You think you have a brand, but do you? Really?

Having a company, product or service does not immediately mean you have a brand. Having a name, logo and design standards may not mean much either.

Too often, we like to believe we are creating and managing brands when we are not. Marketing plans are generated. Strategies refined. Budgets approved. Tactics unleashed. But are you in fact branding?

Imagine you’ve gathered your management team, some sales representatives and a few board members in a conference room and asked them to write a single sentence that best describes your brand. How many different versions would you collect? Suppose you did the same exercise with potential customers that come into contact with your brand?

Branding is not about colors or, in many ways, even traditional creativity. It’s about meaningful differentiation.

What sets your brand apart and why does that matter? Not why should that matter, but in fact, why does it matter. What’s the one thing that’s at the heart of your brand? The brand may have many positive attributes, but ultimately it should all boil down to a singular point of differentiation that people want – regardless of the audience. Your brand should be inseparable from this point. The association should be immediate and unshakable.

So how do you do it? How do you make your brand mean something? It takes understanding the market today and where it’s trending tomorrow. It takes knowing your audiences and making sure that your brand is addressing a true need. It takes looking at what you have to offer in an honest way and confirming that you have something that people will value. And most of all it takes self-discipline.

Always look through the lens of your customer. Always have your messaging nailed down and inextricably supportive of the sole focus of your brand. Tailor your messages to audience, but always communicate through the voice of the brand and reinforce its reason to be.

Ultimately, successful branding is about creating a positive customer experience. Do all the people who support your company, product or service know the brand well enough to support it consistently? Do they know the brand well enough to bring something special to the brand that is consistent with what you want the brand experience to be?

If not, the opportunity is to transform what you have to offer into a brand that your audiences will want to experience and grow to value.

by Jonathan D. Katz