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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What IS a Brand?

Quick - what words come to mind when I ask, "What is a brand?"
(I'll give you a minute)

Chances are, you thought of a product like Nike. Or a company like McDonald's. Or a cereal manufacturer like Kellogg's. Or perhaps a logo or a brand name popped into your head.

And now - quick - what comes to mind when I ask you "what is your company's brand position?" 
Need some help with this question? You're not alone. Chances are, unless you work in the field of marketing, you struggled with the second question. And even if you do work in marketing, from time to time you'll struggle with this question, too.

I've heard it said (and I would credit the source if I knew it...) that your brand is what other people think of you -- or your company.

This is NOT a brand.
It's a branding iron that is custom made to put your name on steaks that you BBQ at home. Granted, it is a really, really cool brand and one that I'll consider as a gift for anyone who loves to grill steaks. And/or who loves seeing their name on things. Especially things they cook.

You can't create a brand - but rather you can help to formulate a brand strategy to help to shape opinions and steer the direction of your company. Done right, it helps to solidify what makes your company and products unique, and it will bring together your internal and external audiences who will embrace and celebrate the brand message.

If you think that a brand strategy is akin to a branding iron, in that you "create" the brand by making your mark on things - you're going to have some struggles.

How do you start creating a brand strategy? 
Talk to your employees. Talk to your customers. Figure out what you are and what you're not, and how you are unique in your industry. Find out what your current communications - web, social, digital, ads - are saying about your company and figure out if they are lining up with what your internal and external audiences have shared.

How do you manage your brand strategy over time?
Keep tabs on how your company and industry is changing. Keep talking to those internal and external folks. Identify your brand champions or ambassadors, and embrace them. Not literally. Well, maybe occasionally, if a hug is warranted and you're close. But rather, embrace them by asking their opinions, their input, and for their support.

What do YOU think?
What are some of the best branding campaigns you've seen?
What makes a brand memorable?

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