Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Branding: A Brand is a Promise

Many business leaders and professionals will say the phrase "we have to develop our brand, market it, make it powerful and recognized". Unfortunately, most of them are thinking about the physical image of it and not what it stands for.

A powerful brand is the reflection of general recognition of a consistently delivered relevant promise.

As a leader of a business or someone trying to create a personal brand those are the terms under which you have to think about branding. A great logo, trademark, a nice picture, a great bio, or creative catch phrase will just take you so far. Without a consistent delivery of a relevant promise all of that will fail in regrettable loss.

If you are in the process of creating a strong brand for your business, department or personal, let's break the concept down to ensure the key messages are addressed.

The end state of a successful brand is general recognition and desire. How you achieve that is by first defining your relevant promise followed by relentless consistent delivery.

What is your promise?

Whether you think in terms of a product, service or individual is irrelevant. The concept remains the same. What does your [thing] promise? Here are some examples of successful brands promises (this is how they resonate with me, not necessarily what you find in the companies' website):

Oreo - indulgent, familiar, comfort treat
Apple - ahead of time, innovative, simple and exclusive
Starbucks - relax, slow down and enjoy life in a nice place
Google - clean, fast access to all knowledge
McDonald's - fast and cheap

Are these promises relevant?Well, ask the millions of people who use these products and services every day. So, what is your product's or your personal promise? Is that relevant to your clients, customers or consumers?

Note quality is not in any of the promises listed above. Quality isn't something you promise, it's something you deliver. Quality is expected. It's also subjective to your promise. So let's talk about consistently delivering it. What would happen if you had to wait 15 minutes for a Big Mac once? How about twice in a row and in different stores? What if the next 2 iDevice generations deliver only new case colors and new sizes (this sounds familiar)?

The most fundamental way to keep a promise and creating general recognition is to delivery it consistently every time. There is not much to be said here. Start lagging and your brand will fall apart. Deliver consistently every time and word will spread. It's that simple!

As companies grow there is a constant battle for that consistency. The more people you depend on to do it the more difficult it is. It all goes back to the people you have. Hire the right people and train them well otherwise you will kill your brand as fast as you can say "I killed my brand". But that's a whole new subject.

It's ok for companies or professionals to adjust their promise over time for some of them become irrelevant or a commodity, but some of the brands won't survive that. It may be just as easy to develop a new one.

Some new brands may have the same promise as yours, and they will take over general recognition and desire because of better delivery execution. A good recent example is Blockbuster and Netflix. New brands have the advantage of starting from where you currently are and focus on making it better. That's why smart companies and professionals keep innovation top of mind. You can't rest of past success for too long. Actually, not at all.

Are you delivering a relevant promise, and consistently? Yes! Keep doing it and innovate. No! Go back to the drawing board.

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