Waste. Time-sink. Worthless. Branding.
Some people would have you think these terms belong together.
Once upon a time, the word “branding” brought up the image of a successful businesses strategy. It was the word you’d use to describe the perceptions that spring up in people’s brains when they see your business, but somewhere along the way, the term “branding” has gotten a bad rap.
By that, I mean it was stomped into the ground repeatedly until it was an unpleasant smear that you’d avoid if you saw it on the sidewalk.
As someone who has worked on both the direct marketing and branding sides of the fence, I’ve seen and heard it all. The flower child in me wonders, “Why can’t we just all get along, man?” The marketer in me wants hard facts.
So I’ve dug up these four reasons entrepreneurs think branding is a dirty word.
Reason 1: Direct marketers tell us “branding sucks.”
Many direct marketing folks are used to focusing on hard stats and numbers. “Show us conversions! Show us numbers! It doesn’t need to be pretty; it just has to convert!” As far as they’re concerned, branding is nothing more than a financial sinkhole invented by bored artists and casual writers.
If the argument were about pure conversion tracking, they’d be right. Branding is not known for its hard numbers, tracking, or conversion statistics, which makes it look like a money pit. That can be rough to present to investors when they’re drilling you for information on why profits aren’t rising fast enough.
With direct marketing, you can create a campaign, showing money in versus money out. Boom.
Direct marketing rocks. It’s awesome to see your stats, watch as a funnel converts, and make changes that keep things chugging along. Here’s the thing that makes this misconception so funny: Branding and direct marketing aren’t even in the same arena.
It’s like arguing which is better for you, sleeping or eating.
Each one has a different function for your health. One brings hard data and quick numbers. The other one gives you stability and long-term customer retention.
It’s also important to remember that the direct marketing guys aren’t dumb. They have made millions by using and promoting direct marketing strategies for decades. Part of that strategy? Their positioning. They position direct marketing as the go-to answer for your business needs. That means setting themselves above any other marketing strategy so they can demand and charge higher rates.
It’s a brilliant way to market themselves, the irony being they’re building their brand around brand bashing.
Reason 2: We see people do a lot of very stupid things with their brand.
We’ve seen those terrible commercials and publicized brand flops. We’ve watched as multibillion-dollar companies do stupid things with their money. Take for example, the Quiznos ads featuring disfigured rats
Branding is a very visual and public marketing medium. So if you goof up, everyone is going to see it. And what do we see in ads similar to the above example? Disjointed, pointless visuals with a vague mention of what the business offers.
Branding can be like the loud, boisterous guy at the party. He’s pretty easy to make fun of when he’s drunk and flailing around wearing nothing but a sombrero. Any useful strategy in the hands of someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing is very likely to bomb, whether it’s branding, a paint job, or a haircut.
Make sure you’re working with people who know what they’re doing.
Reason 3: Branding doesn’t do anything measurable.
ROI is huge in marketing, and branding is something you can’t easily track.
Sure you can track things such as social media followers, but it’s harder to track how you’ve psychologically impacted people’s purchase decisions. The issue that a lot of marketing guys take with branding is they just can’t pin it down. You see money going out, but where is the money coming in from?
Here’s the thing: Branding is the long-term plan. Its job is to make marketing progressively easier and more expansive. Rather than having to constantly funnel a new stream of customers in, you get to nurture and grow with your existing, loyal customers.
Reason 4: Creating a brand is too much work for someone starting out.
Planning out your branding adds another layer of complexity to the mix, and a lot of folks say, “To hell with making things even more complicated than they need to be!”
With a direct marketing approach, you don’t have to plan out things such as logos, what fonts to use, colors, or a business manifesto. You simply create the offer, create a funnel, then drive traffic through that funnel to the offer.
When you have to factor in branding, there’s more upfront time invested in your business. Here’s the rub: Whether or not you’re consciously creating your brand, it still exists.
Remember, your brand isn’t your logo, your tagline, or even your product. Your brand is what people think of when they see, hear, or think about your business or product.
You can’t stop people from creating an impression of you, but you can shape that image from the get-go and keep yourself ahead of the game.
Let’s ditch this argument and put “branding” back on our “clean word” list.
It’s not a bad word, just a misunderstood one.
So you can stop branding in shame, and start branding with real pride.
Danielle Lynn is known among her clients as the "karmic marketer," believing that businesses get the most out of their brand if they never compromise on their values. For more information, visit her website.