|Branding. Why Bother?
A BRAND IS THE SUM TOTAL OF EVERY KEY ELEMENT AND REASON FOR EXISTING IN THE FIRST PLACE and IS THE EMOTIONAL CONNECTING POINT THAT THE FOUNDERS & MANAGEMENT & OPERATORS HOPE TO USE AS A CENTRAL THEME AND RALLYING POINT FOR ALL AUDIENCES. The brand is a promise. It is a set of expectations rooted in a fundamental ideology forming the framework for everything connected to the brand. Everything.
Okay, I’ve said it again. And again. But the fact is that this approach to brand development –– even long before there was a Transum –––has been my perspective since I was the operator of the New York Hot Dog Company cart usually stationed on the northeast corner of 3rd Avenue & Detroit Street in Denver during 1974 and 1975.
One of the key lessons I learned about ‘brand value’ back then was that selling hot dogs and being so profitable was not just about the quality and tastefulness of the meat, buns and beverages. That was only part of the brand story.
What was essential to my success was to venture out to my corner everyday, on time no matter what, with an operational philosophy rooted in an uncompromising approach to quality service, knowing ALL my repeat customers on a first-name basis, providing top notch products at a fair price, and creating a unique and pleasant lunchtime experience for customers.
The brand I established was, in some ways, a natural extension of a one-man theatrical performance where the entertainment factor I provided was a perfect match with the overall experience of street-side dining in an exclusive boutique shopping neighborhood.
Selling hot dogs and being successful doing it, therefore, was based on establishing a strong, consistent, and reliable brand with which the 'retail population' and residents in that neighborhood could relate, and keeping it viable. This applies to all other types of organizations.
At its core, every business organization or social / political movement...
(whether it is a For Profit or a Not For Profit; whether it is a government or governmental agency, a revolution, a financial institution, a department store chain, a recycling company, a junk yard, a law firm, a movie studio, a recording studio, an internet company, a website, an educational institution, a fast food chain, a rock & roll band, a one-off gourmet grocery store, or even a philanthropic foundation that intends to positively impact certain populations by funding programs and services it offers)
|...every one of them must have a reason for existing that is conveyed in a consistent and compelling manner through the various components comprising its BRAND EQUATION.
These include, but are certainly not limited to: name & nomenclature; graphic system; language & tone used in marketing materials and strategic documentation; signage or packaging if involved; or any other devices used to ‘touch’ internal and external audiences.
That probably seems pretty obvious. Maybe not? But more often than one might imagine, the ‘real’ reason an organization of any kind exists –– in other words, why it was founded in the first place AND what is its fundamental purpose for existing –– may have simply not been defined well enough nor articulated accurately by key decision makers and key influencers, or conveyed in believable terms to those forming key audiences, particularly within the organization.
And let's not pretend that advertising or PR campaigns geared to the 'customer' or 'prospect' are the most important elements this process. Hardly. For the internal audience is the most important audience upon which to focus brand messaging. No matter what you may want to convey to customer, client and/or membership audiences about your brand, your internal audience must buy in fully and embrace the brand story. This is certainly the case at the start of a branding initiative and is a never ending work in progress.
Experience shows that the internal audience should never be taken for granted. Never ever ever never -- unless your organization wants to risk ‘water cooler rebellions’ taking shape where the brand has the potential to be undermined between the front and back doors because internal audiences are confused by and/or disconnected to the central thesis defining the brand.
If the internal audience [at all levels and duties] does not truly understand and embrace the essential premise upon which the brand is anchored, ‘brand building’ can and will be hampered severely, if not clobbered entirely.
Sorry if I sound like broken record —–– but it’s mandatory that a singular and/or multi-tiered purpose for existing is internalized within those founding, funding, operating and representing the organization.
The purpose, values, beliefs and framework of the organization’s approach to doing what it perceives it ‘does best’ needs to be conveyed to its entire internal audience and all others who might become part of the interactional and transactional base.
Every business organization and every social movement has to be based on SOMETHING real, or in the case of an '-ism' or 'cult', a belief that it is real. And in a collective manner, the GROUP OF SOMETHINGS that forms the reasons for existing will be essential in forming the basis for a substantive and self-sustaining BRAND CULTURE. That brand culture becomes the bloodline within which the organizational DNA gets stronger and stronger.
A BRAND is a promise. Those five words have evolved from several decades of yadayadayada consultant-speak into a serious heart-felt mantra now embraced globally by successful, highly regarded leaders responsible for overseeing their organization’s brand, its brand position, its personnel, and bottom-line metrics.
Most of us have heard or read that five-word chant at one time or another, but it doesn’t always transition successfully from an esoteric statement used during fancy presentations created by the consultant into actual positive interactions with the organization’s key audiences.
I have created brand names for more than thirty years, but the brand is not the ‘name’, nor are the ‘keywords’ or the ‘logo’ or the ‘materials’ used to promote the BRAND. The BRAND is the organization’s actual holy book, its RAND McNALLY ROADMAP, and its CONSTITUTION that articulate what the organization is all about —–– where it is headed –– and why it does what it intends to do in ways that can be embraced and believed by everyone involved.
And lest it not be ignored, a brand is also comprised of various metaphoric concepts and images that are woven into the consciousness and subconsciousness of individuals forming the collective audiences with whom the brand is trying to establish or reinforce its relationship.
The subtleties of BRANDING are far reaching, therefore, paying attention to the details and nuances is essential for success. Bottom line: What is the brand trying to express about itself?
The BRAND EQUATION that is at the root of every successful organization is a fluid, yet fully consistent set of messages, visibilities, ideals and behaviors that need to be infused into the thinking and behavioral processes of everyone in the organization.
In some ways this is similar to how the approaches, values, and beliefs of a vibrant FAMILY are incorporated into the manner by which members of the household function and relate to one another, as well as to those in the 'outside world'.
Ideally, the parents, children, and others in the expanded brood will internalize and subconsciously act out these positive traits whether they are formed genetically or shaped environmentally through shared experiences and interactions. As a by-product, the ‘cultural anchor’ of the group is always present even if family members may never think of it that way at a conscious level.
Taking the time to put in the effort to create an appealing, believable, and tangible branding structure intended to last a lifetime should be every business organization’s goal.
Create the best possible plan to meet your true objectives---and execute it with perfection in mind and without cutting corners on timing, resources, or a commitment to excellence.
Anything short of a big picture approach is simply a waste of everyone’s time, including the founders, owners, investors, management, and staff.
And I don’t know anyone willing to consciously waste his or her time and consider it a good thing.
by Hank Fisher, Transum LLC
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