and why it matters.

BRANDING - What exactly is it?


I sit in many meetings where the term “branding” is thrown about by clients who either have a gleam in their eyes, excited by the prospect of how that might improve their future results or clients who distrust the concept as snake oil and view with trepidation, doubt and disgust, the idea that they’re being forced by higher management to use the word and embrace the prospect of working on building their brand. Many like the word but don’t really understand what it means.  Others hate the word and either do understand what it means but don’t feel up to the task or they don’t know what it means and think it’s a fabrication created by slick marketers to sell more services. Many clients confuse branding with outward manifestations or symbols like logos, graphics, media that can be produced or think it’s a special type of campaign.  It’s none of those things, though some of those things support it and are physical representations or reminders of some aspect of your brand.

In marketing we start with a premise.  The premise is that in order for people to buy your product or service it has to offer something different or unique from the competition.  This is called differentiation or defining your unique value proposition.  This is necessary, unless you are first to market with your product or service but even then, look out, because if you haven’t defined what it is that you do better than everyone else, someone else will come along and steal your market share.  Branding starts by first defining exactly what your brand is. 

I know what we do better than anyone else and what you’re reading right now is, in a sense, an example of it.  Dynamic Digital will give you such insights on how the communications we develop for you fit with your overall strategy and ensure they integrate with what you’re doing to reach your objectives.  As a result, you will accomplish far more with us than with any other firm.

Now, for a definition of branding.  My philosophy is that the brand doesn’t even really exist at the corporate office.  Where a brand exists is in the mind of the customer, constituent or stakeholder.  At first read, that might seem like some kind of marketing mumbo jumbo, but hear me out.  Branding starts at the corporate office and takes place there and everywhere you’re doing business but it only takes place because you want the sight, thought or mention of your brand to elicit certain thoughts, expectations, memories and/or feelings.  That’s the real value and meaning of a “brand.” The rest is just window dressing. That having been said, there's a lot of planning and work that needs to happen before the mention of your name or the sight of your logo elicits the thoughts, expectations, memories and/or feelings you want your customer, constituent or stakeholder to have.

About six years ago I was meeting with the City Manager and Mayor of a certain City.  They both looked me square in the eye and said they intended to brand the City as “the education city.”  I asked why they thought that was a good strategy and they told me that they had two universities and several colleges in the City so it seemed like a natural fit.  The problem with their reasoning and understanding of branding was that a material fact of having schools wasn’t enough.  There was no connection, really, between those schools and city hall or the larger community.   They thought that just saying it made it so.  This is the biggest mistake organizations make with their branding and probably why some view branding with such suspicion.  Saying it doesn’t make it so, you have to first be it and then when you say it you’re reinforcing a truth that people will believe and remember.  I asked this Mayor and City Manager if they had reached out to any of those educational institutions with their branding idea and they looked at me as if I had just sprouted horns. If city hall truly embraced education, that would be apparent and it wasn’t.  Those officials didn’t take or want my advice nor did we do any business together.  Both have since left that City and to this day, as was the case on the day we met, no one thinks of the City as the “education city.” So much for gown and town.

If you want to discuss your brand and how we can help you build it and position it for success, call now.  There’s no obligation. (714) 930-6032

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