Yes, I said it. As “The Brand Chef,” that’s something I never thought would come out of my mouth. But in a recent meeting with a friend, I closed my laptop, pushed my chair back and looked him straight in the eye and said these exact words:
Now, this could either be a lesson on how to shoot yourself in the foot during a casual meeting with a friend; or it could turn into a logical discussion on branding versus marketing. This discussion could cover how, because branding is at the core of a company’s culture, business and communications model, your brand isn’t something that you can just decide to give a “face lift.” Marketing, on the other hand – what many people think of when branding comes up in a conversation – can be changed to suit an ever-evolving brand…
Here’s the difference: Marketing is the strategic communication effort that results from a TRUE core brand promise, targeted to a specific audience, with the goal of enticing engagement with that brand.
So, to say it again, just for affect:
“Your marketing can’t fix crazy….”
You see companies, almost on a daily basis, “rebranding” themselves. But deep-down, without a TRUE brand strategy, the marketing that results is guaranteed to reflect what is going on inside the company – for better or worse…
Based on the conversation that ensued after my “shocking” statement, my friend and I came up with five simple takeaways.
Marketing can’t fix…
- … a company that has changed its “brand strategy” 5 times in the last 5 years. This happens when deeper brand issues stall out the progress marketing should be making. Instead of stopping and performing a TRUE brand evaluation, the CEO or CMO simply jump the track to find a different way. Different doesn’t fix what’s broken.
- … a company’s inability to make brand-based decisions. Unfortunately a company with this problem usually slows or destroys its marketing efforts simply by not being able to take action.
- … a broken marketing communication system by only using “internal staffers.” Few “Internal Marketing Departments” have enough perspective to do all of the brand evaluation and execution without outside counsel. Trust me, I’ve seen many companies try and many have failed.
- … a company with a lousy product or service (even at a discount). In this economy, when people are looking for value, quality still is at the core of our decision-making process. If your product or service is at the bottom of the quality scale in that category, you’d better re-think more than your brand.
- … a program with an insufficient budget. The phrase “money talks and B.S. walks,” for this point, is painfully applicable. Plan all you want. Scheme big dreams and map out creative strategies until your face turns fuchsia. None of it will succeed unless you have the resources to support it. How many campaigns have gotten out of the starting blocks in a blur, only to fall to its knees a quarter way through the race because it’s out of funding?
TRUE Branding (Truthful/Transparent, Relevant, Unique and Engaging) is the core to building a successful marketing communications program. With strategic marketing you can analyze a company’s TRUE Brand position, develop a successful plan and implement a program to raise awareness and engage your market. But remember, branding takes time and sometimes painful effort. It shouldn’t be viewed as a quick fix, or a “face-lift.”
With that, I’d like to send a big “Thank you” out to my friend for letting me vent to (at) him. Although the coffee was good, I appreciate the conversations that make me think and evaluate how I can better help clients and their brands.
Next time, the coffee is on me.
Andrew B. Clark
The Brand Chef