Your Brand Needs Attention

Published June 26, 2015 in the Sacramento Business Journal

What is a brand? Ask five different people, and you’re sure to get five different answers.

Why the confusion? Because a brand is complex. It’s not a square box, but rather something amorphous that can be difficult to articulate — and thus difficult to operationalize. Yet those are the two things that need to be completed in order to create brand value.

Just how valuable is a brand? Two companies on the latest Forbes list of “the world’s most valuable brands” have brand values higher than their brand revenues. Those two are Google, with an estimated brand value of $65.6 billion, and Coca-Cola, estimated at $56 billion.

Think about both of those brands for a moment. Certain visuals, thoughts and feelings come to mind. That is not by accident. They have spent a lot of time — and, yes, money — harnessing the power of their brands and building them into something incredibly valuable.

In reality, a successful brand is like owning the most expensive real estate in the world: a corner of the consumer’s mind.
From working with many executives, I’ve learned that there is still a disconnect between what a brand is and the importance of creating it, building it and nurturing it. Shawn Parr, CEO of the design firm Bulldog Drummond, wrote an article for Fast Company breaking down a brand into six key ideas.

Below is my take on those six key points that any CEO can understand.

TWEET THIS: Your brand needs attention. 6 Tips from @MerlotMarketing CEO @DebiHammond. http://bit.ly/1eeRW9M #MarketingTips #MarketingBlog

1) Brand has many parts. Too many business owners and executives think of their logo or ad campaign as their brand. A brand does not start and stop there. Whatever your brand, it needs to be implemented and felt at every point of interaction with customers — from the way the receptionist answers the phone to the cleanliness of your restrooms

2) Appeal to heart and mind. As much as we want to analyze, crunch numbers and sell our products and services through features and benefits, your brand goes beyond that — to an emotional place that should be defined and then nurtured.

3) Brands stand out. Think about brands with strong identities. They are memorable (the Tiffany blue box, for example), courageous (Apple), relevant (GoPro), fun (Disney), bold (Virgin) and this list could go on. Each brand has a personality, an identity and something special that makes consumers want to be part of it.

4) CEOs must own the brand. The most successful companies have chief executives that understand the importance of a brand. Branding success starts at the very top. A marketing team cannot be successful without the support and complete buy-in from the CEO.

5) Brands need care. Just like people or pets, a brand needs to be nurtured. This means investing both the time and money. But all the money in the world will not create a great brand. Branding is a work in progress that needs constant attention

6) It all starts with your brand. We are frequently asked to develop ad campaigns, social and PR programs, websites and more without any thought to the brand itself. How can you create all of these tactical elements when there is no brand clarity? The starting point for any successful campaign is to have a clear understanding of your brand.

Where does your brand rank on your list of business initiatives? If it’s not near the top, your brand won’t be either.

Debi Hammond is president and CEO of Merlot Marketing Inc., a Sacramento-based branding, advertising, social media and PR agency. Contact her at debi@merlotmarketing.com.

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