Will the real Branding Expert please stand up?
Back in the day, cattle were branded to help protect breeders and buyers from rustlers. Today’s iconic brands are often forged by unscrupulous knock-offs to mislead the gullible consumer. But, increasingly, the very word ‘brand’ is itself used by marketing agencies to mislead businesses about the services and expertise being offered. Today’s caveat is ‘Beware of ‘hustlers!’
A global Google search on ‘branding agencies’ lists 8,790,000 entries. In reality, the number of true experts in branding lies in the rounding – probably less than one thousand. So what do the rest of these agencies do?
The answer is – a lot, and not much! There are a lot of web-site designers and SEO experts claiming to be brand experts. There are also a lot of graphic artists, package design experts, media and image consultants and copywriters calling themselves branders. Most advertising agencies now include branding in their name or their own marketing materials, but many do not truly understand what branding really is.
So what is branding?
It’s not a clever name or a slick logo. It’s not a tag line to improve your search engine ranking. And it’s not a short social media blitz or an expensive advertising campaign to provide top-of-mind name recognition for a few weeks.
Are these things important?
But they are not branding.
To understand branding you have to understand why people purchase your product or service when there are so many alternatives out there. Of course they have to be aware that you exist, that’s what advertising and public relations is about.
They will want to explore the details of your offering, and today that requires an accessible and informative website.
They may seek the opinions of others about you, so social media may play a role.
But ultimately, people buy, and more importantly re-buy, from organizations with whom they have an emotional connection.
Advertisers will tell you that cute kids or cuddly cats trigger those sorts of response. Colour consultants can match you packaging to the mood you want to convey. SEO consultants can tell you the words that buyers are searching for, but not what underlying, often unconscious, driver is prompting their search, or triggering their procurement decision.
Bringing it all together
So while all of the other considerations are important, a true branding expert will help you develop the ‘brand’ which re-affirms the buyer’s self-image, not just for the initial purchase, and not just for themselves.
An effective brand is promoted by the buyer. They are proud of their decision and are not afraid to advocate for you. And your branding makes it easy for them to do so! Even if you are not a Guchi or a Ralph Lauren.
Branding then is an umbrella activity which expands on and protects your investment in graphics, package design, web development, social media, advertising, and public relations, events, and all your other potential marketing activities.
Branding is where advertising stops and marketing doesn’t go.
Genuine branding costs a little more but delivers both short and long-term ROI.
Old tricks – New Safeguards
Rustlers tried many things to re-brand cattle. The honest buyer looked for pedigree and proof of origin. As with today’s knock-offs, it takes only a little bit of investigation to determine the fakes from the genuine article. But many people still get fooled.
If you are making a significant investing in your business, then it’s worth your while to do ‘due diligence’ on your branding advisor. It takes a little bit of your time, but can save you a lot of money!
Look into the breadth and the depth of the ‘portfolio’ – and beyond. Is it limited to one or two areas of expertise?
Check the qualifications and the references. Is there substance behind the inclusive use of every one of today’s ‘must have’ buzz-words?
Look for results!
Only if they’ve delivered them for others can they deliver them for you.