Branding Basics

Over the years, Kolbeco has been involved in a number of branding campaigns – either for brand new companies, or to refine a brand for existing firms. Some of the folks we’ve worked with have been around for 30+ years, and had just never been able to hone in on it. Regardless of the situation, there are several common pieces of advice that we always give our clients:

1.    Your brand is not your logo – your brand is a feeling, and an experience that each person you come into contact with has. It’s your story, and your promise, to your audience about what doing business with you or using your product will be like.  Think about Southwest Airlines. They’re all about low cost fairs, paired with a fun and memorable experience.  They’re casual, relaxed, and do things other airlines wouldn’t.  Remember the rapping flight attendant?  The freedom the flight attendant felt to do such a thing is indicative of the brand, and wouldn’t have been right on another airline. Which leads me to the next point …

2.    Don’t try to tell someone else’s story, tell your own – it would have been obvious that, say, American, was trying to imitate Southwest if they tried to get a rapping flight attendant, then let it go viral on YouTube.  That’s just not their story.  Or, remember the Avis commercials where they talked about being OK to not be #1? It just makes them try harder!  They crafted their own story, and a unique promise about the customer experience.  So while it’s OK to be aware of what your competitors are doing, never try to tell their story. You’ll never tell it as well as they do, and you won’t be able to create a brand for yourself doing it.

3.    Dig deeper, and live your brand – when we begin branding conversations with clients and ask what makes them different from others in the field, the first answers are always: “Value! Great Customer Service! Competitive Prices!”  Then we always respond with something like “Good for you! You’re in business!” We all laugh, and get down to the nitty gritty. What do those things mean for the customer? How does it create an experience? What’s going to happen when they walk in the door or pick up the phone to call your company?  I recently read the book “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh of Zappos.  They’re all about creating a WOW experience for clients and are willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen. In the book, Hsieh tells a story about his buddies calling the Zappos 800 number one night to see if the Zappos employee would help them get a pizza delivered.  Guess what? She did! Delivering that WOW experience isn’t about saying they give good customer service, they WOW every customer, every time even if it has nothing to do with shoes.

I’m a business owner too, so I know how hard it can be to really navigate these types of thoughts and conversations about your business. In many cases, it’s great to get some outside advice and someone to moderate discussions, push you to a different level, and ask questions you may not have considered.  Whether you get help with this process, or manage it on your own, remember the three points above as you start your discovery process. They serve as the foundation that will get you off on the right foot.

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