Does Your Organization Really Understand Branding?

Updated: Nov 7, 2018

Installment 7 in a 10-Part Series

I invite CEO’s to gather your leadership team and marketing department in a conference room, ask them to define branding, and see what happens.

Installment 7 in a 10-part Series


I spent 25-years in three really good advertising agencies. Early on, we were strictly selling products and services. The focus on the product spawned the #UniqueSellingProposition (USP). It taught you to identify that one thing that would clearly differentiate your product versus your competitive set.

Then came #RiesandTrout. They taught marketers the value of occupying a richly-rewarding #position in a consumer’s mind. During that early movement, the terms “brand” and “branding” became popular buzzwords. They began being used interchangeably with the term “product” and flowed knowingly from the mouths of #marketers and “marketeers” everywhere. Mine included.


We sold our agency and I began leading global sales and #marketing in a division of a publicly traded company. The CEO assigned me to chair the Branding Committee. That’s when it hit me that I was basically a branding impostor. Thankfully, that wake-up call set me on the path toward branding enlightenment.

I invite CEO’s to gather your leadership team and marketing department in a conference room, ask them to define branding, and see what happens. I expect the answers will be all over the place. The terms #brand and #branding have been used so loosely for so long it’s difficult to hear a clear, concise and accurate explanation.


The “marketeers” haven’t done much to help clarify things with your marketers because their interests are served by occupying the superiority position and selling their proprietary take on the subject. It’s obviously to their advantage to fuel the elusive mystery around branding because it helps sell their particular “secret sauce” as the one true solution.

I think it’s a gross disservice to make something this important seem so overly-complex and confusing. There’s way too much value to an organization when it can share a simple, common view, and an easy language around branding. That’s why I set out to uncomplicate the subject. Fortunately, I was around some really smart folks figuring out different pieces and parts. All I had to do was combine their learning with mine and make it really easy to digest.

Now I preach this #opensourcealternative.

There are six foundational beliefs:


1. Brands are powerful with the ability to trigger strong emotional reactions.


2. Brands are built when a dynamic leader articulates a clear vision, adopts a smart #brandstrategy, and then inspires others to understand, embrace, pursue and attain ambitious goals on route to a desired destination.


3. #BrandLeadership is putting a high-performance team in place that has a clear understanding of where the brand is heading and how it’s going to get there. The team is in sync philosophically and operationally. They get out of their silos and stride toward the destination in lockstep.


4. #BrandAlignment can be realized when the team gains a shared understanding of who we are, what we intend to be, and who others think we are.


5. #BrandManagement is having total command of the component parts of the brand and skillfully controlling the way the brand is delivered and relates to the marketplace.


6. #BrandStewardship is taking excellent care of a well-established brand – moving it forward respectfully, thoughtfully and consistently – sustaining growth while remaining faithful to the brand’s roots and ensuring it remains relevant.


Brand is defined as, “Your brand is your reputation. Your reputation is achieved through consistent actions, communications and delivery of experiences over time. The process of building a brand is a continuous series of making and keeping promises that grows into a meaningful relationship. Your brand accumulates value as trust, confidence and loyalty escalates through positive direct and indirect interactions with others.”


A brand is comprised of six tightly-integrated components: 1) Brand Identity 2) Brand Promise 3) Brand Personality 4) Brand Values 5) Brand Culture and 6) Brand Experience.

#BrandExperience has become critically important. Intuit’s Scott Cook nailed it when he said, “A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it’s what consumers tell each other it is.” Actively managing and tracking #CustomerExperience #CX is now a key component of building a brand. Experiences with the brand are when the customer learns if the brand actually keeps the promises it makes. The outcome of the collective interactions is the reputation which is the brand.


Back to the conference room. Someone is going to say your #logo is your brand. Well, your logo isn’t your brand. It’s a familiar graphic representation of your brand, but it’s not your brand. And #rebranding, that’s way more involved than a fresh logo, tagline and business card. Logo discussions are best framed around the term Brand Identity – then, you can confine the conversation to the four elements that comprise Identity: 1) Name 2) Logotype 3) Symbol (if you have one), and 4) Color Scheme.


Six foundational beliefs, a simple definition of brand, and six component parts. Adopt this model and soon everyone in your organization will be speaking the same #brandlanguage and sharing a solid structural framework to build, manage and steward your increasingly valuable brand.



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