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Branding? We Don’t Need No Stinking Branding!

Branding? We Don't Need No Stinking Branding!


What is a brand?

Here’s a hint.  Don’t check Wikipedia.  Their definition (and many others) is wrong!

Wikipedia: “Brand is the name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”  However, they go on to include the following in their definition – “name, logo, tagline, graphics, shapes, colors, sounds, scents, tastes, movement, and customer relationship management.”


We don’t know what a brand is…but we can’t afford it!

I hear it all the time.  “We’re a small company.  We don’t have money to brand our products.  We don’t do branding.  We don’t need it. “  Too late folks.  If you’re in business and interact with anyone in the real or virtual world, you are branding.  You may not be doing it intentionally and you might not be doing it well…. But, you’re branding.  In fact, I’ve seen people who are developing great brands without even knowing it.


A few years back, I was working with a multi-billion dollar multi-national.  Markets were changing faster than we were and, although the company was involved in a broad range of products, they were largely known for only one.  A conclave of key executives met to develop a new strategic plan.  I was new to the organization but surprised that branding wasn’t part of the plan.  I raised the issue and was quickly shot down with “we really don’t have the money for big ad budgets”.  Heads were shaking with the smirk of “she doesn’t get it”.  In spite of explanations that I was talking about branding and not advertising, I was unable to change the group’s thinking.  I must admit I was pretty shocked that this highly regarded organization didn’t get branding.


Brands live everywhere

On Day 3 of the meeting, I made my last impassioned plea.  When countered with the “we don’t have money for big ad budgets”, I responded.  “Brands exist without advertising.  When Sam the Salesman meets with the buyer of Mongo Mart and spends an hour explaining the new fru-fru technology … that’s branding.  When Rita the Receptionist gives an astoundingly warm welcome to each person who crosses the threshold of our corporate offices… that’s branding.  When Carlos the Customer Service Rep helps someone figure out what’s wrong with their product…. that’s branding.  And, when Cheryl in Collections screams at a customer who’s past due … that’s branding.   Our brand exists at every touch point in the company.  Brands do not just live in logos, brochures and advertising.  Brands live in people.  The way we interact with the world defines our brand more deeply and more honestly than any advertising will.”  I took a deep breath and sat down.  I turned around to sit down and heard the applause of 150 executives who, only days ago, thought I was crazy.  Life was good.  We refocused the corporate brand from the inside out and then embarked on one of our most successful advertising and branding campaigns.

Brand is evoked by the things you do, the way you behave and how those actions are perceived.  Although you can create symbols and messages that communicate what you believe to be your brand, you need to be true to who you really are.  Advertising, PR and social marketing can communicate a brand.  They can’t change the reality of your brand.


Brand is the world’s reaction to the perceived truth of your company.

It is created and re-created every day by everyone affiliated with your organization.  It evolves with the intention communication of advertising, PR, social marketing and even product development.  It is ever changing.  Nevertheless, in this world of transparency, your brand cannot live as a figment of someone’s imagination.  Branding done right can help shape your future in a consistent, persistent way that ads, tweets, press releases, logos, videos and Facebook pages cannot.


“If you ever have the good fortune to create a great advertising campaign, you will soon see another agency steal it. This is irritating, but don’t let it worry you; nobody has ever built a brand by imitating somebody else’s advertising.”
David Ogilvy

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