What is a brand anyway? (And why it matters.)

Branding. It can be a dirty word for C-Level executives with a nervous eye on the bottom line. Ambiguous and intangible, “the brand”  floats at the center of the corporate universe, a confusing bogeyman declared vitally important from above, but often misunderstood and feared for its tenuous link to comfortingly concrete metrics like sales, revenue and profit.

The truth is, your brand is essential to the long-term success of your business. The problem lies in the lack of clarity regarding exactly what a “brand” is, and how you can successfully create, implement and manage one (or many) through time to drive increased sales, revenue and profits.  I’d like to explain why branding is important and how it can positively impact your bottom line.

Exactly What Are We Talking About Here?

There are nearly as many definitions for “branding” bouncing around corporate boardrooms and the secret hipster lairs of “brand gurus” as there are consultants, design firms, creative swamis and assorted hucksters eager to create, discover, unearth, birth, fix, transform, regurgitate, dominate and paginate yours.

In the interest of common sense and clarity, lets ditch the smoke and mirrors to arrive at a set of simple, clear definitions:

YOUR BRAND = The total experience associated with a company, product or service (no, its not just your logo, that’s a… logo).

BRANDING = Actively creating the total experience in order to forge a positive emotional connection with people.

BRAND STRATEGY= Managing the total customer experience through time as a critical corporate strategic asset.

I can hear Prada-wearing brand visionaries everywhere crashing their custom Segways as they howl in protest at this blatant simplification of their mystical craft…sorry guys and gals, but at its core, this is the reality. Creating and effectively managing the overall experience surrounding your brand is the key to making it your most powerful strategic asset.

Why Worry? Eight Reasons Your Brand is Your Future.

So everyone claims “the brand” is important. But creating and managing a compelling brand is tough work. So why do it? Why take the time, effort and expense to define and grow your brand? Because in today’s hyper-competitive marketspaces, a powerful brand means the difference between success or failure. The results of a great brand are directly tied to corporate strategy, business objectives and the bottom line. A great brand does the following:

Increases Company Value

A powerful brand impacts the bottom line by increasing the value of the organization and its products.

Drives Sales

Authentic brand experiences resonate with customers, generating repeat purchases and powerful word-of-mouth.

Builds Loyalty

Customers forge emotional connections with authentic brands, transforming them into long-term users and loyal brand advocates.

Creates Awareness

Compelling brands cut through info-cluttered overload, using every medium to its fullest potential to clearly identify the company and tell its unique story.

Allows for Premium Pricing

Powerful brands price at a premium above the competition. When your organization provides specific experiences that customers can see, hear, touch, and feel, you are adding value and can price that value.

Saves Costs

Clearly articulated brand strategy allows for fast efficient production of brand materials and activities, eliminating the need to “reinvent the wheel” with every new project or initiative.

Increases Productivity

Clearly articulated brand strategy also allows employees and outside business partners to efficiently utilize a highly structured identity system for creation of all brand collateral and materials.

Creates Protection From Competition

Trade dress (the whole brand’s distinctive stimuli) is protected by state and federal laws. The more distinctive your brand presentation, the easier it is to protect from misuse or duplication by competitors.

That’s enough for now. We’ll continue the conversation in the weeks to come. In the meantime, think about your brand – what it is now, and what you’d like to see it become.