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Is Branding Dead?

Marketers are such a fickle group.  One year we’re touting the USP, another year positioning, a few years later it’s relationship management.  Of late, the buzzword’s branding.  With our short-term attention spans, the long-term implications of strong brands are

being challenged because the commitment required to build solid “stakeholder focused” brands are rare. That’s because many lack focus—and don’t really understand branding.  To help those who want to establish strong brands, I present the following 10 points that every brand marketer should address.

1. What is “Branding?”
Branding includes many different attributes that prospects, customers and investors attribute to your product. Developing a strong brand is not easy. But defining the power of a brand is easier. My favorite definition? Branding is identity plus reputation.  It’s how people feel about your product.

2. Customers aren’t Demographics
Whether you’re a B2B or B2C marketer, change your thinking.  It’s B2P, as in “Person.” That’s because any time a decision is made to learn more about you, to buy your product, or recommend your service, the decision is made by a person.

3. Brand “Trust” has Moved from Products to People
Many marketers focus brand trust on their key product or service offerings. Today, customers also look at the integrity of the people behind the company and product when making buying decisions. Brand trust extends beyond customer satisfaction and loyalty to the company and its people.

4. Branding Should be Emotional
You must build a brand that connects with the way your customers feel—touch their dreams or fears—and make sure you live up to your promise. That means developing a brand that reaches beyond price, speed, or convenience to human values such as integrity, lifestyle, and trust.

5. The Brand as a Strategic Tool
Nurture and protect your brand. Extend it strategically. Strongly consider your brand identity when making key strategic decisions, such as which businesses to enter or products to cross-sell. Align business moves with your brand values, and win big. Make one that’s not, and lose big.

6. Every Communication is a Brand Statement
Organizations touch their audiences in many ways. Brand attributes—both positive and negative—are communicated through customer service, advertising, promotions, online experiences, and numerous other touchpoints. Be consistent, and always take the customer’s point-of-view.

7. Brand Management is an Organization-wide Responsibility
Brand management isn’t the sole responsibility of marketing. Every point of contact within a corporation must be carefully managed to speak consistently on behalf of the company to its customers, prospects and shareholders.

8. The Brand is an Invitation
Traditionally, most customer contact concentrated on closing the sale. Now, the focus is on building quality relationships through dialogues. By being emotional and building trust, you invite participation and open the door for an enduring relationship.

9. The Brand is an Experience
The brand experience results from a successfully planned and delivered combination of messages and actions. Marketers must consistently touch customers and prospects in ways that build satisfaction, trust, and loyalty. This systematic process creates expectations that must be regularly met, resulting in customer confidence and an emotional connection—the foundation of all successful brands.

10. Great Brands Help Build Great Companies
Superior branding leverages the tangible and intangible assets of high performance companies. Great companies move past their competitors with excellent products, innovative work forces, tireless customer service, and strong branding. Great companies instill confidence in their products, company, and people. Though often difficult to quantify, building a solid brand yields concrete assets.

No, branding isn’t dead, but an understanding of “brand” is elusive.  Branding isn’t consistent design, breakthrough advertising or name recognition.  It’s how customers feel about your company and/or product at every touchpoint. 

Branding is alive and well.  Marketers who embrace it succeed beyond their wildest expectations (as long as they pay attention long enough to remember why they started their branding initiatives in the first place)!

Partners & Levit has a deep heritage in branding.  I’m pleased to share some of our knowledge with you. Learn more about branding and how it can make your customers more loyal.  Call me, Mark Levit, at 212.696.1200 now. 

Mark S. Levit