You Can’t Build A Brand On Today Thinking

imagesA few years ago I pitched my branding process to a mid-size Canadian City mayor. Suffice to say he loved the presentation and the opportunities it would open up. The one item that buried the project was his short-sightedness. Knowing upfront that there were deficiencies in the brand, he didn’t appreciate my comment that those deficiencies would have to be fixed so that their brand had a better chance of being authentic to it’s target audience. The fastest route to failure is to tout something powerful and then have your buyer discover it was all just advertising spin. The city can’t walk the walk. Today they’re still just doing advertising but labelling it branding.

Here in my community we have a city market. The bylaws people saw an opportunity. They showed up early on a saturday morning and went booth to booth gathering business cards from the grannies selling biscuits, young people selling items from their hobbies and other micro entrepreneurs. Satisfied that they spoke to everyone, they went back to their offices and proceeded to send out notices to all these people that they’d all have to buy a business license or shut it down. Their phoney smiles hid the reality of their intentions – more fees for the the city. They didn’t care what happened to these individuals and their dreams. What they failed to see was the long-term benefits of city market vendors. Many of these folks are testing their ideas and planning for the future. A local furniture store just turned 90. It all started with one guy peddling furniture door-to-door. Where would the 4 locations and hundreds of employees be today if the city had shut them down because they didn’t have a $XX business license?

Another new grocery business in Ottawa, Canada ( Farm Boy ) started in their city market and now have multiple locations and are spreading across the province. That equates to property taxes, bricks and motor leases, employment, and investment all started in a small city market. What our city should have done was gone in, introduced itself and offered to help them in any way they could to succeed. They should provide mentors, and business incentives to go beyond the cookies in wax paper to opening a small bakery in an area the city would like to re-new. But, this involves long-term thinking and long-term branding.

Place brands like any other thrive on long-term thinking. Bureaucrats have to start understanding that short-term gains CAN and DO suppress long-term growth. Being smug about shutting down the painted flower pot booth today changed the future that might have been – namely a unique gift shop in a wanting downtown area. All this is branding folks. Doing it with vision creates log-term wealth. Short-term advertising spin is just that.

How Your Brand is Sucking the Life Out of Your Business

Your brand is this – your brand is that. Some would have you believe that your brand is this OR that. The fact is your brand is everything. I enjoy speaking with businesses on branding and helping them to understand the what their focus should be in branding. It is almost without exception that business people assume that a brand doesn’t extend much beyond the visual elements. Most think your brand is your logo and marketing materials. When you think of it, that’s a lot of pretty heavy lifting for something visual. If that perception were true, brand problems would be a cinch to resolve – just change your image. Don’t like that soft drink – change the logo. Do you think it will taste better? Not likely. I’m guessing you’re going to have to tweak the recipe to lure you to buy.

How Your Brand is Sucking the Life Out of Your Business-041615Sales are flat? Maybe the problem goes way beyond a tired logo. Perhaps the sales staff have aged to the point that they’re not hungry anymore. Maybe your business culture has deficiencies. But chances are strong that it’s a little of everything. You’ll discover (if you’re brave enough to look) is that slowing sales is a symptom of an overall slowing of the brand. As Auston Powers might say, “You’ve lost your mojo!” And in the marketplace your mojo is your brand.

A re-brand if handled properly is absolutely more strategic than visual. But both are joined at the hip. The strategic side involves all experiences of your stakeholders. Those experiences are those that exist on line and off-line. From the way reception answers the phone to how an employee might talk about the company at a church picnic. Stupid things said on social media has in numerous cases taught business brands to react publicly where in the past it was handled behind closed doors and often ignored. Today you can’t ignore anything. Everything affects your brand.

The solution to a happy brand is to get your brand strategy in shape, then tie it all together with relevant visuals that represent your brand values and personality. This essentially boils down to defining your brand and reaping the rewards company-wide. Companies that do this right go on to raise the bar in their industries. They are the companies that inspire others to emulate them. They are the leaders. Of course it’s not for everyone. You have to be bold and willing to believe in what makes your brand great. Steve Jobs had it when he said that Apple had to develop products that were – “insanely great.” Most companies are followers. Followers embrace price over value. Followers copy smart brands. Followers allow the marketplace to define them. Followers never reach their potential or attract top talent.

And followers think that their brand is their logo. If it were only that easy.

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