Sunday, September 16, 2012

The Branding Mistake That Could Cost You Everything


"You have so much PROMISE.  
If only you applied yourself."
- Love Mom
Like you, every new start-up has promise too.  Yet, so few  actually deliver on their promise.
In business, a simple misstep can dictate the health - and long life of your company.  While branding boffs may not kill your mother, it certainly could be the death of another loved one - your brand.

Whether or not the problem ends with brand integrity, it likely begins with not shouting clearly enough (or authentically enough) so that others hear you. 
Sadly,  only a handful of brands have the branding skill-set to clearly tell the world what that promise is from day one.

If you either lack the skills to share what you intend OR if you lack the follow'll need the following guidelines to help you unravel the branding question.  

...But first...


In essence branding is the reflection of a company's core promise across every element or touch point connecting to the customer.

To you, it's a big pain in the ass.  But to the customer, it's everything (at first, anyway.) 
[An endless number of sources offer a clinical definition of branding. I would suggest a quick search to get a deep understanding of the practice if you want to learn more.]

Like a wayward teen, start ups must understand branding as being similar to the clothes that you wear, the way you speak and the gestures you use and the events that you attend.  It’s the methods and the means – and the messages you share.  It is the way others understand who you and what you stand for. 

And just like what you wear doesn't define or limit you, it remains a critical first step  to survive today's market madness. Believe it or not your mother might be the best expert on the subject.


Imagine a conversation between a brand and their imaginary Mommy.
The conversation might begin with Mommy saying (in Mommy code) "your promise - much like your mouth - could use a good scrubbing (with loads of soap.)" 

And then it would turn into a lecture about how she expected her kids to live up to their potential (even if it killed her.) Followed by doors slamming and some stomping.  Minutes later, mumbled, "I'm sorry" emerges. And all is right with the world as new promises are made about that and that and so and so. 
But despite the forgiveness, Mom always knows.
Can you see it happening like that?  I can (and have).  If only your customers were as forgiving as your Mommy.  At the very least, they are just as skeptical - and hopeful that you'll deliver after a flub.


See, brands - like rebellious teens - have great promise.  Such promise is what fuels the excitement and anticipation when a start up starts up.  So how do make Mom proud when she's convinced'll be the death of her?
You follow through on your commitment (which begins with a promise.) 
And when things go awry, you need to "teen-up" and acknowledge the error without having to be called on it. Here's where it all goes downhill.  When it does - remember the following guidelines. 
  • RESULTS ARE YOUR BEST GURU - AND HOW YOU ARE JUDGED.  Both having promise and making a promise are things anyone can have/do.  Few people (and fewer brands) are truly ready to follow though on a promise with commitment.  And as we've seen time and time again -  You either deliver (or don't).  But don't think that there isn't a cost.  There always is when it comes to broken promises. 
  • NEVER BLUR, BEND OR BLEND:  While teenagers may notoriously blend in without feeling the burn, brands cannot afford to be unclear.  Without clarity about who you are, most will fail to recognize the value of your brand within a growing crowd. 
  • SHOUT SOFTLY, AND CLEARLY:  As a general rule, effective marketing campaigns that reinforce product – and your brand - follow the Law of 29.  No one believes you the first time you say something - so you have to say it around 29 times within a certain time frame before anyone even hears you.  This is true for brands and for people.  Politicians exemplify this when they repeat the same talking points over and over again (as they did often during this past convention season.)
Oh - and if these wise words don't help, always remember that no matter what, you'll always be her Bobby (um, I mean, baby). 


  1. Very clever way of instilling a simple, yet often overlooked Marketing concept. What are your thoughts on the importance of a clear and concise MISSION STATEMENT, or code of ethics for a brand?

    1. Holly: thank you for the feedback. The guiding principle for any company begins with a simple geometric shape - the Strategic Pyramid. Inspired by your question, please look out for a post dedicated to this critical concept. It's a unique way to understand the value and best practices for brand purpose, mission, vision and goals. Socially Yours, Bobby


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