What Brand Building Isn't.

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Okay, I'm going to make some enemies today.

I was browsing Technorati over the weekend, and came across an embedded ad for a marketing firm/consultancy/whatever in a not-so-far zipcode. (Enough said. I don't want to be too specific.)

Anyway, a section of their site focuses on "brand building" and offers... six steps that will help client companies build strong, successful brands.

But before we get to those magic steps, the branding experts offer this little observation:

"A clear brand will increase your profits."


Really? Clarity in your... "brand" will increase your profits? Wow. That's... um... never mind. I forget. They follow with this:

"If the market doesn’t know what’s good about you, you’re having to work too hard for too little return. You won’t change that overnight, but if you start now, in five years you’ll be far better off."

If I had the time today to pick that statement apart, I would but there's... toast that needs buttering. For the next FIVE years!?! Ridiculous. But enough with the sarcasm. Here comes the real meat of what these brand building experts want to convey to you:

"Brand building is a six-step process that is part art and part science. (Company X) assists clients with building a successful brand foundation and works with them over time to help ensure that the branding “sticks.” As a brand partner, we can help a business transform itself into a branding success."

Can't wait. Here we go:

Six steps to building your brand.

Consider these steps the foundation of your company’s future.

1. Measure the customer experience.

2. Compare your company to your market and your competition.

3. Develop and expand your strengths.

4. Prepare your brand message.

5. Develop your budget and investment justification.

6. Roll out and implement your brand statement

... What?... Are these people serious? That's it? That's the magic formula? That's the foundation of your company's future? For your sake, let's hope the hell not.

How about this instead:

1. Understand your customers' experience.
(Give the surveys a rest. TALK to people instead of just asking them to fill out your lame quantitative "on a scale of 1-10..." surveys from the 1970's. Understanding is a hell of a lot more important than measuring. Wake up and smell the context. And by the way, they're your customers, not the customer. Way to connect with the people you serve. Geniuses.)

2. Don't compare your company to "the market" or your competition. EVER. Understand your competitors' strengths and weaknesses, sure, but don't base your identity, strategy or anything else on what your competitors are doing unless you want to play follow-the-leader - and be relegated to being an also-in company - for the rest of your sorry management tenure. Instead, focus on your customers, and BECOME the market leader. How? By blowing off your would-be competitors and rewriting the rules for your so-called "market." This isn't about safety or statistics. This is about vision and leadership. Big difference.

3. Stop obsessing about your strengths and weaknesses. Of course you should develop your strengths. Does it really need to be an item on this list? Is it really relevant to building a strong brand? Why not also add get up earlier in the morning, or work harder? Please. This is just navel-gazing. Instead, just do whatever you need to do to be the best: Create the best products, offer the best customer experience, and always lead the way. Period. This isn't about analyzing strengths and six-step programs. It's about getting it, and moving the ball forward accordingly.

4. Newsflash: Nobody cares about your message. Establish a dialogue with your customers. A conversation. Foster the growth of a community. Let the message come from them. Your brand is more than a tagline. It's a promise, a delivery on that promise, and the most relevant one possible at that. Hell, it should be the embodiment of a lifestyle. So please leave the one-sided messaging where it belongs - in the past - and focus on listening, celebrating and creating instead of yapping. If anything, start reading about archetypes, shadow, and projection. (Yes, psychology 101 stuff.) I think that you will find it all at least as helpful as the marketing courses you took in grad school - if not more.

5. Invest in people and innovation before big advertising or ambitious marketing plans. That's where the gold is. And certainly not in marketing consultants who devise lame six-step brand building programs that make absolutely no sense at all.

6. "Roll out your brand statement...blablabla... lame businesspeak... blablabla... investment justification...." Good grief. What is this... 1986? See #3. There is no #6.


If you work for a marketing firm/ad agency/management consultancy sounds remotely like these clowns, wake up. You aren't helping anyone. If anything, you're yapping your way into obsolescence, and taking your clients down with you.

For shame.

Hey, at least we're starting the week with a bang. Happy Monday, everyone. ;)

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