Branding is probably one of the most “volatile” activities that take place in a company because it is hard to isolate, to track and to evaluate. But before measuring the impact of branding in business, let us pass through some very often met myths related to what a brand and branding actually mean:
- A brand is a logo (possibly together with a set of visual symbols): false.
One of the most frequent mistakes related to branding is its interpretation strictly connected to the visual expression, be it the logo, colors, design or other “seeable” elements. Visual identity is part of the brand and is systematically worked on, but the purpose is to connect “what is seen” with “what it means”. When we see the two yellow arches of McDonalds’ logo, most of us “see” hamburgers or fast-food, menus for kids, colored and noisy restaurants, sometimes we even remember the smell specific to the products and also instantaneously we get the perception we have in our minds of what McDonalds means to us, be it positive or negative. The aim of visual elements in branding is to generate in our minds all these perceptions in a controlled and not chaotic manner, in order to project us closer to the purchasing behavior.
- A brand has nothing to do with the business and the products: false.
A lot of marketers, communication and advertising professionals split campaigns in two big categories: image (brand) and product ones. Just as some businesspeople consider branding as a separate activity from the main activities meant to attract income. Totally wrong. Reality is that branding is not separated, nor does it float around or above the business, it is tightly blended with each activity which can lead to creating some perceptions in the prospects’ minds. It is also about the products, it is about their quality and the way they look, it is about the employees and the way they treat prospects or the way they talk about the company, it is about the services and the way in which they are provided or not and sometimes it is about the partners of a company who continue the client’s experience one way or another – for instance, in case of buying products online, the perception about the respective brand can be altered if they are delivered with delay or broken, even if this service was provided by another company.
- The brand belongs to marketing: false
Brand communication can be assigned to the marketing department, as position in charge with commercial communication in a company, but the total amount of perceptions which form what we call a brand “image” (as a synthetic concept) is formed through a lot more interactions of potential buyers than the exposure to advertising messages: the interaction itself with the products, with the people providing services, with the place where they are sold, what others say about them, a.s.o. – are as many sources generating perceptions as advertising. When we have an interaction with a product in a store, be it a negative experience with a salesperson or a positive one related to the way in which products are exhibited in an inspiring way, or an opinion shared by a friend about a product he or she bought, the impressions generated by these specific interactions are stronger than any ad or post on Facebook that you saw. Which leads us to the conclusion that branding is actually the responsibility of the entire company.
- Branding takes years:
Not only that it takes time, but it is also hard to automate. Though information is available more than ever before, though entire business processes can be automated and accelerated today by means of smart programs, the branding process as a modality of creating certain intended perceptions coherent in the consumer’s mind is as slow as now or 20 or 50 years ago. And that is because the human mind has the same capacity to receive and retain information as back then, if not less, considering the huge amount of info and background noise much more powerful nowadays. We can somehow even say that branding is slower today than some time ago because it takes longer to attract attention and convince people, while hundreds of other similar brands do just the same.
- Branding is optional: false.
Even if we have a defined process and a team to deal with it or not, we do branding anyway. The difference comes from the fact that if we do not do it in a structured and well channeled manner, we risk that the impressions and perceptions created are not coherent, or even worse, opposed. In other words, each time we leave things go with the flow we lose the opportunity to build a clear and uniform brand in the prospects’ minds. But we cannot stop the generation of impressions that the consumers form anyway in their various interactions with the product, environment or people representing the company. It is our choice to determine what we want those perceptions to be like (i.e. what we call positioning) and channel our resources and actions in the respective direction. Or not.
And because perceptions are influenced by context and perspective, let me leave you with one question: which red bullet do you think is bigger?
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