Last week I sat across the table from a business leader who hired our firm to help develop a "branding program." I remember his initial inquiry opened the opportunity for us to share our perspective on "what branding is" and "what branding is not." Our perspective led to a new engagement.
The term branding has really become a catch phrase for any form of outreach or communications, especially with pervasive digital technology and the merging of multiple disciplines. Some people think branding is a name and a logo - but that's barely scratching the surface of a true brand.
At FrazierHeiby, we make a clear differentiation about brand. In our viewpoint, brand is the totality of "who you are" - molded and formed by all of your decisions, interactions, successes and failures. It's how you service your customers - it's every interaction since your first day. Brand is your reputation, your fundamental values, your behaviors. (In all honesty, your brand is truly all about "Why" you do what you do, but that's a whole different conversation.)
Some people link branding to marketing tactics and outreach efforts. Certainly, those are important - and those are areas of our firm's expertise. But marketing is much like putting appealing frosting on a great cake to help enhance its flavor and sell it visually. (In contrast, marketing tactics can rarely be a quick fix for a damaged brand, just like frosting cannot really cover for bad tasting cake.)
Others understand the true value and concept of brand expressed as a "promise." A brand promise is the relationship expected in interactions with your people and company. Proactive companies work to define, manage and live their brand promise by stating their values, aligning every employee's behavior behind those values as a promise and expressing that promise in everything they do. Over time, delivery of a brand promise can truly impact your reputation and how you are perceived. Complimenting this brand promise behavior with strategic PR and communications programs can elevate exposure and positive brand experiences to your valued audiences, helping your company build equity and value in its reputation.
So, next time you are evaluating your direct marketing, social media strategy or considering a major marketing initiative, you might first ask yourself, "WHO is really our brand?"