So when was the last time your firm rebranded itself? Most of my clients have at least tweaked their brand in the last decade—or so they thought. More accurately, they redesigned their logo, modified their color scheme, rewrote their positioning statement, overhauled their website, etc. In other words, they changed how they marketed themselves.
But that's not
branding. Not really. It's disappointing that most marketers don't
understand this, but who can blame them? There's a lot of confusion
about this subject in the literature. Marketing people naturally view
branding as something within their domain. But the consensus of brand
experts points to something much more complex than a marketing function.
terms, brand is how your firm is perceived in the marketplace. It is
primarily shaped through the direct and indirect interactions customers
and others have with your firm. Marketing can influence those
perceptions (through its indirect interactions), but eventually direct
interactions form the bedrock of your brand. Your real brand is
substance, not image.
So what does
this mean? True rebranding is about changing the substance of the
interactions you have with clients and others. It's about creating
better experiences, which lead to positive expectations about future
experiences with your firm. (I like Sean Adam's definition of brand:
"It's a promise of an experience.")
backing up your marketing claims through action. Focused on clients?
Show it! Design excellence? Let's see what you got! Superior quality?
Prove it! Great at collaboration and team building? Demonstrate the
benefits! This is why marketing can't create your brand, because
ultimately you have to deliver it. Clients have to experience it.
This is not to
diminish the contributions of marketing. On the contrary, I'm a strong
advocate for effective marketing. I think as an industry that we
generally underappreciate the value of marketing. Marketers are too often marginalized
as tactical specialists rather than strategic partners. The best
marketing comes when there's real substance to sell. Invite marketers
into the discussion about how to create a genuine, deliverable brand.
For a step-by-step approach to building your brand, check out this previous post.