I am so over branding as a marketing practice. I never respected it in the first place, feeling branding was generally misunderstood, and, by the way, an inauthentic way to connect with a business’s target markets (OK, customers). When branding became a marketing buzzword at the turn of the century, it was on everyone’s mind -- the sole required component to succeed. But marketers and their clients couldn’t exactly pinpoint what branding was or what it involved. Special colors? A logo? A mission? An office culture?
“Got a million dollars-plus and a full 10 years to build your brand?” I would ask. Because I believed then, and still do, that if a company addresses the needs of its customers through product and service superiority, transparency, courtesy and consistency, it won’t ever need branding unless they aspire to be, say, Dairy Queen, Tony Alamo boots or The Gap.
My advice regarding branding is still the same: Don’t waste money on pricey image-building tactics (clever packaging, campy ads, ridiculous contests) and start engaging customers (and potential customers) online in an honest way that has relevance to their lives. Solicit their opinions, ask for their advice, share helpful information, champion the nonprofits you both admire, give them a customized koozie cup, just because. You know this.
Make no mistake. America loves its iconic brands like Coke, Levi’s, Turbo Tax, Nike, Ford, McDonald’s and more. Consumers know well what a high-profile brand delivers, and they give all. They purchase the product, repurchase it, brag about its virtues, tell their friend and family circles to purchase it, wear the logo t-shirt and in other ways bring it into the light.
I am a loyal brand follower myself. For today, my favorite brands are: Mrs. Meyer’s cleaning products, Moleskine journals, Candlewick Children’s Press, the Honest Co., Publix, Hoover cordless vacuums, Willy Wonka candies (by Nestle) and Jo Malone fragrance. I spend my hard-earned money on these things when I can, and I never look back. Loyal, I tell you.
So where is branding headed? Today’s most influential brands might include Google, Amazon.com, Microsoft, Apple, Pandora, Facebook and YouTube. We climb aboard these technological giants to study product reviews, share preferences, post comments and actively promote (or malign) the brands and sub-brands we run across. We count on big web brands to lead us to the things we feel we can’t do without, and to warn us away from products or companies that disappoint. We take our cues from their content, and then we take on the marketing mantle, wielding untold power influence on our economy.
Think of it! As informed consumers, you and I may be the only brand builders any company ever needs.
Paige Henson is a new media consultant for small businesses. She specializes in inbound marketing and content management. Her email address is email@example.com.