Tuesday, March 02, 2010
The Painful Truth About Branding
Courtesy of America's Story from America's Library (CREDIT: Fleischhauer, Carl, photographer. "Branding Iron [35mm slide]." Date Recorded 79/10. Buckaroos in Paradise: Ranching Culture in Northern Nevada, 1945-1982, Library of Congress.)
It is interesting to note that even after so many decades, marketing professionals and senior executives alike still think that a brand belongs to either of the following:
A) A huge ego exercise
B) An exercise in aesthetic and textual superiority
C) A powerful icon signifying the awe-inspiring might of the organisation
D) An almighty blueprint of Biblical impact
E) All of the above
While the above may be true to some extent in huge companies like Apple (worship the partially eaten fruit!) or Nike (woosh over the swoosh), the majority of company and product brands aren't made out to be half as great as what their creators hoped.
In other words, most brands fail in the marketplace. Most often miserably so.
Is branding then an exercise in redundancy? Should we just cast away the trusted corporate identity kit, messaging kit, logo kit, and all those pretty pictures and templates that cost an arm and a leg?
Not necessarily so.
I believe that there is a way to make a brand stand out far more than stunning graphics or witty taglines. And that is to give it away to your customers, shareholders, employees, board members, suppliers and partners.
In other words, the true essence of a brand isn't in owning it. It is in disowning it.
The more you are able to make your brand a part of your community's lives, the better. The more you can integrate it into what your influencers and followers believe in, the more successful your brand will be. The more willing you are to let others appropriate your brand - albeit in a respectful manner of course - the more spectacular your branding exercise will be.
Great brands aren't just the stuff that is conceived in board rooms and executive suites around the world, but the stuff that people make their own. Great brands are malleable, moldable, mashable and mushy. They are the stuff that people rave about (with some clever prompting) without having a doctor's prescription to follow.
The next time you are thinking about rebranding your organisation or undertaking a strategic brand positioning whatever, consider how you can involve your most important stakeholders in the whole process. Invest in not just brand evangelism but co-creation, right from the beginning of the game.
You will be amazed by the difference which it makes.