How to not fail — understand Brand


It’s easy and painless, you just gotta know it!

When we start a new relationship with a client, the first few conversations are almost always a calibration of communication where if people are going to understand us, and put up with our crazy talk for years to follow, they have to understand brand.

It is easily the most critical step for any person or company looking to communicate or market themselves or a product or service. Or for that matter, arguably, the growth and success of any idea in the public realm these days.

So, here are the steps to not fail at your business or communication goals:

1. Understand what is a brand?

No, it’s not that iron in the fire about to sear its logo to the back of your corporate pony. As Ted Mathews says — Brand, it ain’t the logo.

Brand is you. A brand is the perception people have of you. It’s what they think you are about — your motivations, values, actions, opinions. Your personal or product expressions, actions and engagements or experiences you create are how they build that perception. To build a brand is to engage in building an understanding of who you are by interaction and communication. A relationship is formed. Through consistent engagement grows a deeper understanding and a comfort and expectation of your brand.

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2. Get to know you and your audience

To build a brand is to boil yourself down to the key, most critical emotional and physical value to your audience. Oh, yah that means you need to know your audience. Decide who they are and join them or be prepared to create a new culture and define a new audience — that works too. Either way, you need to tailor you and your product, to their needs and desires so figure out what that is.

Your material product is useless unless it fits your audience and cares about what they want. It has to resonate, be remarkable and emotionally useful. Folks don’t care if it has all the practical features in the world. If it doesn’t feel like it is directed at them, they’ll ignore it.

3. Create the Emotional Product

Just like the logo isn’t a brand, your product isn’t a physical thing on a shelf. Your product is you in action. Your product is everything you do that I can access, engage in, purchase, experience, talk about, build a lifestyle and self identity around. Your product is emotional value to me and is what I am willing to shell out for. Your emotional value is unique to me, without competition and to a large degree without a rational relative price. The physical or material product is merely an excuse for or a way to identify with the culture that you are participating in.

So figure out what your product really is. Boil it down and realize what the real base level value is to the audience and you will see so much of the point of what you are doing that you’ll be amazed. You’ll discover motivations and passions for the product that you had never considered.

4. Find your voice

What you say and how you say it is a metaphor for the product and the brand. But in a practical sense it’s how you’ll deliver the product and speak about it — distribution and communication. You may have heard that the medium is the message. That means the medium and the message is also the product. So deciding on how and where you’ll speak is critical in fine tuning the product to suit the audience.

Identify where you will be seen. Target experiences that will allow you to express yourself and engage with the right people and make a great impression. Learn to fit your voice to the audience but be remarkable, memorable, adding value to the room.

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5. Wade in and be valuable content

Get going. There’s a lot to be said about good planning. But there’s a lot more to be said about timing and hard work. Be in the right place at the right time, or better, be first and build the right place, and work dam hard at building value and content in people’s lives and you’ll get there.

Then change the wheels on the bus while it’s moving. That is to learn on the run, build a team and adjust your brand and product as you go if need be. Just make sure you know yourself, your audience and the product or you can get lost.

6. How’s the water so far?

Look in the mirror. What do you see? The mirror incidentally is the market place. What are people saying or not saying — is the audience supporting you and saying what you hoped to hear, or is what they don’t say is revealing? How about the media — do they support or ignore you — they feed on good valuabe content so are you there in words or video? How do you reflect back to you? Do you like yourself? Is it a fit? Are you delivering what you promised — what you wanted to deliver?

You can be better. You love it so it’s not work to improve and do more. You just have to listen and all the answers are there.

Measure. Adjust. Wade back in. Repeat.

7. Write it down

Got it working? Realize what doesn’t? Think you know what’s next? Now right it down. Yep. Really successful brands spill it out. Get it out of your head on paper. Call it rough notes or an organized brand and product guide like the one’s we create — either way you will need a team to understand this brand, product and direction in order to keep going in a determined direction. It’s only fair to all involved. Good clear direction allows good people to help you.

Then keep this document open and adjust over time. It’s only paper. Good brands are flexible and evolve with the needs and culture of their audience. Even critical brands that seem to define their market and audiences quietly flex to adjust to trends and cultural influences.

You’re now an expert

Got it? Now make sure that everyone you work with — everybody in your camp gets it too. It’s critical. It’s difficult enough to run a company and manage the brand and product while battling adversity and market climactic changes. The last thing you need is to be working uphill against people on your team that don’t know brand — your brand. You cannot be constantly starting at square one as this is tedious, wastes resources and causes audience confusion — brand erosion.

Brand erosion is what we call it. We’ve all seen it. It’s where a new brand; a restaurant, product, place, shop, magazine makes such an amazing start and collects a huge following fast. They grow, add staff and product width and then you see it. Erosion of service. Thinning of the idea. Drying of the richness or dulling of the shine. The quality or passion falls out. The prices go up but the service doesn’t.

Why? Because someone, or a bunch of people in the organization don’t get it. It’s sometimes just a job. But often they aren’t indoctrinated like the first ones in were. They can’t understand the brand because they haven’t been trained. There isn’t a system in place for training on brand and so it falls apart, opportunities are missed, trans are avoided and the culture comes apart. Don’t make this mistake.

Make people read the notes. Encourage them to live with the audience and become a part of them. Help them find your original passion and excite them to take what you started further than you could have ever imagined.