Creating Distinction and Awareness

by Dick Baumbach

Value Proposition.  Brandstorming.  Value Pushing.  Brand Extension.  Brand Value.  These are five of the ‘Top 100 Marketing Buzzwords’ you can expect to hear in 2011.  All of them relate to an overarching term that has become recognized as a critical element in every successful company – branding.

It’s a forgone conclusion that a strong brand is invaluable as the battle for customers intensifies day by day.  It’s a foundational piece in your marketing communication and one you do not want to be without.  A lot has been written about branding over the last few years, yet with all the articles, all the courses, all the case studies there is still disagreement about what it means.

Defining the Term

Go to any marketing meeting, and on one side of the table you’ll find people who think “brand” means logo and color scheme.  These are the people who subscribe to the American Marketing Association’s definition of a brand: “A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.  The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller.”

On the other side of that same table you’ll find those who believe that a “brand” is more of an emotional connection; it exists and evolves in the hearts and minds of the audience. Steve McNamara of AdCracker.Com sums it up by saying, “A brand is the sum of all feelings, thoughts and recognitions – positive and negative – that people in the target audience have about a company, a product or service.”

Finding the Key

Peter Oprysko of Baumback and Fisher contends, “A brand is a collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer.”  He says that these brands have a key philosophy in common.

“They recognize that their brand is a source of promise to it customers – a unique value proposition.  It’s their promise of relevant, differentiated benefits for customers and clients.  While brand identity and advertising campaigns are important, they are only effective to the extent that they reinforce an underlying promise that is compelling to the brand’s target customers.”

A brand is a personification of an organization or its products and services.  It is built over time through customer reaction, feedback and referrals.  It is impacted by reviews, by news stories, by word-of-mouth and by visibility.  It is all the things that tell your audience Who You Are and What You Believe In.  In this way, a brand can stand for something.  It can make promises to its target audiences.  It can possess a specific character and a personality and it can create an emotional connection with its customers.

More than Promises

Oprysko goes on to say that preeminent brands understand that their brands go beyond making promises.  “More important than making promises, they recognize that brands must strive to deliver on those promises consistently at each point of customer contact, time after time.  Branding is not about getting your target market to choose you over the competition.  It is about getting your prospects to see you as “the” company that provides a solution to their problem.”

You do this by integrating your brand strategies at every point of public contact.  Your brand resides within the hearts and minds of customers, clients, and prospects and it’s critical to spend time investing in, researching, and defining before you go off building your brand.  Without a clear understanding of what your target audience thinks, what they want, and what they need, you will not be able to:

  • Deliver your message clearly
  • Confirm your credibility
  • Connect with your target prospects emotionally
  • Motivate them as buyers
  • Establish loyalty

Once you know Who You Are and What You Believe In, you need to commit to building your brand in that image.  Define how the brand fulfills the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of your customers.  In addition to the positive benefits, describe how it removes negative experiences. Develop all aspects of your brand identity, including visual imagery, emotional appeal and verbal imagery.  Only then will you be able to go to market and build your brand.