“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.”
– Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap
Your Brand Isn't Your Logo
There’s a common misconception that your brand is your logo. This is an unfortunate oversimplification, as your brand is much more than just your logo. While your logo is definitely an important part of your branding, it’s only a small part of the ecosystem. Think of a brand like a someone’s body and a logo like their face. Looking at someone’s face is certainly essential when identifying who they are, but it only makes up a small part of the person as a whole.
At the end of the day, you can put forth a decisive identity, well thought-out messaging, and attractive visuals to influence people’s opinion of your brand, but you cannot directly control it. Your brand is not what you tell people it is, but rather what they think it is. The way your employees interact with the community, the feeling customers get when visiting your physical space, the products you create… Every aspect of your business contributes to the brand as a whole.
“Your brand isn’t what you say it is.
It’s what they say it is.”
– Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap
The New Brand Model
In the good ol’ days, companies would simply create a product, spend a lot of money advertising it, and if the product filled a need in the market, customers would buy it and the business would be successful. In the old model, the companies held all the power.
Now, the opposite is true. To build a successful brand, companies need to create a tribe of loyal customers, the customers build the brand through sharing, buying, and advocacy, and if the tribe is passionate enough, the brand will grow. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t build your brand, your customers do.
“Today’s customers reject that authority, and at the same time want a measure of control over the products they love. They no longer buy brands. They join brands. They want a vote in what gets produced and how it gets delivered. They’re willing to roll up their sleeves and help out, not only by promoting the brand to their friends, but by contributing content, volunteering ideas, and even selling products or services. It’s a new brand world.”– Marty Neumeier
Defining Your Brand
Ok, so passionate customers build brands. But, what if our communities don’t view our brand the way we’d like to be seen? Simple, we just need to paint a crystal clear image of our company, our offerings, and our values in our customers’ minds. Easy, right?
The problem here is that many companies try to do too much. They branch off into new verticals, they try to appeal to everyone, and they end up creating a fuzzy brand image. The key is to focus and to be consistent. You need to define exactly who you are, what you do, and why you do it. Once you’re able to define these things, you need to clearly portray that to your community by aligning your messaging, products, and experiences with these values. And here comes the hard part, you need to do it again and again for as long as your brand exists in its current iteration. The image will not stick if you’re sending mixed messages. Show them time and time again who you really are.
Why Are Brands Important?
Now that we’ve discussed what a brand is and how to define it, let’s talk about why they’re important. In today’s connected world, customers have nearly infinite options when shopping for goods or services. Most likely, there are many products or services just like yours that will achieve similar results in the end. So, how do customers differentiate between this nearly insurmountable number of options? Brands. People have too many choices and not enough time, so if there are two (or more) options that are similar in quality, price, and features, which one are they going to choose? Customers choose products or services that come from brands they trust.
Building Trust with Your Brand
We trust individuals, brands, and organizations that share our values. Over our lives we form a set of beliefs, and we join communities that share those belief systems. When companies align what they think, say, and do, and deliver experiences that consistently meet or exceed customer expectations, it cultivates trust. And this trust is the single most important factor when converting customers into advocates. With a well-defined brand that consistently delivers, this trust will grow, and so will the passionate tribe that aligns with your company’s belief system.
“Trust is maintained when values and beliefs are actively managed. If companies do not actively work to keep clarity, discipline and consistency in balance, then trust starts to break down.”
– Simon Sinek, Start with Why
What is a Brand Worth?
Since a brand is not a tangible commodity, it is sometimes difficult to see the dollar value, but let’s take a look at some of the numbers. According to Interbrand’s Best Brands of 2017 rankings, the Mercedez Benz brand is estimated to be worth $47.8 billion, and at the time of writing this article, Mercedez Benz’ market cap is at $88.5 billion. That means that over half of Mercedez Benz’ value is made up by its brand alone.
In another study from the Advertising Research Foundation, it was found that 83% of companies that over-perform on revenue growth link everything they do to brand purpose, as opposed to only 31% of under-performers. The results show that companies who create strong brands with a clear purpose are more successful, and therefore make more money.
Putting it All Together
We’ve covered a lot of material so let’s sum it all up:
- Your brand is not your logo.
- Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what they say it is.
- To define your brand you must have a clear picture of who you are, what you do, and why you do it.
- You can influence what people think about your company by forming a strong definition of your brand and consistently portraying that.
- Customers don’t buy products or services, they buy belief systems that align with their own.
- When deciding between equal products or services, customers choose the brand they trust.
- Trust = delight + reliability.
- Brands have tangible value and their worth can be measured in real dollars.