What is branding and what does it have to do with your success in business? To understand branding in a clearer light, let’s first define the term.
“A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.” – Seth Godin
“A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name.” – American Marketing Association
“The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” – David Ogilvy
“A brand is essentially a container for a customer’s complete experience with the product or company.” – Sergio Zyman
“Your distinctive, indispensable attributes and value.” – Edwin Dearborn
Between all these definitions, you may now have a clearer understanding of what a brand is and what corporate America is referring to when they speak of “branding.” As we look at all the factors that go into a brand, we can see that it goes way beyond your logo and tag line. Yet, when most people speak about their branding, they are referring to their logo and any packaging or items that feature their logo.
In actual fact, the elements that go into a brand are multi-layered and can develop into quite a complex system. How many companies have been thrown into the waste bin that had a great logo? Too many. So, becoming a success in branding must be more than a great logo and printed material. Again, let’s select some key words and concepts from the above quotes, such as:
As you can see many of these words represent intangible assets, such as expectations, attributes, history, reputation and experiences. These are the finer aspects that show in how you treat people, custom service, hospitality and the overall ethos of how you conduct your company and its marketing & PR strategies.
I have seen too many business people and entrepreneurs smugly point to their logo and branded water bottle, telling me all about their expertise in branding their company. Yet, their place of business has slovenly staff, slow service and broken furniture. And believe me; their customers are paying much more attention to those things than their great logo and the free water bottle.
What is Branding & The Intangible?
How many restaurant Yelp reviews go like this, “Their service and food sucked, but the logo on the free water bottle was beautiful. Because of that logo, I’m going back.” Well, you won’t be seeing that type of review. Most online reviews are about the intangible versus that tangible.
“Product distinctions, the historic centerpiece of product marketing, exist only briefly—and in the prospects’ minds, often not at all.” ― Harry Beckwith, Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing
While it is important to have distinctive factors within the tangible assets of your branding (i.e., logos, materials, website, terms, symbols, price, packaging and advertising methods) it is in the field of the intangibles where great brands shine. They go beyond “great customer service”, but render consistent, undeniable and memorable hospitality.
I want you to recall your most favorite restaurant, the one you would drive out of your way just to be there to imbibe in the atmosphere and the food. Is it the logo that keeps you coming back, or is it the wonderful and friendly service, the feel you get when you are there and the type of signature food that they serve? Even greasy diners, when branded and managed right, have their own magic in terms of the intangibles.
When developing the branding for your company, it is vitally important that the intangibles are part of your strategy to create a distinctive touch to your business and content. How will people be greeted? What is the dress code, if any? How fast will your services or products be expected to be rendered and how can you exceed that expectation? What are the key intangibles that you can feature and offer that will truly distinguish you from the pack?
I suggest that you sit with your fellow branding people, mentors, business coaches or good friends and list out all the important intangibles as listed above. Then as an exercise, figure out the details and nuances of how your brand can differentiate itself in every way. As well, study the success of other brands within your niche and/or industry and determine what those are. Can you perform them better, faster or in a more distinctive manner?
Tangible + Intangible = Unimaginable
Try to conceive how Disneyland pulls off the unimaginable. This is brand that goes way beyond the tangible in their branding. There is a good reason why we call it the “Magical Kingdom” and “The Happiest Place on Earth.” Walt Disney and his successors know that for branding to take on a life of its own is when you master the intangibles.
Disneyland and other brands were not built on logos or great taglines. Yes, these are vital component indeed. But Disneyland and those great brands deliver the goods and go through excruciating organization, evaluation and a commitment to evolving to ensure that their brand is genuine, relevant and consumed above their competitors. Great brands conceive of and deliver the unimaginable. As a result, they become unforgettable.