulta- neously on CBS, NBC and ABC. Today, an ad would have to be shown on more than 100 channels to have the remotest possibility of achieving the same end.1 OK, so the mass market as we know it is dead. What do you do now? For one thing, don’t limit yourself to thinking about the traditional media choices for your brand message. It’s not just a world of TV, radio and print. It’s a world of viral marketing. Podcasting. E-mail and text messaging campaigns. Blogging. Product placement in online quizzes and video games. And so much more on the horizon. The greatest misconception about many of these non-traditional methods is that they’re expensive or too sophisticated because they’re new. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, a podcast (basically, your own mini-radio show over the Web) is simple and inexpensive to set up. And as people choose to subscribe to your program, you’ll build an audience that is 100% interested in you — what else are you doing right now that can beat a return on investment like that? While we never recommend using one method by itself to build your brand, a method such as a podcast can be an excellent complement to a larger brand campaign — but still a campaign that doesn’t involve spending a lot of money. The more marketing weapons you have at your disposal to choose from, the better you can build a marketing plan that’s strategically appropriate for your business, creatively flexible for the long haul and financially affordable for your budget. More choices brings more affordability. If you think you don’t have enough money to build a brand, you’re not being made aware of all your options. Source: Business Week, July 12, 2004 1
  4. 4. I know my brand better than my customers do. You know the story of how your company came to be. And you know what you stand for as a company. You also have to figure out how you want to display your identity and your beliefs. You’ve got a ton of communication tools to evaluate. Advertising. Public relations. Sponsorships. Packaging. Of course, things like your store environment and customer service matter a great deal too. Making solid strategic decisions up to this point are crucial. Still, none of that makes you a brand just yet. Only one thing ultimately determines your brand — the customer. What we’re talking about here is achieving long-term loyalty. And if the brand isn’t achieving sustained repeat business from loyal customers, how successful is that brand really? Not very. Now, you can’t be the one to deem your brand as successful or not. But you can improve your odds.The way to improve your odds is by making sure all the elements of your marketing program are working together seamlessly to convey a consistent (and hopefully creative) message. In other words, if your print ads, radio spots and public relations efforts do not look or sound like they’re all coming from the same company, you may have a problem with clearly communicating your place in the world. If you promise ease and simplicity to your customer but some of your locations are clean while others are disorganized or it takes customers too long to receive an order or they have to talk to a machine instead of a live person, you have an inconsistency. Inconsistency is a brand killer. No matter what methods of communication you select, no matter how many employees or locations you have, all of the elements that tie into your brand have to reinforce each other seamlessly, from what the brand promises in its communication to how the customer experiences that promise when they prepare to buy. That’s what will help increase your odds in driving sales among customers and building a brand. And when it’s done well, the customer will validate your brand’s existence again and again.
  5. 5. If I just do X, they’ll come running to my doorstep. There is no “magic bullet” in marketing. In fact, if the only thing you ever did this year was to run a 30-second commercial during the Super Bowl, you would not have yourself a brand. You cannot live by one marketing component alone. Real branding comes from a company that engages a variety of marketing initiatives that reinforce each other consistently and clearly. For example, if you’re a luxury car manufacturer, it’s fine to run a print ad in Time but sponsoring a monster truck rally might not be sending your audience the clearest brand message. No matter what tactics you select, all of these tactics will need creative thinking behind them, a unique strategy that’s unique to no other company in the world, a clear message that’s placed in the right media and a good deal of patience on your part (because to expect results in the form of brand recognition literally overnight is asking a bit much). Is that easy? Of course not. Building an extraordinary brand takes a deep commitment (although not necessarily a deep financial one) and planning. But it’s not a commit- ment you can afford to put off. Look at it this way. The customer is going to develop a perception about your brand anyway. If you lack a strong identity in the marketplace, that perception may be a very inaccurate one. And at that point, will the customer have much of a reason to recommend your product or service to others? That’s a risk you don’t want to take. Fortunately, there may be no better investment for your company’s morale and long- term success than the one you make in your own brand today.
