What is Branding, Really? – Part 1
Remember when you were a little kid growing up, just learning to ride your bike?
I’m sure most of us have a few memories of the dark ages (aka before the Internet was a 24/7 in our lives), and if it were anything like when I learned, it is still one of those cherished memories. I remember picking it up in a few hours and I swore I was a pro!
Riding up and down hills, making sharp turns, stopping on a dime, oh how much fun it was while it lasted. Until that first time I fell LOL! I’m sure you can imagine how I cried and ran to show my parents my gruesomely small leg boo-boo and my mother fused over how I would never be able to wear dresses again.
They rushed me off to the nearest sink top to dry my tears and clean my wounds. Without even thinking about it, someone grabbed a Band-Aid and I was all cleaned up. No discussion, no debate over proper tools to use, no second guessing. Simple yet effective things that make your life that much easier.
Now, this may seem like a no brainier to most, but do you know what a Band-aid really is? I know you are probably thinking “What a silly question! Of course I know what a Band-Aid is!”…. And the first thought that probably comes to mind are those little brown pieces of plastic (that now come in a variety of colors shapes and sizes) used to dress cuts and scraps. But did you know that a “Band-Aid” is not an actual device name but rather the name of a sticky bandage?
Without a thought we go to grab a “Band-Aid” because its the name first in our mind and hearts. But really It’s the obvious convenience of having a gauze bandage that doesn’t need tape – simple yet ingeniously effective.
“Band-Aid” like the well known “Kleenex” (the famous facial tissue paper) or “Post-Its” (a piece of paper with an adhesive strip on one side, designed to be stuck to things) are just the brand names behind great products. There are tons of sticky bandages that were similar to Band-Aids but they get none of the same love. Why is that you may ask?
Being linked with “entrepreneur” and “success”, the words “Brand” and “Branding” have become two buzz words in business that have everyone trying to do it, be it and excel at it. These words have literally taken on a life of their own, although they’ve been around for quite some time.
So why has branding become the best marketing strategy of all time? What is branding really?
Well, I like Seth Godin’s (marketing maven) Definition:
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.”
I love Mr Godin’s definition because especially in our world of social media and mass data, there’s nothing more important to today’s customer than the impression of a 1 to 1 experience associated with brand names.
Branding is not a logo!
I repeat a brand is not a logo.
Many people think that having a slick logo, good color scheme or a catchy tagline, is what makes a brand successful. You think “brand name” and yes, a logo as iconic as maybe the Nike check or Apple apple, may come to mind buy really that is just the mark or imagery reflection of a brand in 1 symbol. Which is just part of the process.
The way I break it down is pretty simple:
Comprehension + Connection + Consistency = Brand Success
These there things are the core of a brand’s foundation and strategy. This is what helps all good brands stand out from their compete tiros, and find their sweet spot with their customers.
By definition, a Band-Aid is an adhesive bandage with a gauze pad in the center. When the first prototype for the Band-Aid was invented in 1920 by Thomas Anderson and Johnson & Johnson employee Earle Dickson, it was for Thomas’s wife Josephine who frequently cut and burned herself while cooking, and needed it to dress her wounds without assistance.
It was clear Josephine wasn’t the only clumsy person in the world who could use a quick patch solution, and waa-laa the Band-Aid is born. It may seem super simple but this was such a genius invention, because the easily solved a common problem and understood their customer.
Making a true genuine connection is the next thing most brands try to do with their audience. For example, what made Starbucks into the well known bean roasting power house it is today? Being introduced in a time when the coffee market was down, most would not have though to start a coffee business, but Howard Shultz thought otherwise.
Shultz saw the opportunity for growth even though he was not the owner. He saw that customers would purchase something if they were truly interested and inspired to do so. Starbucks was the first to pioneer the idea of customized coffee, as people wanted something that was considered “their own”.
Customers want to feel included in your product or services, almost like you know them (more or less) personally and that your product is made specifically for them. Knowing your customer is only helpful If you can follow through and actually find a way to connect with your customers experience. Not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well.
When Starbucks started writing names of the customers on the cups, it was such a revolution. I know I’m not the only one who gets super happy to see my Frappuccino coming out with a “Paula :)” written on it.
Any customer will tell you they like you, that your product is great and your place is awesome – to your face that is – but wouldn’t you want to know what they are saying when you aren’t around?! I’m sure you do. And sadly I can assure you that branding will completely erase the nay-sayers.
But if you implement a personal touch into your product, you wont have to worry about it. The customers you DO have will love you for it.
- Can’t lie. I, like many start-up dreamers, LOVE the company Apple and all the products they create. Most of us creatives love the big screens and durable hardware. It’s totally my most favorite-est of guiltiest of pleasures to go into one of their retail locations just to play with the new stuff.
Whenever you go into an Apple location you know what to expect.
1.) You’ll be greeted by a blue shirt employee who will see if you need to make an appointment.
2.) You know you can play with any of the gadgets on the tables.
3.) You know everything they design will be simple, clean, and most likely white or silver.
Apple has done a great job at creating a culture around their products. They are probably #1 in the world at this, as their loyal tribe of millions, dedicated to only their products, speaks volumes for their branding.
This did not happen overnight though!
Many people know the story of Steve Jobs and how he built Apple’s reputation into one of the best lifestyle-device providers, but I will briefly remind you.
They did this through using cohesive designs, strict brand values and practiced and improved processes. Customers have come to expect high quality items from them and don’t mind paying a high price tag for them also.
How You Can Do It
Creating a brand that’s timeless and long lasting is much more than it seems. There are thousands of books on how to build a successful brand and no 2 are the same. Building a true loyal community around your business’ offerings is done through strategic consistent actions are really the only way to build your brand foundation & strategy, and in turn your customer base.
I am not Seth Godin (DUH) but from personally working with companies like Pepsi, Lays, and Saladworks, I have seen enough of the insides of what makes brands work and what doesn’t.
But comprehension, connection and consistency will for sure help you achieve your brand success.