BRAND is an incredibly simple concept… made complex and difficult by those trying to sell their services. I know that statement will garner a lot of disagreement and debate from agencies and others but for you, the Business Owner or CEO, it should be a breath of fresh air.
A Brand is often described as “what people say behind your back when you aren’t present.” I sort of agree with this statement and sort of don’t. I’ll explain further along…
What I agree with completely is that “a brand is what others say about you, not what you say about yourself.” This is what your brand really means and stands for… because your audience (made up primarily of customers) is saying this about you. And their opinion counts in the eyes of others because they are generally trusted sources. Companies aren’t trusted nearly as much (90% vs. 12% to be exact) so even if a company tells you what their brand is about, not many really believe it… at least not as much as if your buddy says it to you.
You trust your buddies and if they say a company is X then it’s X… regardless of whether the company agrees with them or not. Today, THE AUDIENCE HAS ALL THE POWER in the market and they carry massive credibility because they are a TRUSTED source of information. After all, you trust your buddies far more than you trust some large, conglomerate organization, right? Trust is a significant factor when it comes to your brand.
And just to be clear, we aren’t talking about your logo, or your cool graphic, or colors or anything else that companies spend millions on with agencies to create these so-called “brands.” We are talking about what customers and others who have interacted with you in some way have to say about you… that is your true brand. It isn’t influenced as much by what the company says it is, it is influenced by what your customers (and others) say about you. You can have the most mundane logo and color scheme but if everyone says you are awesome and people should buy from you, they buy from you. So let’s just put the whole logo discussion in the closet for the sake of this discussion about your true brand.
If you agree that your BRAND is what others say about you, what is it they are going to say? This is where the magic lies for any company… getting their customers to verbalize what they are truly all about and how they are differentiated. When this occurs, companies win out over their competition.
Let’s go back to my beginning statement… BRAND is an incredibly simple concept. The key word here is SIMPLE. When a company tries to make their brand so complex (usually because they think this makes them look more important and valuable… which it doesn’t) the audience becomes confused by the complexity. And when the audience is confused because something is complex, THEY DON’T TALK ABOUT IT!
If something is too complex, your audience doesn’t want to invest their valuable time (Forrester says it is everyone’s most valuable asset) understanding all the complexity AND they don’t want to look stupid when they talk about it… so they don’t. They don’t talk about what they don’t thoroughly understand. So if it’s complex or difficult, they don’t invest time to understand it better, they punt and don’t talk about it at all. And as we all agreed to earlier, what your audience talks about is your brand… but if they aren’t talking about you, what is your brand? Nothing. It isn’t anything that anyone is going to say that is consistent so you have “chaos and confusion” in your brand… this is a huge contributor to BRAND EROSION.
On the other side of the complex is SIMPLICITY. When your brand is simple and everyone gets it, they feel both compelled and empowered to talk about it. They get it so they can easily talk about it and communicate about it. When a brand is a simple message every customer understands, YOUR CUSTOMER TELLS EVERYONE! They get you and what your brand is all about. And what you can do for them so they aren’t shy talking about you. THIS IS POWER IN THE MARKET TODAY.
Here’s the other side of what I disagreed with earlier in regards to defining your brand as “what people talk about behind your back when you aren’t present.” SOCIAL MEDIA. Today, your audience is very open and willing to talk about you not just behind your back, but to their thousands of friends, connections, followers, and other groups they are engaged with on Social Media. They love to tell others about you… your brand… what it means to them… and whether they trust you. If you capture this side of the discussion by the audience, you dominate today and eclipse your competition… but it has to be simple.
There are TWO KEY TAKEAWAYS to think about and ask yourself as a leader in your company…
- Is your BRAND SIMPLE… is it so “dirt simple” that everyone gets it and can tell someone else about it quickly and easily? If it is, you win. If it isn’t, simplify it until it fits the “dirt simple” test and everyone says the same thing about you.
- Are we GETTING TALKED ABOUT… both in-person (behind our backs when we aren’t present) and on Social Media channels in TRUSTED networks? And what are they saying… is it simply about our “commodity” products and services or is it about the “experience” we give our customers? If it isn’t about the customer experience, they will only be talking about you about 30% of the time since approximately 70% of the dialog on social channels is about the experience they had with your company.
Answer these two questions and you will know whether or not you have a solid BRAND. If you answered YES to both questions, then PROTECT YOUR BRAND AT ALL COSTS and so whatever it takes to continually answer these questions with a resounding “YES.” If you answered “NO” to either question, there is work to do and lots of opportunities.
Now you have some direction of how to move forward. Recognizing what needs to be changed is always half the battle… putting plans together to make it simple and get talked about is where the rubber meets the road and the real work (and value) begins. This will help you become much more CUSTOMER OBSESSED and move you closer to becoming a REMARKABLE company. If you ever want to just bounce some ideas around with regard to where you are with your brand, give me a shout and I would be happy to have a discussion with you and help point you in the right direction.