Branding begins as a strategic process

Branding workshopHere’s the first question I ask when I do a branding workshop: “What’s your definition of a brand?”. The answers are as varied as there are people in the room.

“Branding is your corporate image.”

“Branding is your good name.”

“Branding is a unique logo.”

“Branding has to do with what your facility looks like.”

“Branding is a memorable slogan.”

“Branding is your company’s personality.”

“Branding is advertising.”

“Branding is buying ad specialties with your name on them.”

“Branding has to do with building customer relationships.”

I tell them they are all right, but that they are like the seven blind wise men trying to describe an elephant by each feeling just the part they are presently touching. I then suggest branding can be all those things – and much more.

Branding is first a strategic process. The outcome of this process is a brand.

Whether you are branding a company (and that should probably be the first thing you brand) or a product, service or event, it begins with an assessment of the environment. Three critical factors converge here: the markets you serve, your competitors (current and future) and your offering(s).

Knowing your markets and competitors prepares you to develop an offering that’s valued and unique. Once the offering meets those criteria, it’s then your job to crystallize the value/uniqueness message.

At the same time, that message must be creditable and reflect the true personality and core values of your organization. Without this last consideration, the message becomes just more advertising puffery. But I believe that establishing this foundation based on honesty and substance is vital to the brand and to the success of the business itself.

The process is a complex and introspective undertaking.

That’s why many of my recent posts have described one or more aspects of a brand platform, the document that lays down the foundation I just described. The brand platform becomes the brand “bible”, helping to integrate and harmonize the creation of the various elements mentioned above: name, package, logo, color, type face, slogan and, yes, media selection.

The brand platform is a strategic document. It may actually reside within a complete business plan or product specification in more sophisticated companies. But it is the driving force of the brand and should not be minimized or, perish the thought, not attempted at all.

Martin Jelsema

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