In branding, as in life, say what you mean and mean what you say

OpenHouseChecklist-Entry1-646x604Have you heard the one about the brand manager who said she wanted to rebrand, but what she meant was, “I’m bored with our logo.”

Your brand cuts way deeper than your logo. Just as a fresh coat of paint on a house may improve its curb appeal, a logo refresh may be something that is needed periodically for your brand. But, wait a second. Just as there’s more to a home’s value than its exterior, there’s much more than meets the eye when it comes to your brand. It’s the whole house!

Brands are 3-dimensional. In addition to your logo, your brand includes visual cues like your digital presence, sign, trucks, uniforms and forms. Your messaging matters. (Copy is important! You’re reading this and it’s not even that important. Or is it?) The third and arguably most important factor is the consistency of your brand. Many a logo/slogan that you may not think of as great, used consistently over time to establish a unique positioning in the minds of consumers, still works, still sells.

There’s equity in a good brand. According to Forbes magazine’s annual review, “Brands get their value from how customers perceive them,” says David Reibstein, a professor of marketing and branding expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “What makes it valuable from a company perspective is that customers are willing to pay a higher price or are more likely to buy.”

How much are the top five brands worth?

  1. Apple’s brand is valued at $154 billion
  2. Google $82.5 billion
  3. Microsoft $75.2 billion
  4. Coca-Cola $58.5 billion
  5. Facebook $52.6 billion

(Forbes, May 11, 2016).

Your brand is a promise. Do your products, your services, your organization and your people all deliver on that promise? Harmony is where the magic happens. When your mission and your message are singing the same song, there is strategic harmony. That is gold. Apple is the New York Philharmonic of brand harmony. Volkswagen, with its falsetto promise of German engineering being drowned out by news cycles filled with emissions-control corner-cutting, not so much. Customers don’t just hear brand harmony, they sense it. When you say what you mean and mean what you say, it’s only natural for customers to appreciate that harmony and reward you with their business and referrals. Conversely, if you don’t walk the walk, people won’t buy your talk.

Be careful what you promise. Avoid these four tired brand clichés like the plague:

  1. Trust in us (Aren’t all brands essentially about trust?)
  2. Our people make the difference (Can you prove it?)
  3. We solve problems (Who doesn’t?)
  4. We care (This is subjective and trite anyway.)

Instead of hackneyed hype, try showing people why they should trust your brand. Answer the question they’re all asking: “Why should I care about your brand, and what can it do for me to make me feel better about me?” That’s right, the real secret to branding brilliance is self-esteem. If the brand makes you feel good about yourself, you’ll buy into it.

Go beyond brand features. Make the effort to go beyond mere reasons people should buy your product or service. Take the brand to an emotional level that connects with basic human emotions such as self-esteem/guilt, altruism/narcissism or fulfillment/fear. You’ll quickly see that the real brand drivers are the feelings behind the features.

In the marketing communications world, seemingly contradictory emotions often reflect two sides of the same coin and drive an awful lot of consumer behavior. Consumers, we all, are equal parts dark and light.

So watch what your brand says. And mean it.

By Steve Johnson, Managing Partner

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