I’m blessed to deal with a diverse group of clients each month. In a single day I might be working with a nonprofit to drive end-of-year donations, helping a medical practice fill their soft schedule or helping a construction equipment vendor expand their service business. While these different industries certainly have their unique challenges, there are some concepts that are universal to all of them. One of these is the concept of branding.
When we think of a brand we usually gravitate toward consumer product companies like Nike, Apple and Coke. We can identify the swoosh, bite/byte and curve of these companies’ logos at a glance, and the value of their names is measured in billions and trillions. However, I bet you also know the color your trash collection service’s trucks. I’m sure you can close your eyes and picture the waiting room of your doctor’s office. I imagine you can recognize the voice of the gentleman who always remembers your name at the dry cleaners.
What’s Brand Anyway?
There are thousands of definitions hidden in musty marketing textbooks and floating around the internet, but here is the best definition of brand that I have found:
“Brand is the perception someone holds in their head about you, a product, a service, an organization, a cause, or an idea. Brand building is the deliberate and skillful application of effort to create a desired perception in someone else’s mind. It has three basic elements: what, how, and feeling.” -Jerry McLaughlin
Let’s sum this up. Brand is what people think about you. So, does your company, your organization or your practice have a brand? Of course! My 5th grader has a brand. My old, worn-out boat has a brand. You have a brand whether you like it or not. Anytime you put yourself, your product or your service out in public view, someone will form an opinion of you and BAM: your brand is born.
OK then, so What is Branding?
Seriously. Branding is anything that effects someone’s perception of your product, service, company, or practice. It’s the smell of the waiting room. It’s the color of the walls. It’s the greeting of the receptionist. It’s the shape of your product and how long it takes to be seen by a doctor. It’s the time it take for you to get a proposal out to the client and how you thank your larger donors.
I’m confused. don’t I Just Need a Cool Logo?
Many people confuse the logo a company uses with the brand. Don’t make this mistake! A good logo supports the brand that your organization already has; it doesn’t define it. A good logo is versatile, recognizable and emotive, but it does not construct brand. You develop your brand with every activity and communication that the public sees; the logo just puts a recognizable face on all this work. A great logo will immediately bring your organization to mind and support the feelings that you want your customer to have about you. If your logo does this, you have a winner.
Whoa! This is Harder Than I Thought!
Yeah, I hear this fairly often. While a slick new logo isn’t the silver bullet, the good news is that there are plenty of things you can proactively do to build your brand. This brand building is what good marketing agencies do every day. Agencies take three steps back, look at your organization, and help you define what your perception your want people to have of you. Once you have this brand in place, it is just a matter of lining up your communications and operations to support this brand. It’s work indeed, but it is work that can be accomplished with the right knowledge and skill set. It’s also work that pays long term dividends that fly beyond the initial investment.
Let’s Just Wait Until We Grow a Bit.
I’d argue that branding is more important on day one than it is when your company has reached 75% of your target market. If you develop a target brand early in your organization’s life cycle, you can build your business around this brand, continuously aligning every process and communication with this brand message. It is far easier to do it right from the beginning than to have to retrofit and change an organization with a plethora of off-brand messages in place.
Do a little bit of soul searching. Ask your clients and supporters what they think about you. Define your goals. If you need help, give us a ring at Proclaim Interactive or find another advertising agency you can trust to walk you through the process. Just don’t put it off until next month because everyone you come in contact with is developing your brand for you.
Don’t you want to have a say in it as soon as possible?