Date Added: October 2004
Recently, there have been many articles written about the "B" word. That's right... Branding. The articles' content isn't always accurate, so let's clarify what branding is and what it is not.
What Branding is
What Branding is not
Organizations that understand and communicate their brand to all touchpoints enjoy the benefit of having engaged employees that are able to clearly articulate it to customers - and customers that are able to clearly understand the brand's value proposition.
All brand interactions are opportunities to build an emotional relationship. Brand relationships are built on three values. These include: (a) Trust, (b) Doing what the organization says it's going to do, and (c) Doing it well over time. As these three values come together, the brand becomes what the organization wants all touchpoints to think about when the organization is mentioned and builds the emotional bond with touchpoints. A few examples:
Disney. What do you think about when you see or hear the word Disney? Mickey Mouse. Donald Duck. The Lion King. The Little Mermaid. Disney World. Walt Disney. Magical Moments. The list could go on and on, and we haven't even mentioned the world-class service - also a well-known part of the Disney brand.
Lexus. The passionate pursuit of perfection. The RX330. The LS. The IS. The GS. The incredible service. This is from a brand that has only existed since 1989. Lexus is a word that didn't exist to the world prior to 1989. It is a made-up word that meant nothing. Now, it's a world-renown brand.
Please note a few items from the Disney and Lexus examples. A brand should not be an individual person. Mickey Mouse or Walt Disney is not the Disney brand. Jack Welch was not GE. A brand encompasses much more than one person. Michael Jordan and Madonna are exceptions to this; however, most brands that equate only to a person are not sustaining (e.g., Martha Stewart).
Creating and sustaining a brand takes time. It takes the right leadership to know how to effectively create a vision and strategic plan that centers on the brand. It takes the right message and positioning to employees through employee engagement. It takes training and development to ensure employees understand the brand and are able to speak the brand's "voice." And it takes a detailed marketing communications plan and customer needs analysis to build a sustainable brand-customer relationship, resulting in increased revenues.
While branding can be difficult to measure, it's not impossible. Proactive analyses with key brand touchpoints such as customers, employees or end users can provide an understanding of the brand's identity. Analyses that probe both tangible and intangible brand attributes, and ask touchpoints to rank each attribute against competitors, can provide a key linkage between employee and customer loyalty - and brand understanding.
Does your organization have the right elements to have a sustainable brand?