Branding used to be the process of creating top-of-mind … primarily through impressions (i.e advertising). Brands were built by projecting a certain image then reinforcing it through name recognition, saturation and institutional trust. Images were protected, messaging was strict and sameness in the form of consistency was encouraged. This process built brands in every aspect of life: food products, cars, fuel, finance, fashion, etc.
Then mobile devices, social media and Millennials brought us today’s “social era” of business and broke the above model in to thousands of pieces. Now, branding is everything that involves human interaction. Inside of an organization, it’s strategy, culture, leadership style, workplace environment and a thousand other details. In the marketplace, it’s marketing/advertising, customer experience, responsiveness, packaging, nice lobbies. clean restrooms … and yet another thousand details. In both areas, it involves a myriad of tactics: web, social, advertising, events, content – just a name a few. All of them over-lapping and woven together to create a brand.
If branding is everything, what is the starting point? Innovation. Or more simply put, be different. Not pretending to be different through a quirky advertisement. But different at an intrinsic, DNA level. In my first book “Oatmeal v Bacon: How to Differentiate in a Generic World”, I refer to this level of being truly different as being “Bacon”. This is a brand that is so profoundly different that it appeals to the emotional part of the brain while generating desire and excitement. When consumed, it jolts you with the desire to tell everyone of the experience – to recruit new believers.
This effort to be truly different begins at a strategic leadership level. A brand simply can’t afford to have Oatmeal Factory Managers in leadership roles. You need leaders that are disruptors; that are attracted to change. Disruptive leaders create a culture of innovation that permeates all areas of an organization – and are manifested in all areas of the brand.
It is rare for marketing to fail due to poor execution (local advertising aside!) Failed marketing is usually a brand failure – and therefore is a leadership failure. Using traditional models, someone with authority in the organization tried to create differentiation through sameness.
As a leader in your organization, you can’t possibly worry about all of the details of the brand experience. But you can greatly influence the culture by reminding your audience (internal and external) of the vision, encouraging self-expression, allowing failure to create change, etc. Emphasizing these areas will nurture a “Branding is Everything” mindset that will reach all levels of an organization and be manifested in … everything.
Are you a Bacon Brand? Take my free assessment here: Bacon Assessment.