Five Myths of Branding

Everybody knows what branding is, right? I used to think so, but I am no longer convinced. The definition of a brand is “everything that gives an entity its recognition, meaning and value.” Seems simple enough but there are many misunderstandings that inhibit branding execution and reaching the full potential of brand value. Here are some of the most common myths that get in the way of effective branding:

  • Myth 1: Your brand is your identity system. A brand is much more than your logo, company or product name, or even your slogan. Avenue Bank is a community bank in Nashville that has done an excellent job of developing a unique logo, which features a hummingbird, and a slogan “the difference is real”. Like most banks they differentiate on customer service, but unlike most banks, they mean it. They have banking concierges who greet you, offer you a fresh baked cookie and beverage and then handle your banking needs while you relax.
  • Myth 2: Branding is a marketing function. Not really, since branding includes customer perception about the transactions, products, as well as pre and post customer service, the entire company influences the customer perception of the brand. Look at Lands’ End, a catalog company who made their name by offering excellent service, reliable product and the ability to consistently deliver what they said they would.
  • Myth 3: You can’t change your brand. Brands are continually evolving because times change and the good brands change with them. Consider how Weight Watchers has evolved as times have changed from the family sit down dinner to food on the go.
  • Myth 4: A bad brand is better than no brand. A great company with an unknown brand can invest in establishing a positive and specific public perception, but it takes a lot more work to take a brand with a negative customer perception and turn it around. Don’t believe the adage that “all publicity is good.” (Usually said by someone who is trying to pump up stockholders or justifying bad decisions!)
  • Myth 5: Brand building is very expensive. It certainly can be and historically that is true, but with social media, it doesn’t have to be. From the article “Building a Brand on a Budget” by Jason Ankeny, “Urbane Apartments is the quintessential example of a small business that has maximized the possibilities of social media to champion its brand online, eschewing conventional advertising and search engine optimization solutions in favor of word-of-mouth buzz. According to Brown, in October 2008 about 100 people were visiting the Urbane blog each month. By the following spring, traffic grew to 4,500 visitors per month, and the number now tops 16,000 per month.”
  • Myth 6: You can’t overcome the impact of a negative public crisis. If a company experiences a crisis, how they handle it is more important that the crisis itself. Let’s take two well known examples. Johnson & Johnson set the standard for how to handle a crisis with the Tylenol debacle in 1982. Full acknowledgement of the issue, the attitude of “no harm” over “making money”, taking accountability for resolution, and consistent and regular communication are key. Toyota on the other hand got dinged for trying to fix the problem before announcing it, choosing profits over customer safety. Because Toyota has one of the top ranked brands and its cars retain their value, they will likely overcome this hiccup but not because they handled the challenge well.

Take the time to develop a brand blueprint. Branding is the means by which you raise customer awareness, can establish a price premium, grow market share and create customer loyalty—all of which translates into economic value. (For more information on what it takes to create a brand blueprint, read our next blog, scheduled for May 4 !)

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