on August 08, 2012 Strategy Brand

Why Branding Strategy Today Is More Important Than Ever

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I’m not a fan of the, “_____ is dead” statements, but recently a pair of articles by Brian Millar (@arthurascii) claiming the end of branding caught my eye.

At the core, Millar argues that because companies can no longer control their brands—and, more importantly, consumer perceptions of them—that organizations should forget about active “branding” and instead focus on delivering quality experiences via great products. In other words: Walk the walk instead of talking the talk.

While I agree that the social business landscape makes it critical for companies to deliver on brand promises, I simply can’t get behind the idea that brand marketing as a practice should be left in the dust. 

Just like many other business strategies, tools and tactics that have faced death’s door (including branding, which already faced its Monty Python-esque “not dead yet” moment back in 2009—see here and here), branding isn’t dead—it’s simply evolving.

  • True: Traditional branding methods that center on creating the perfect tagline and ad campaign don’t cut it anymore. 
  • Truthier: Traditional branding principles—understanding and articulating your brand’s promise, differentiation, values, story—are potentially now more important than ever to breed customer loyalty and evangelism.
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Paul discovering the PR 20/20 logo.

Successful brands today aren’t driven from the top down. But they can be driven from the inside out.

“You now have to decide what image you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the marketplace."

David Ogilvy, via Personality Not Included by Rohit Bhargava (@rohitbhargava)

To become a company that customers love and are loyal to, your brand vision must permeate the entire culture, and be shared in everything from product development to delivery. From the R&D team, to customer service reps, to the board.

And, as Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) wrote in his recent post, Bathing Suit Branding: Is Your Brand Exposed:

“Perception is reality. Whether you and your business are engaged in the online world or not, with every action you take and decision you make, you are either building or weakening your brand. This presents enormous challenges, but even more significant are the opportunities … for brands that have the confidence to ‘bare it all’ and connect with audiences in more authentic and personal ways.”

Only by consistently delivering on one's brand promise can organizations hope to expose audiences outside company walls—customers, shareholders, potential employees, etc.—to the culture that its founders and team worked so hard to create.

And while each individual’s unique experiences will shape his or her perception of your brand, by actively focusing on what this should be—to the point of making sure that it’s truly what your brand is—you can still have a heavy hand in guiding those experiences. 

Beyond brand awareness, recognition and preference … 

Outside of “feel-goodness,” branding has a far-reaching impact as the foundation of integrated inbound marketing efforts. In fact, over on his blog, Rand Fishkin (@randfish) recently discussed the importance of brand recognition in driving clickthroughs on search engine results, per a Microsoft study.

From a future-success standpoint, I look to Umair Haque (@umairh), who talks about winning companies being those that aim toward Betterness—those that exist for more than making a profit, to truly improve the lives of their customers and communities. Do you think this is possible without a clear brand vision, a purpose, and a dedicated team to deliver upon it? 

A tweet I came across recently from Chris Winfield (@chriswinfield) summed this all up quite nicely: 

What are your thoughts on the relevance of branding today? I’d love to hear them.

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