As October is in full swing, many companies are working on the process of budgeting for next year. Most companies will have a line item for marketing. If your company does not, as a vitally important endeavor, it is worth asking why. But, very few companies, unless they have decided on going down the path of an identity overhaul will have a line item for branding. Why is that? And what purpose can branding serve?
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines branding as, “the promoting of a product or service by identifying it with a particular brand.” And marketing is defined as, “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.” When set side by side like that, the line between branding and marketing doesn’t seem huge. Frankly, there is a lot of overlap between the two disciplines, especially in companies that have a very strategic approach to their marketing and branding efforts. As customers become more and more sophisticated in their “why” of choosing one business over another, the line between becomes even more blurred. In a future post, we’ll further explore the interaction between branding and marketing.
Most often, when companies come to us for “branding”, they are thinking a logo and probably identity collateral surrounding the logo. As the most visual representation of a brand, logos are the items most associated with the word branding. Branding, however, is so much more than a logo. This confusion with what branding encompasses is natural. The logo is what we see. Identity collateral is what we see. It is how we identify a company.
Unless we have never heard of a company or have seen their logo, we will have an emotional reaction when we see a company logo, however large or small. It’s part of how our brain makes connections. A logo alone is just a symbol without meaning. Branding is what takes that logo and gives it meaning to your audience.
Where does that emotional reaction come from? It comes from your branding. What does your company represent to your customers? Customers can be B-to-B or B-to-C. What promises does your company make? How do you communicate those promises? And how do you deliver on those promises? And most importantly – how do you deliver on those promises long-term?
The emotional reaction comes from what you say in all of your messaging – from advertising, to customer service interactions, to your website, to social media, to interactions with your sales team – compared with how you deliver on that messaging. Did your company deliver on the promises made in those interactions? Were all the interactions consistent in their promises? If yes, then that will define how a customer reacts when they see your logo.
Negative reactions to a logo, to a brand, happen when that brand’s promises don’t match what they deliver. Once those negative emotions are in place, it is a huge uphill battle to turn the negative associations around. Take a solar install company that is so focused making sales that they send teams out to install solar on shaded roofs, and customers don’t see the promised return. The solar install company is not delivering on their brand promise. But wait, the brand is not what a sales person said, is it? Yes. It is. To that customer, who has likely only interacted with a few solar companies to get estimates, and will probably never interact with solar companies again, that sales person represents the company brand. The result of that negative association has a direct impact on both sales and marketing – from lost referrals, to negative reviews, to an internal team that sees it is okay to break promises in an effort to make the numbers. The company brand is diminished both internally and externally.
Rebuilding a diminished brand takes time. Rebuilding will take more than just slapping a new logo on the front of the building. It starts with developing that brand promise – what your company stands for and promises to deliver – and sticking to it, both internally and externally. Over time, brand reputation will rebuild into positive emotions when customers look at your logo.
Do you know what your brand promise is? Have you determined how that promise is represented in all of your efforts? Does your visual identity embody that brand promise? Reach out to our team if you would like to talk brand strategy.