Let’s start with a brand. What is it?
A brand is the set of characteristics, the personality, the way of doing business with you that is evident to anyone who does business with you, or who observes you.
- It tells people who you are.
- It tells people what you’re like when they do business with you.
- It tells people what your personality is.
- It tells people what you know…or don’t know.
- It tells people what they can expect from you.
- It evokes a feeling based on all of the above.
Let’s look at a few examples:
What comes to mind when you hear or see the name Starbucks? It’s different for different people.
- Quality drinks?
- The go-to place for coffee lovers?
- Quality plastic cups?
- A little too cool for school?
Whether you’re a Starbucks fan or not, certain words and feelings come to mind when you hear or see their name. This is their brand in your mind.
- Inexpensive, or less expensive than most?
- No frills?
- No fees?
- Happy-go-lucky flight attendants?
- Go to the source?
- No resellers?
- No markup?
- Cattle call?
Again, certain words and feelings come to mind when you hear or see the Southwest Airlines name. These words, feelings and characteristics are their brand.
You have these thoughts and feelings because of the process that Starbucks, Southwest Airlines and, these days, their customers, supporters and detractors have undertaken to communicate what they are like to do business with.
That process is branding. It is the act, or actions, that communicate the brand that we discussed above.
Branding is often in our control because of a strategic process we have undertaken that helps us identify what our firms, companies and individuals stand for, and how they would like to be perceived. It is sometimes out of our control because of the reactions others have to our brand, and their attempts to alter that perception in peoples’ minds via any chosen method of communication.
If branding is the process of communicating that which we know we stand for, our brand, and which we’d like to make sure others understand about us, then what should that process include? It should include just about everything we and our colleagues say and do because our clients, potential clients, influencers, media and others we have defined as our target audiences are watching today in a way they never have before.
Because we are communicating so publicly today via Social Media, we need to remember that our presence in these media, just as in traditional media, helps to communicate to others what our brand is.
For example, if I stand for…
- Knowledge of social media
- Being a strategic thinker
- Understanding business
- Quality thinking
- Informed opinions
- The importance of self-education
- Caring for other professionals
- Advancing my craft
- A well-rounded marketing perspective
- Advice born of years of study, observation and immersion
- Being easy to do business with, and
- Caring for my clients
…then it is important that what and how I communicate via Social and other media is consistent with those characteristics.
Branding is not communicating that which I, and you, are not. If I am none of the above, then I shouldn’t try to create a persona that is a wish-list, and neither should you. In fact, the process of branding becomes quite easy because it is very simply that which I already stand for, and which I am working on daily.
Branding Never Ends
You and I, and every firm, company and brand, have the responsibility to never stop branding. It is part of our responsibility as business owners, partners, managers and employees to help our target audiences understand what we are like to do business with, and to help them understand what makes us unique.
Remember, no two entities are identical. As long as there are human beings involved, there will always be unique brand characteristics to show others whom we would like to know, and those with whom we would like to do business.
Others Brand Us
It is also important to know that branding takes place whether we want it to or not. Because of the rise and growth of Social Media, conversations are taking place today in unprecedented numbers. It becomes even more important to step up, be deliberate about our branding process, take part in Social Media, interact, listen to the conversation and react accordingly in order to support and protect our brands.
If we don’t, who will?