First, let’s address the question we hear A LOT from businesses big and small… “Why should I even care about ‘Brand-Building’?” Because Brand-Building in its most fundamental form is the strategy, i.e. the means and methods, for increasing your brand’s value. The objective is to stimulate short-term revenue generation, which translates into the bigger prize of long-term sustainable growth. Brand strategy to a business is like the flight plan for the pilot, the training program for the athlete, or the assembly directions for a swing set. If you are sitting on a flight and the pilot says: “Hmmm…we are going to Atlanta, Georgia, but I’m not sure how to get there, so we are just going to wing it.”, you would be getting off as fast as you can. An athlete who is training to make the Track and Field Olympic team doesn’t just wake up and say “Hmmm…I think I am just going to go run a few sprints until I get tired.” And a parent wouldn’t undergo the frustration for very long of trying to figure out what parts fit together in a massively complex swing-set before Googling for those instructions. Yet more often than not, businesses will operate without a brand strategy. They disregard its essentiality for driving clarity, rigor and pace in making progress towards big business goals. Instead, their frustration mounts as precious time and money is wasted trying to figure out the right way to grow their business. So, our counter-question to “why should I care about Brand-Building?” is always “Would you like to deliver more business impact with a higher level of certainty?” Let’s assume that most of us would answer “yes” to that.
Next, let’s address any doubts based on your pre-conceived notion of what Brand-Building is and does. I call these the “5 Biggest Brand-Building Myths”. There are definitely more, but these are the ones we hear the most often as barriers to getting started.
- Brand-Building is only for big brands. Well…how do you think brands become big? There are no Brand Gods that bestow this grace. It is the result of brand builders who work relentlessly to form love connections with their customers to transform sterile commodities into coveted brands. Why? Because brands have tangible value that allow you to command higher prices, attract more users and scale more quickly. It is how Phil Knight transformed a running shoe he was selling out of the back of his car at track meets to the ethos of Nike of today. It is how a sandwich cookie can become so crave worthy that it generates $2Billion in revenue globally. You know which sandwich cookie I am talking about? Twist, Lick, Dunk? Yup…Oreo.
- Brand-Building takes lots of money. Actually, Brand-Building is scalable. Which means your investment will scale based on the needs of your business. This is why a Brand-Building strategy (i.e. your flight plan, etc) is so critical. Over-spending and under-delivering happens when you make arbitrary decisions on what seems like a good thing to do. Common mistakes: blindly following competition, buying into an agency proposal that promises the next big thing, jumping on board with expensive properties or partnership. A way to manage the temptation for the bright, shiny objects or the easy route is to “test-and-learn”. See what works first and then scale,
- You start Brand-Building AFTER you have been in business for awhile. Brand-Building starts as soon as you decide you are going into business. Why? Because the first thing you will need is a well-conceived brand architecture (i.e. logo, positioning and story, collateral, web-page, etc). Because this is the foundation from which you will build everything else, decisions on your brand assets should be informed by your brand strategy. This doesn’t mean your brand fate is written in stone. Your brand will evolve as you grow. But, working from a strategy does help create consistency, unity and clarity in all of your materials. Now, if you are well into your business journey, don’t fret. At any point you can refine your Brand-Building strategy. Some changes can cost you in time and money, but everything is fixable. And more often than not, the upside is worth it.
- Brand-Building and Marketing are the same thing. Your Brand-Building strategy INFORMS your Marketing Strategy. The clarity, rigor and pace mentioned earlier is realized by having a strategy to guide your decisions. Otherwise, it is like shooting darts with a blind-fold on. All of your brand assets (i.e. logo, website, collateral, social handles, etc) as well as your marketing tools (advertising, influencers, content creations, etc.) should flow from the Brand-Building strategy. Otherwise, your marketing is being under-utilized. To maximize the potential of marketing vehicles, you need to design for equity impact as well as performance.
- Commodities can’t be brands. In reality, Nike just sells shoes and clothing. Oreo just sells a cookie. SmartWater just sells water for heaven’s sake. Stanley Black and Decker just sells tools. Uber is just a transportation and/or food delivery service. Tony Robbins just sells life and business coaching. The point here is that all brands are at their essence a commodity. It is the brand builders who raise their value because the products/services connect in life in such a transformational way, it forms a love connection. Until robots rule the world, there will always be a person on the other side of the sale. For some businesses it may be harder to extract those opportunities and capitalize on them, but they are possible.
Are you ready to kick-up your Brand-Building? Call me! I would be happy to be your guide.