That’s a question that, even in this era of shameless hype, I am asked on a regular basis. Executives and entrepreneurs alike want to know: Why — if I consistently offer great value to customers, clients and colleagues — do I need to think about having a brand and let alone take the time to craft one?
First, it only seems fair for me to give you my definition of branding, which I don’t believe needs to be as overcomplicated or oversimplified as it often is. Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, reportedly said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you leave the room.” Not a bad definition, actually. Your brand is what people say, think and feel about you and your company.
But, more than that, your brand is (or should be) a promise of value artfully articulated across multiple platforms. It’s obvious, particularly in today’s world where we are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of daily branding messages, that your brand is much more than a logo, name, billboard, marketing campaign, sales sheet or website. All of those things are, in fact, expressions of your brand and a critical means of connecting and communicating with your customers, but they are only part of the brand story.
Above all, your brand is a promise of value and the most successful brands — the ones I call “mindshare brands” — are those that consistently deliver or overdeliver on that value promise over time. Think Coca-Cola. Think Mercedes. Think Apple. Think any brand with which you feel an emotional connection and rely on to deliver what you want every single time — or pretty darn close to that. Even the big guys slip occasionally, though mistakes handled well actually can be terrific branding opportunities.
So, why do you have to define your brand? Isn’t it obvious what you do through the actual doing or delivering of it? Won’t your ideal clients and customers find you if you’re doing a good job? Doesn’t your team inherently understand your internal culture and external brand just by working alongside you? You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But, we’ve all known that great neighborhood cafe or designer or even airline that simply couldn’t attract enough (or enough of the right) customers to stay in business without an easily recognizable set of attributes.
If you don’t define your brand, the world will simply assign one to you. Even if you are fortunate enough to get “discovered” by your ideal customers, letting them define your brand limits you to their perceptions. Which would you rather have? A brand that is carefully, thoughtfully and strategically crafted and carried out based on your core beliefs and authentic value or one in which the world has defined who you are and what you are capable of providing to others?
Your brand is your destiny, and if you fail to define, refine and manage it, you do so at your own peril.
This is a modified excerpt of “Capture the Mindshare and the Market Share Will Follow:
The Art and Science of Building Brands” by Libby Gill.