My Love/Hate Relationship With Branding

I openly admit that I have a “Love/Hate Relationship” with branding when it comes to my own products and services.  I’ve been on both sides of this relationship and have landed firmly on the side of “meh”.

Some people get entirely bent out of shape when it comes to managing, controlling and promoting their brand.  They work themselves into a complete fit of inactivity because something isn’t right with their logo or colour scheme.  I’ve seen people some people make chronically stupid business decisions in an effort to “protect their brand”.

Conversely, I’ve known people who run companies and have really strong brand recognition completely ignore it.  They could build a better asset for themselves if they just focused a fraction of a day on getting their brand strategy sorted and being consistent with how they present their products and services.

Let’s clear something up – brands are not just logos and colour schemes.  That’s a pretty naive way to look at your brand.  It certainly includes these things, but at a deeper fundamental level, your brand is about the experience people have when they deal with your company or your products.

I’m not a brand expert.  Not even close.  I have a reasonable understanding of the importance of delivering a consistent “feel” for people who come in contact with your business.  Interestingly, I’ve been on both sides of the “brand divide”.

When I was running the SaaS company a few years back, we spent a fair bit of time from a management perspective nailing this down.  Our product served a complicated industry and performed a complicated function, so for us, it was important for us to project an image of being friendly, easy and approachable – we needed to make people feel like we understood the problem they were facing.

It started with our visual impression.  We did a rebranding exercise to make sure that our logo was “friendly”, lots of rounded edges and a nice warm blue.  The blue was chosen because we were handling billions of dollars in projects for our clients and blue is a “trust colour” so it was very deliberate.

From there, we geared our new client marketing and onboarding to focus on training.  The idea was to make our clients feel comfortable that they could get into the product straightaway.  We had quick start programs and templating available to get them up and running within a couple days – by comparison, our biggest competitor sold their product with an eight-week consulting engagement for new customers BEFORE they could even start using the product.

Everything we did from product development, marketing and even our 24/7 help desk was focused entirely on the singular goal of our product was accessible and easy to use.  That was our brand: a well-supported company with a customer-friendly product set.

On the other side of the coin, much of what I’ve done online has been completely devoid of any real “brand strategy”.  Casual Marketer is largely the exception over the last five or six years because I put a bit of thought into this project.  Most of my stuff though, I focused on delivering outcomes for customers and ignored pretty much everything else.

To be fair, this has worked for me to a degree.  Our services businesses have been pretty successful and if you asked our clients, they’d probably give you a half dozen answers when asked to describe our business.  Some of those would be positive and some would be negative.  The positives would come from competence and capability and the negatives would come from a lack of focus and consideration.

It’s that last comment that is really important to understand.  If you don’t consider your brand strategy then eventually your customers will develop their own opinions about your input.  Having a strategy directs your company’s efforts to ensure that your clients think of you the way you want them to.

But you have to be careful to not let your brand cripple your business.  I know of one case where someone had an opportunity to put themselves in front of 150,000 potential customers talking about their area of expertise under the banner of the platform owner and refused because they requested that this person remove their twitter handle from being on screen throughout the entire video.  The request wasn’t even to remove it entirely, just to show the Twitter handle only at the beginning and the end of the video.

That’s a case of dying on a hill that just doesn’t matter.  You need to display some common sense with this topic otherwise you end up stifling yourself and hurting your business.

Again, I’m not a branding expert and I don’t pretend to be, but I understand the importance of giving some thought to how you want people to see your company or your product and more importantly, how they talk to other people about you.

Take some time to think about how people perceive you and your business and then structure the experience people have to get the outcome you want.  If you can do that and stay consistent, you’ll get absolutely get the benefit.

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