The bottom Line on Branding

by Dave Curtis on 06/13/2013 · 5 comments

in Brand Marketing, Branding, Branding Tips

New York Costumes at 808 Broadway & 104 4th Avenue at 11th Street, Manhattan

New York Costumes at 808 Broadway & 104 4th Avenue at 11th Street, Manhattan

Branding Defined

Public Relations, public image, social relations, public perception… Branding is one of those big words a lot of SEOs and marketers are throwing around today. After all “GOOGLE” favors “BRANDS” but (but!) what exactly is a brand? How can you be a brand if you’re not Sachs Fifth Avenue, Trump Tower or the Metropolitan Opera House? How can you possibly reach brand status if you’re a diner on East 57th Street, or coffee shop in the East Village, or a fabric store in Chelsea.

So what’s a standard definition for “Brand Identity”? We’ll go with WikiPedia for this one since there’s little controversy as to what this term means.

“Brand identity

Brand Identity Defined


By the above definition brand identity is something put together (assembled) by the brand owner. Any confusion as to brand is that of which came first, the chicken or the egg? The brand can be dreamed up before the service or product even exists, or the service or product can already exist and the branding done as a part of marketing later. Note that the above definition distinctly states that since the owner must create the brand identity, but later says that it can take on a life of its own and diverge from what the original brand identity was supposed to be. This can be good or bad – or both – take the recent situation with Nutella  fans in a World Wide Rave wanting to declare “World Nutella Day.” The Nutella company lawyers wanted to put a stop to it.

Part of the point of a brand is that it gain a company a reputation. The Nutella Branding included (among many other things) the use of a squirrel – both a real squirrel and a cartoon form of a squirrel in some of its advertising. So Nutella was purposely branded in a controlled way as whimsical, fun, and certainly a little bit nutty!

But the company had no intention of turning its Nutella product line into its (perceived by the public) company flagship, and that’s what the World Nutella Day action threatened to do. That sort of spontaneous fan based action could possibly, seriously, major media “brand” a single product as a worldwide popular sensation and cement that brand reputation to the parent company’s carefully sculpted reputation itself overnight – possibly diminishing it.

This was exactly the problem with Nutella’s reputation going world wide and viral, and why it was perceived as negative for the overall Ferrero brand, (The Nutella brand is owned by the Ferrero family). Ferrero’s brand identity is much more strongly focused on finer chocolates and it was most recently interested in purchasing Cadbury, the well know British confectionery, which was ultimately purchased by Kraft Foods instead.

Branding and How to Do It

That said, branding of services and goods needs to consider every aspect of service, display, packaging, and even the words and actions of the employees including those who answer the phone. Do they answer with a “Hello, Hilton Hotel, David speaking, how may I help you?” or do they pick up and say “Yes, hello?”. Do they go out of their way to walk every single person who asks for a product location at Wallmart directly to the product aisle and help them locate it? The branding doesn’t have to be for “Coke” or “Pepsi” but is often what words your employees and you use and which ones you don’t. If you run a not quite antique boutique is your product description going to always be, across the board, “gently used” rather than “vintage”? If your selling plumbing parts will your employees be discouraged from using common terms or will they be required to use the manufacturer’s product names instead?

Those are the basics of the “Company Bible” (a term I adapted from “Soap Opera Bible”) of do’s and don’t’s and the long term story line of where the brand is supposed to be going, and how everyone involved is supposed to be getting it there.

But now take a look at this line: “Brand identity is fundamental to consumer recognition and symbolizes the brand’s differentiation from competitors.”

Yummy Noodle Restaurant, 48 Bowery  New York, NY 10013, Chinatown

Yummy Noodle Restaurant, 48 Bowery New York, NY 10013, Chinatown

How does your Chinese Restaurant in Chinatown differentiate itself from the Chinese Restaurant right next door to yours if everyone working in each is Chinese, your menu’s are similar, you both have red and gold wallpaper, and your prices are the same?

Ahhh! “The Brand’s Differentiation from Competitors!” Here it is! Big city or small town not everyone needs to understand the company brand, but there has to be something that distinguishes the personality of Chinese restaurant A from Chinese Restaurant B. And that is called “Brand”. It is both the cultured “personality” of the business and the way the business performs, but it’s more than simply what happens in the business, but also how the business extends itself out into the community.

And this is where you let it shine! Here’s where your company personality comes into play and everything good you do, everything your company takes part in in the community to help others out, whether it be the scholarship program you help out or created, or the club you belong to that sponsors and mans the big dragon at Chinese New Year every year, or any of the other great things the company does and the enthusiasm everyone shares for providing service and loving what they do so that it shows… all of that is the company brand as well.

Finally, having just brought up enthusiasm, company name brands also involve such things as energy and commitment. So if you have a photo opportunity take it. If you can make a video of an event you’re taking part in do it. If you are part of an organization doing something good and there are ceremonies be there, and more importantly than that, take the stage and the mic if the opportunity exists and “don’t hide your light under a bushel” – let it shine for everyone to see.

Shaping public image, influencing public perception through community relations… (remember those college keggers back in the 70’s sponsored by Budweiser and Miller?) while not exactly “propaganda” there is a lot of directed spin carefully crafted into the works to bring along and promote the image – and then it’s the company’s job (and those working for the company) to adhere to whatever level of professionalism and public decorum works best to fit that image.

This also puts a bit of responsibility on employees off the job in a lot of cases. Employers are checking Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, and rowdy drinking at the local pub or carousing in public could damage the brand image as well. Small town people probably intuitively understand what it takes to make a brand because they understand how to stay within the lines, but bringing the concept of what part their role plays and getting it across to them that they can turn it on and direct it consciously is an important lesson for those who really want their brand recognition to solidify and grow.

So what do you do if you grow your company brand so big your fans want to start a world wide rave about it? You should be so lucky! 🙂 You might also want to consider reading 5 Mistakes You Can Make To Kill Your Brand on a Twitter friend’s site.

What have your experiences with branding been? Either for your own company or for other companies you’ve worked with in efforts to get them branded?

1 DeeVon Quirolo June 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm

Great article on building up the right stuff.

2 Dave Curtis June 14, 2013 at 7:14 pm

Thanks DeeVon.

3 Michael June 14, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Me help rank you higher search with 100 percent all natural hat link farm and content condominiums. All and new! So. You sign?

4 Dave Curtis June 15, 2013 at 5:44 am

Nice, Michael. Thank you so much for the valuable comment. However in the future mention NYC more, would you please?

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