This Five-Letter Word Is Key to Marketing Success: B-R-A-N-D

While the concept of personal branding has taken off, corporate branding seems to go in and out of favor. Economic cycles may have a lot to do with that. With the growth of the Internet and social technology tools, personal branding opportunities and activity have exploded. On the other hand, in some ways, the arc of Web 1.0 to 2.0+ (not to mention this current economy) has seduced many marketers into being focused on tactics at the expense of strategy including branding. Hot media tactics often substitute for the "strategy."

If you are skeptical that brands still matter in the age of 1-1, millennials and social media, or if you are just trying to run a business and make numbers and don't have the patience for brand consultant-speak or theories, here is a quick, simple refresher on good old-fashioned branding that works today, that can help you frame your marketing and operational tactics...to drive business results.

Your business enterprise and marketing programs will be more successful if they are guided by a cohesive strategy that meets the B.R.A.N.D. criteria.

Your brand strategy must be:

B—Believable (about Belief & Behavior too)

Your brand positioning needs to be credible both with your customers and employees. Would a Volvo strategy around the idea of "sporty" be believable? (they seem to own "safety" for life). In addition, your organization's belief in a brand vision and values and execution on that is critical. Many marketers and even some of my clients all too often equate the brand strategy with a logo. The brand is so much bigger. The brand strategy is about what your business stands for. It should be championed by the CEO, internalized by all employees and behaved and delivered, employee-to-employee, employee-to-customer. Just ask Zappos. And building this brand foundation internally has to take place before an external launch (ads, trade shows, Web site, social media...), otherwise you risk doing more harm to the brand (if your company is not prepared deliver on its promise).

R—Relevant

You and your colleagues should be close enough to your customers to develop products and services that truly meet their needs including interacting with them in a meaningful way, through the most relevant media. (see "Nuts About Southwest" blog)

A—Adaptable

While your brand strategy should be relevant for today and for specific markets, it also needs to be flexible, broad and viable over the long haul. GE's "trust in good things" (1970s-80s) and "imagination & innovation" (this decade) brand positionings are enduring platforms from which diverse, effective concepts, campaigns and media strategies develop.

N—Numerically based

How you arrive at the brand strategy as well as measure your business' alignment with it and marketing effectiveness must be based on objective data and customer and market inputs versus gut. In addition, your brand opportunity should map to business objectives such as market share and profits (numbers!). If a niche positioning results in being a second tier player it is likely not viable.

D—Differentiated

One of the toughest challenges is to create a brand strategy that is truly unique. Solutions? Quality? Laundry list of commodity features? Zzzzzzzz. Apple's brand positioning around playful, innovative simplicity has not been duplicated and is seamlessly expressed across media too numerous to name.

So even if you think the B-word is a bad word, and the SM-word (Social Media) is a good word, you might agree that tying your SM programs to an organizing principle, anchoring tactics in an underlying organizational and market strategy (or B-R-A-N-D strategy) is a good thing.

By the way, the Five-Letter Word can also guide your personal branding efforts.

Read more of Kevin Randall's blog

Kevin RandallKevin Randall is Director of Brand Strategy & Research at Movéo Integrated Branding (krandall@moveo.com). Kevin consults on brand matters to Fortune 500 companies and specialized health care and business-to-business organizations. His expertise is understanding, integrating and applying research and brand strategy to create business and customer value. Kevin has been invited to speak on brand topics by Google, Harvard Business School, Wharton and Kellogg, and his articles have been published on six continents. His clients at Movéo include Siemens, CareerBuilder, Cardinal Health, Molex, GOJO/Purell and Cancer Treatment Centers of America. Prior to joining Movéo, Kevin worked for Interbrand where he developed brand strategies for companies such as Abbott, Alcatel, Cricket Communications, Ford, GE, McDonald's, Motorola, Nationwide, Roche, Smucker's and 3M.

[neuromarketing image by Antaya, wikimedia commons]

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6 Comments

  • John McTigue

    Brand has another meaning that may be relevant as well. Here in Texas you "brand" your livestock to "differentiate" them from your neighbor's - and hopefully prevent them from being rustled! A good "brand" here has a great logo that is easy to recognize and carries with it the size and reputation of your ranch. It doesn't work if all of your cows and horses aren't branded, so consistency is also important. Finally, as your herd grows, so grows your marketing "brand", just like social media.

  • Rex Whisman

    Kevin, I love this post. You are spot on. I am always amazed at how many people are now embracing personal branding, but are still skeptical about embracing the concept within their own organization. I think a lot of it has to do with the word brand. Too many marketers think of it as a verb first because they want to get right to the cool new campaign. As a result the rest of the organization places little value on the word as a culture building strategy. If marketers would be a bit more patient, think noun first, we would all be better off. That approach would also enhance the marketer's personal brand.

  • Edward Tierney

    The content of the blog is valuable and worth while. The challenge is that by positioning Brand as a means of marketing success, you further support the watering down of the concept. Brand is not only a means of marketing success, it ensures the success of a business. Brand initiatives may require changes in operations, or revised HR parameters, or design-thinking training for engineering. By positioning Brand as you have, you facilitate the common mis-conception that Brand is the purview of the marketing department only. Brand is owned through out the organization and managed at a strategic level.

  • mikescheiner

    Well said Kevin. The past years events have accelerated this need of branding yourself or company correctly and have made it even more important for brands to portray themselves as honest and believable. This can no-longer be achieved by a smart piece of visual branding, but a strategy that stretches across all media, and is backed up 100% by the company and its employees. I've recently written a similar commentary to this as well: The emerging trends in branding and corporate responsibility. http://scheinerinc.typepad.com...

  • Scott Merrill

    I couldn't agree more Kevin, personal branding is growing in leaps and bounds, especially in the blogging arena. After visiting a few of the trade shows and conferences I can't begin to explain just how many people (even bloggers) have started using their own unique business card designs and are trying to build their own brands with flashy business card designs and logos.

    Scott M

  • Scott Merrill

    I couldn't agree more Kevin, personal branding is growing in leaps and bounds, especially in the blogging arena. After visiting a few of the trade shows and conferences I can't begin to explain just how many people (even bloggers) have started using their own unique business card designs and are trying to build their own brands with flashy business card designs and logos.