In a recent meeting, a prospect offered me his considered opinion about ‘my’ business, branding:
“I have to say, I have a hard time seeing the value of branding or what ever you call it, you know marketing. It’s a cost I find hard to justify, not a driver of sales.”
Pinch, punch, was it the 1st day of the month? Did I hear him right I thought to myself? Does he believe branding and marketing are one-in-the-same? And that it’s a cost that adds no value to a business?
Let me preface what I’m about to say next by asking you: “If a dentist told you your front tooth was going to fall out, you’d trust his judgement wouldn’t you?” Great
So as a brand strategist, I’m going to take this opportunity to explain the importance of BRANDING. I’m also going to explain HOW IT DIFFERS from MARKETING, and why it’s of value. You do trust me don’t you?

Why do I need to do this?

Well, of all the tools in an entrepreneur’s or SME’s (yes I’m talking to you) armoury, branding is the most misunderstood.
More importantly, it’s one of the most under utilised. Yet, as a driver of growth, it’s fully embraced by the world’s most successful brands.
To put it simply, marketing is a range of tactics you push to promote your product or service with one aim – to make sales. “Look over here, buy our product/service because it’s better than the competitors.” (Admittedly an over simplification, but you get my drift).
In no way is this branding.

 So what is branding?

Branding is the beginning, and it’s about thinking strategically. It should be explored, crafted and defined before you jump whole-heartedly into your marketing. Branding is not about pushing… but pulling. It’s like an invisible thread that wraps itself around your prospects emotions.
Marketing brings your brand and it’s strategy to life through tactics. Marketing can get you immediate results. Yet your brand is what impresses, and grows, long after your marketing exercise finishes. It’s the gut feeling prospects are left with, no matter if they purchased or not.
Branding is the clarification of what a product or service is, or is not. Branding defines how you compete in the market. The process of branding helps you communicate the true value and essence your brand embodies.
Branding should help you identify your point-of-difference. Monty Python appeared on the scene like some new force of nature. This is because they contrasted with every other comedian of their day.
Yes they were VERY FUNNY, but we also remember them because they stood out, they were different. Humans gravitate to anything new. This is why thinking strategically, and;

Branding is also about the experience. Your marketing, for example, may convince somebody to come to your Gym. But it is the brand experience that will determine if your new customer comes back again and again.
  1. Did the gym sessions live up to the “fastest way to get fit” promise?
  2. Was the gym a breath of fresh air?
  3. Did the instructors really know their stuff?
How you represent what you stand for is made up of many things, the most important of which is the experience you deliver. Your marketing helps you find your ideal buyers. And your brand has the power to create a tribe of loyal customers and advocates from those new customers. And it’s they who create brands – not you – you can only try your best to influence their emotions!
Your business is more than what you make or do. It’s everyone you employ and every action you take, day-in day-out, that will either build up, or tear down your brand. S**t happens I know, but branding is about how you handle it.

Back to answering my prospect…

What I should have said, (but I wasn’t sure I wanted to bring this horse to water), was:
“People connect with brands, they want to buy from brands that get them. They want to feel good, secure or whatever the reason, they want to trust – and this comes from their gut feel as they way up their options to buy. Good branding influences that gut feel.
“As the business owner, you need to take the time to define and build it. Otherwise your prospects will draw their own conclusions on what your brand stands for.
“You see cost because unlike your marketing, it’s ROI is not instantly visible. But develop a well thought through brand strategy with clarity, focus and meaning and you’ll reap the rewards. Over time you get more customer loyalty and advocacy – that’s free advertising. Your salesman’s job becomes easier, and you attract like-minded employees willing to work harder.
To me, branding is the only way to greater prosperity, but they only way this happens is if you can see it as a value add, not a cost.”
Anyway, this is my considered opinion as I’ve taken the time to clarify, focus and define it.