Branding – Is It Much Ado About Nothing?

Posted on by Mark Fernandez

As an owner of a creative company that, for 17 years has been successfully and extensively been dealing with, creating and being the custodian of brands, a recurring question I am asked is “Branding. How important is it and should I rebrand my business?”.

You don’t really have to go much further to seek evidence that branding is extremely important than to look at two of the best mistos of marketing over the last two decades – Steve Jobs and Sir Richard Branson. Both these men not only understood the importance, they have natural talent in the building and driving of a brand. Without the emphasis of branding no doubt they would have been very successful businessmen anyway, but through living their brand, the brands themselves have taken on their own personality, and that personality and culture is adopted the world over by the loyal brand consumers who love those brands.

In comparison, think of a business name like Berkshire Hathaway and dwell for a few seconds on what that name means to you, or how it makes you feel in comparison to Apple or Virgin. Warren Buffett, who is one of the wealthiest men in the world, it is fair to say has never put a great priority on branding (check out the website www.berkshirehathaway.com). Not being a great brand certainly has not hindered his opportunities and successes, simply because he is such a great businessman. But you can only wonder, if he had the same marketing traits of a Branson, what the difference for his companies brand may have been. 

So is branding important? Absolutely. But is it the main element to success or business? In Buffett’s case clearly not. Like a diamond there are many facets to creating, running and building a successful, sustainable business. Branding is just one.

I see brands a bit like the rind of an orange. You peel it back and ultimately the flesh, pulp and juice of the fruit determines the quality. Lets imagine you go to the local market and have the choice of two brands of oranges, when you pick them both up and examine them the store owner invites you to sample and review them for him. One orange has a rich, orange, blemish free skin. It is plump and inviting, but after you eagerly cut it in half you find the fruit granular, tasteless and disappointing. The second orange is irregular in shape, it has blemishes here and there and overall isn’t that inviting, but when you bite into it you are immediately transformed by the sense of taste, the flesh is fine and juicy, but more so the perfectly balanced sweetness of the pulp and juice leaves you wanting for more. As you walk out with a bag full of the less aesthetic oranges, the store owner wonders if maybe there could be a better way to market them. You could suggest he brands them in a way so the look of the orange somehow be used to help define the contrast of the taste, and the road to building a brand with a cultural fit may quickly begin.

So my orange analogy hopefully can work just as well for a business. A great looking, well branded business with a poorly designed structure, culture or organisation is poor fruit. A poorly branded business that is awesome and has best practice in all the other facets of a great business has every chance to be a successful one because the fruit or the business is so good.

So my advice to both types of businesses would be the same albeit opposite. For example, the first business belongs to say Joe. You would say “Joe, you have a great brand that’s really well recognized, and while you have some great things going for your business you need to really invest in fixing up operational and aligning the service and product offering with the brand perception”. Naturally this is a bit more that waving a magic wand, but I really believe that if you are offering a product or service that is in a market with demand, but you are not currently competing well with rival businesses then you have a massive upside and opportunity to investigate and invest in those lagging facets of the business and turn it around.

If you are John and you have the other business, well then you are a marketer’s dream. All they need to do with John’s business is capture the culture of that business and strategically give it a new skin that aligns and represents his great business and he quickly has the best of both worlds. He is now flying but his business brand must be totally aligned with its culture.

In my experience many businesses have lots of variety in both of these variations, but I can tell you there is nothing better than a business who’s product and service hand in hand reflect the culture and style of the brand. Without a shadow of a doubt we all know the Virgin and Apple brands are testimony to the strength of the passion of those who founded and drove them, and I believe as business owners we should follow that path too.

For further information please contact Bruce Reynolds at Crush.

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