The word brand is likely the most misunderstood term in marketing.
Consider what most people think of as a brand. The logo of a manufacturer displayed on the product. The company itself. Maybe even the product itself.
None of that, is true.
Your brand is not your company, the product you make, or even the logo you put on your packaging and website. It’s all of those things—and none of them.
A Working Definition (and Explanation) of Branding
Branding is not easy to do, it’s not easy to understand, it’s just one of those things.
Even many experienced marketers don’t quite understand what brand and branding actually means.
Join me down the rabbit hole:
Branding is about authority. To stay top of mind and dominate the mindshare of your audience, you need a solid combination of vision, mission, and values.
Branding is about the emotional connection your audience has with what your brand stands for.
That sounds a little theoretical. So let’s make it real. You might have heard of personal branding, the process of creating an online presence that showcases you as a professional, expert, or thought leader.
You do that not by changing your profile picture to a logo, but by carefully curating your content to create a picture of who you are in your audience’s mind. Your hope is that what you’re trying to get across ultimately lands with them, and builds that perception of you. Your brand lives inside the mind of your audience.
Until Inception becomes reality TV, you cannot control your audience’s feelings and thoughts. If you could, the world would be an even stranger place than it is already and this would be a different article.
But you can take steps to create influence in the eyes of your audience. It takes both time and deep thought with questions that can be difficult to answer.
A question you must be able to answer is, “What do you fundamentally believe to be true about the Universe and your place in it?” In other words, why do you exist as a brand?
It all starts with truly understanding the importance of branding as well as its potential volatility.
The Importance of Branding in Today’s Economy
Enough with the definition. None of the above matters if the concept of branding doesn’t actually make a difference.
In fact, we’d even go so far as to say that the social interpretation of your brand carries more weight than any financial valuation you might get from your bank or investors.
Think about it for a second… perception is everything.
That much has always been true. For instance, Coca Cola’s brand alone is worth more than $50 Billion. That’s just the brand, not any physical operations, inventory, or financial sheets.
The image that the company has built in its audience’s minds for more than 100 years, not just through its taste but also through its marketing efforts and social acceptance, is paying off.
Marketing experts have always tried to evaluate the worth of various brands. In today’s economy, we’re seeing the reality of brand worth (and dangers) play out almost by the minute.
How CrossFit® and Aunt Jemima Embody the Importance and Volatility of Branding
Take CrossFit® as an example. Over the years, the company has built itself up as one of the world’s pre-eminent, massive fitness brands.
That perception came tumbling down when founder and (now former) CEO Greg Glassman made racist remarks on social media related to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Within days, athletes disassociated themselves from the brand, partners like Reebok left, and the company lost millions in potential revenues as a result.
Perception can build and perception can destroy.
Another example became the talk of the party. For more than 130 years, supermarkets carried the popular Aunt Jemima brand selling syrup and pancake mix using a racial stereotype. In a move to promote racial equality, the PepsiCo-owned brand changed its name and logo in early June.
Now, it faces the challenge of rebuilding its brand from the ground up as quickly as possible. Without of course, attracting additional negative publicity.
Branding in the Eyes of Your Audience
Sure, building a brand is, in many ways, like building a card house. If you do succeed, and stay careful around the edges, it will be magnificent to behold. One miscalculated move and well, we know how that ends.
Start with your company values. What, exactly does your organization stand for? How clearly can you communicate these values to your audience? If they revolve around the issues your audience cares about, you’re halfway there.
Always keep your audience in mind. You have to understand the way they’re thinking, how they feel about your company, and most importantly what’s in it for them. The more you can align your company with their moral and ethical preferences, the better.
Treat your brand not like a pillar in your company, but like a goalpost that you build (or kick) towards. It’s an aim, not a feature. Once you shift in that direction, everything you communicate about your business—from your product itself to your social media presence—becomes an effort to arrive at that desired perception in your audience’s minds.
With that mindset, you get a lot closer to uncovering the true essence of a brand. You raise your audience’s perceptions of your business not just in terms of tangible product benefits, but the values behind those benefits that truly align you with your current and potential customers.
No Nonsense Approach
You can’t build a brand overnight. Influencing and building audience perception takes months, and often years. Do it right, and it might become the most valuable part of your entire business. But if you make one wrong step, or society moves away from those perceptions, it can all come tumbling down in a second. At Contrast Logic, our branding process helps you establish an instant authority framework.
If you want to discuss options for building your brand perspective, schedule a call and we’ll show you the possibilities.