  6. 6. To develop my brand, I have to hire a big advertising agency from New York. Rather than get into a discussion of the merits of a small agency versus a big agency, let us simply point out that the playing field has been leveled. And the winner as a result, dear client, is you. The reason for this shift is mainly due to clients themselves. The fact is, what many clients are looking for today has little to do with how big the agency is, how many people they have on the account, how long they’ve been in business and what their process is. Here’s the kicker: Some of the biggest brands in the world are backing that notion up with their actions. Companies like Coca-Cola and Budweiser have partnered with several agencies based on the creativity and strategies that those agencies offer rather than consolidating their business with one agency based on that agency’s global capabilities. “The agency could have 1 or 5,000 people on the account. The important question is what service and what creative we get out of it.” — Joe Eberhardt E.V.P., Global Sales & Marketing Chrysler Essentially, clients don’t want another ad or special event to address their challenges. What they really want is a brand that is culturally relevant — a marketing solution that can connect with their audience on a deeper, more provocative level. They want brand strategies that don’t necessarily utilize just the traditional options to reach consumers like TV or print but can also tap into the new digital media options as well. They don’t want an agency to act like a vendor but instead like a true partner they can talk to whenever possible. That means being a partner who can listen and recommend big ideas that make sense for building the brand — not just order takers who buy the media and then come up with ideas to fit into that media. On more than one occasion, a client has walked into our agency thinking that they needed a new radio or TV spot when what they actually needed was a new package design or a more interactive Web site or sponsorship of a music festival. In the new world of branding, the agencies that win will be the ones that can demon- strate a much better understanding of their clients’ demands, a superb level of creativity and a stronger grasp of new media. And they’ll never approach two clients the same way. The agencies that don’t get on board with this shift in branding and don’t become a lot more nimble will become dinosaurs in a hurry — no matter how large or small they are.
  7. 7. There is a scientific formula for branding. Advertising agencies sometimes like to invent their own “proprietary” branding technique or jargon for how they’ve come up with the big idea. However, there is no conclusive proof of any technique that will guarantee a success- ful brand. Absolutely none. There are some methods we can suggest to gain brand insights, such as one-on-one interviews with members of your target audience. But a plug-in-your-problem-and-get-an-award-winning-brand formula that works every time? No such thing. And this is the best news you could hope for. Why would you want your brand to be built in the same fashion as anyone else’s? Simply put, your company isn’t like any other. Your challenges are different. The people inside that company and what they believe are different. The way your brand is developed should be different. It’s that easy. That doesn’t mean that you have to go without measuring your results either. Instead of a complex and potentially expensive statistical study, ask a member of your target audience how likely they are to not only buy your product or service again, but recommend it to a friend or colleague. Before they bring their products to market, many companies also like to use consumer testing as their scientific formula. But thank goodness science got it wrong on several occasions. Have you ever heard of the Sony Walkman? Absolut Vodka? Bailey’s Irish Cream? A little TV show called Seinfeld? All disliked initially in consumer testing because their brands were highly different and highly unfamiliar. Exactly the things that made them highly successful. The godfather of modern-day advertising had some views on this subject that apply quite well to modern-day branding: “There are a lot of great technicians in advertising. And unfortunately they talk the best game. They know all the rules … but there’s one little rub. They forget that advertising is persuasion, and persuasion is not a science, but an art. Advertising is the art of persuasion.” — Bill Bernbach
  8. 8. Branding is advertising. This is one that gets confused sometimes. Branding isn’t the same as advertising. It’s your personality as a company. That personality can be conveyed through advertising. But it can also be communicated through public relations, sponsorships and about a hundred other things. It’s even in the manner in how you pick up the phone and interact with a customer. Think about all the emotions, words and mental images that come to mind when you hear names like “Starbucks,” “Krispy Kreme,” “Victoria’s Secret,” “Whole Foods Market” and “McDonald’s.” How did they elicit that response from you? Maybe it was from word of mouth or from your own personal experience. Maybe it was from advertising or an article you read about that company’s newest product. Advertising is one of the tools to use to communicate the essence of the brand. Depending on the situation, sometimes it’s the best tool and sometimes it doesn’t need to be used at all. For example, a great deal of loyalty to the Krispy Kreme brand comes from the quality of the product, consistency of the service in each store location and continued positive word-of-mouth. Not advertising. The McDonald’s brand, on the other hand, has a marketing mix that requires a great deal more advertising than Krispy Kreme. So if advertising isn’t the same as branding, what kind of brand are you? Taking a deep look at your company culture is an excellent place to start. Who are your leaders and what values do they promote most internally about your company? And if the leaders of the company disappeared, would everyone in your business still understand what your business stands for and where it’s trying to go? What do you want the customer to believe about you when they encounter your business? What kind of experience can they expect from you each and every time? Who are the biggest fans of your company and what kind of people would clearly not like your company (yes, it’s perfectly fine to have these too)? As you answer questions like these, you’ll begin to discover who you are as a brand. But again, as we mentioned in Myth #3, the customer must give your brand the final seal of approval. Over time, you may find the needs of your customers changing, so it’s important that your brand evolves with them. While you don’t want to shun your company’s history, don’t fall victim to the “old guard mentality.” Or you might find your customers searching for a new brand that better fits their current needs.