Branding is one of those words that gets thrown around indiscriminately today.
I’m a brand!
You’re a brand!
He’s a brand!
She’s a brand!
We are all brands!
Unfortunately when you use a word like that, it becomes largely meaningless and slips into buzz word central, just like other words like synergy, client centered, and whatever other pablum is passing as “corporate thought” these days.
But the thing about creating a really strong brand is that it does have magical effects on your ability to do business with your target market.
Because your brand is actually the public persona that you throw out into the world to make people know how to think about you and react to you.
A good example of how this is done well is the way that Apple and Steve Jobs created an aura around the brand when Steve Jobs came back and started launching products like the iPhone, iPod, and iPad.
You had an expectation and the Apple brand was meaningful.
The problem becomes that too many businesses and people try to do too much with their brands.
You want to see what that looks like, you just need to visit most consulting firms, IT services firms, or the website of the Democratic Party to see what heavy, convoluted, meaningless brands look like.
If you can read through those things and tell me what they mean, you are a better person than I am.
Why these types of things fail is because when you are just a list of features and options, you don’t have an emotional connection with your customer base and your community. The best brands are iconic and stand for something pretty specific.
Think about that first time you saw Barack Obama in the 2008 election cycle.
Remove the political aspects from a campaign and you had branding done right.
The thing about the Obama brand is that through the ups and downs of a campaign, the brand was consistent. There was something there, some consistency.
Which when you flip the script to the 2016 presidential campaign, you see that consistency wasn’t something that reared its head very well for either campaign. For Donald Trump, the inconsistency seemed to play a role, but for Hillary Clinton, the lack of consistency seems to be as much a function of a campaign staff that had no clue how to market and a candidate that was all too willing to be pushed or pulled in any direction on any given day, depending on what the polls and numbers said.
What all of this dissonance created was an experience of dread and slog towards a resolution and, thankfully, an end.
Experiences being one of the key ways that your brand can create magic.
Think about the first time you had a chance to go to a sporting event or a concert. I was just recounting all of the things I have done this year and the most prominent memories I have are of going to the Garden to see Pearl Jam. Going to Wrigley to see the Cubs. And, spending Super Bowl Sunday with Wilco.
Experiences root the brand in emotion.
When you jump to emotion, then you start to build a brand that has a life and grows with your audience. I mentioned Pearl Jam above. They’ve been with me since high school. I like to think we have grown together.
Now think about my all-time favorite basketball team, the Seattle Supersonics. Without a team in Seattle, the NBA has lost a generation of fans that had a brand for life. Sure the fans’ tastes for basketball may have evolved, but how much more meaningful is a brand when it has a full life that it can share with its community and that has stories that build on each other.
Because you can change the name on the jersey, but you can’t change the stories behind it.
What I am trying to say is that even if brand is a buzzword, it is still something you have to pay attention to. And, if you do the work, the work the brand can do for you is magical!