Last Sunday eve I joined the masses of people on their weekly pilgrimage to scour the aisles of capitalism and stock their pantries in an attempt to both prevent starvation and summon euphoria in the shape of a colourful fridge. What should have been a menial task felt more like a scene from Hunger Games, but that’s not the point. The point is that I caught myself on a confronting journey of discovering my own work at play. The thing is, I’ve been doing this branding thing for quite some time now. And as they say, do anything for 5 days a week (more like 7), 8 hours a day (sometimes 16), and you’re bound to become reasonably good at it. And I often do feel like I have become reasonably good at this whole branding thing (for the record, my mum thinks so too). But last Sunday, in the madness of Woolies with about 7 billion women rushing around (not sexist, true) in a sea of shopping trolleys and commercial chaos, I was caught out at my own game.
It went a little something like this:
We needed jam. That’s easy, I bought the one we’ve been dolloping on our sourdough for the last 8 years, it’s tasty AND has a nice logo. Win. Next on the list, milk. I bought the one my partner swears by — the one with an inch or two of full-fat thick cream sitting at the top that makes me dry retch at the thought of it and says that it supports local farmers. Add to trolley. And finally, we needed eggs. Well, of course, I’m no sinner, so I bought the free-range ones with the green and blue sticker because they a). Satisfy my desire to be a relatively good human, and b). The sticker is the least ugly on the shelf. Great, done.
As I returned home and began unpacking my groceries, it dawned on me that not only did I not even see any other jam, milk, egg options on the shelf, I didn’t even consider whether I was getting the best price/choice/morally-aligned product. Branding in its best form had gotten me. One undeniable fact about successful branding is that it swells within you, building a solid foundation of trust and loyalty, without you even thinking twice. Just like it did to me. When you’ve got a solid brand and your messaging is crystal clear, your product value goes straight to people’s brains without them having to think too much about it. When executed effectively, good branding equates to customer trust. And guess what? Trust means that people just like me, will pick your product off the shelf without even considering another option.
Some will say that this is Marketing. And in effect, they’re right, but if you ask me, good marketing starts with good branding. Because, the thing is, if you do your branding well, you’ll have all the tools you need to make your marketing efforts count. If you’re running a million and one marketing initiatives with high hopes of getting traction, but little consideration for building strong branding foundations, then I’d recommend throwing those marketing dollars in the Trevi Fountain instead.
I’ve seen many companies’ marketing efforts sink rather than swim, and I believe it’s because they don’t have a strategic basis on which to find a foothold. In a sea of sameness, their advertising and brand communications are not rooted in standing out, and so, they tend to fit in instead. Their unique selling point is less point that and more pointless as it camouflages itself among the rest.
A solid brand will:
If you thought branding was just a way to use a variety of gimmicks and a carefully curated selection of fonts to catch the eye of a passing customer, you’re missing the point. A good brand carries the weight of an entire business. It is the strategy that builds a relationship and the foundations upon which a customer places their trust and loyalty without considering alternatives. When a consumer sees the brand, she or he attributes a range of values, characteristics and emotional connections to it.
Expert marketers assert that it’s impossible to create a solid product/service offering and marketing strategy without building a strong branding identity. Building it should precede PR activations, SEO improvements, social media strategies, content creation, and the rest of it. Successful businesses figure out who and what they are before embarking on these other missions because, at the end (and the beginning) of the day, your brand influences your design, your language, and your entire approach.
If you’re blowing your marketing dollars without first establishing and communicating your brand proposition, you’re effectively throwing your hard-earned moolah into a celestial black hole.
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