August 22/29, 2016; Volume 31, Number 5
By Mike Peterson
We are surrounded by brands. They touch, influence and can dominate us. And yet we barely know they are there.
Today on your way to work, you didn’t just drive a car, you drove a BMW or a Mercedes. You didn’t stop for a donut, you stopped for a Dunkin’ Donut. You didn’t stop for a cup of coffee, you stopped for Starbucks. You’re wearing Michael Kors, Dolce & Gabbana, Jimmy Choo, Ralph Lauren and so on.
Tonight, you’ll sip on a Belvedere or Jack Daniels, knock back a Stella, or for the teetotalers, you won’t have a glass of water, you’ll have an Evian, Perrier or a Fiji. If the world can find a way to brand water, imagine what you can do with your talents and your business.
Imagine what it must be like to be a non-brand in a world of brands? So, the obvious question is…are you a brand?
First, what is a brand? Hundreds of books and papers have been written on this subject, but a quick, concise answer would be this: A brand is a unique set of associations that the brand aspires to create and maintain. These associations are relationships, much like you have with a best friend, that the brand must consistently nurture and maintain. Brands are trusted, dependable, personal to each individual’s emotional connections.
Second, do you have an association, a relationship with everyone you touch in the conduct of your business? Is it consistent, unique and clearly differentiated from your competition? Larry Light, the well-known brand strategist says, “The primary focus of your brand must be on how special you are, not how cheap you are.” Too often we face the temptation to break promises with our brand, which does nothing but dilute the perception of our brand essence.
Third, in the research by Kouzes and Posner, “The Leadership Challenge,” the authors write: “You must first know who you are, what you believe in, what you stand for, and what you care about most.” Do you? I don’t mean you, the person; I mean you, the business. It’s an odd question but the answer is fundamental to driving your business as a brand. Who is your business and what does it stand for? These two questions form the foundation for any brand identification process. Knowing who you are and what you stand for centers you and your company. It allows clients of like mind to engage you.
One other thing to keep in mind: Be consistent in speaking in the voice of the brand. Too many of us get caught in the trap of selling a “product” and not brand values. We’re taught product knowledge, we focus on how something is made or where it’s made. Your real value is in the intangible benefits of your brand that go beyond the physical. Products are made in a factory; brands are bought by consumers. Products rest on a shelf; brands reside in the mind. Products can be copied; brands can never be copied, only imitated. Why? Because they are relationships. They are intangible. They are trusted.
Once you start to understand and believe in brand marketing it will change your life. It will change your business. You don’t have to be big to be a brand. You don’t have to have a lot of money to be a brand. However, you do have to know yourself and the reasons why you are special and believe. It will center you and give you confidence to make the hard, and right decisions.
Mike Peterson, regional publisher at LUXE Interiors + Design, will be a speaker at TISE 2017. He will present the session: “Are You a Brand? Thriving in a World of Brands and Brand-Based Leadership,” on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017–8 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. and noon to 1 p.m., respectively.