Eight Myths You Might Believe About Brand
(That Definitely AREN’T True!)
Brand is one of the biggest drivers of your business’s success. At least it should be. Brand should be clear and well defined. It should be the filter through which we make all decisions big and small. It should be your North Star. Yes, that’s a lot of “shoulds.” Unfortunately, though, too few companies are letting brand lead the way. Because so few leaders truly understand brand, they either dismiss its importance or pass it off to someone vastly unqualified to shape it thoughtfully.
Needless to say, brushing off brand is very bad for business.
MYTH: Brand is only a business’s name or a logo.
TRUTH: Name and logo are merely expressions of brand. Many equate brand with name and logo only. This is understandable, because name and logo are the most visible and concrete expressions of brand. The name identifies the brand with words while the logo does so with image and color. While both are overt expressions of brand, they are not brand in its entirety—not even close!
MYTH: Brand is only advertising.
TRUTH: Advertising is a tactic to express brand. Leaders often conflate brand with ‘brand marketing,’ à la Mad Men. Since advertising is shouting your business’s message and what you stand for, advertising is quite literally an expression of brand. But advertising alone is not brand, any more than a texted announcement from me to my friends is all that I am. Brand influences everything, not merely a single, temporary tactic.
MYTH: Brand is only for businesses with large media budgets.
TRUTH: Marketing budget and brand strategy have little to do with one another. Since traditional advertising is expensive, most businesses wisely do little or none of this. Because brand is often conflated with this typically expensive tactic, some leaders use this as further reason to dismiss brand as something they cannot afford. In reality, an intentional brand strategy can make expensive advertising less necessary. Brand gives you resonance regardless of the volume at which you can afford to shout.
For example, brand can help you attain earned media through PR outreach, which is typically free or inexpensive. That’s because successful PR requires a compelling story—in other words, a compelling brand idea.
MYTH: Brand is irrelevant for businesses that use performance marketing tactics.
TRUTH: Brand strengthens all marketing tactics, including performance marketing tactics. Businesses may eschew traditional advertising not only because it is expensive but because the ROI is tricky to measure. These businesses often elect instead to generate demand through performance marketing tactics such as SEO, SEM, email marketing, and digital retargeting. Brand, if linked with advertising, becomes collateral damage. But performance marketing tactics indicate to your customers what you stand for—and so those too are expressions of brand.
Brand should inform this tactic as it should inform all tactics. When brand informs performance marketing, these tactics can not only amass clicks and sales in the near term but can accrue brand affinity and enduring growth in the long term.
MYTH: Brand is spin.
TRUTH: Brand prevents the need for spin. Another case for brand dismissal is the belief that brand is merely spin. Of course, some brands are just a hollow shell of lies, but that is not because they are brands. That is because they were developed thoughtlessly and likely in the absence of customer empathy and integrity. By committing yourself to building your brand with authenticity, you inherently eschew spin. An ironclad brand doesn’t have to use spin because it finds the intersection between what truly serves the customer and what truly serves the business, and then transparently communicates and builds toward that.
Remember that brand lives in the hearts and minds of customers. Spin cannot change this.
MYTH: Brand is only for businesses in certain industries.
TRUTH: Brand works for businesses in all categories and of all sizes. Because the biggest advertisers tend to be consumer packaged goods companies and behemoth technology and telecommunications brands, many consider brand to be exclusive to those industries specifically. In fact, if your industry doesn’t advertise, you may believe that brand strategy isn’t something you should be doing. But the businesses that most need a brand strategy are the ones that cannot afford expensive advertising. A brand strategy allows you naturally and sustainably to earn your customers’ attention without your having to purchase their involuntary attention through advertising.
MYTH: Brand is only for B2C companies, not B2B companies.
TRUTH: Brand is for businesses that have relationships with human beings, whether B2B or B2C. Some believe that brand is only for businesses that sell to consumers (B2C), and not for those that sell to businesses (B2B). This likely stems from the fact that consumer businesses like Clorox, Nestlé, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever were the ones in the twentieth century that used the power of brand to great and visible success. But this is another false dichotomy. Both B2C and B2B serve human beings, so brand is relevant to both. Whether buying as a representative of a household or of a corporation, a human being is in a relationship with your business, and brand facilitates and reinforces that relationship.
MYTH: Brand is not for “product companies.”
TRUTH: Brand and product work together, not separately. Leaders who argue that their business is a “product” company often dismiss brand, missing its meaning. Product is an essential part of brand. In fact, product is such an integral brand expression, I consider it the least forgiving of brand’s many expressions.
No amount of excellent messaging or promotion or sweet-talking will compensate for a poor product. Further, while product is vitally important, it is the means, not the end. Customers don’t care about your neat-o product. They care about what they get as a result of your product—what’s in it for them. You should care most about that too. Building an ironclad brand strategy puts what customers care about into sharp relief for everyone.
Brand is immense and overarching. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that it is useful in only one of its roles. This creates a false dichotomy that causes you to lose the complete scope of its power.
Challenge yourself to reject the brand myths you’ve heard in the past. The truth is powerful, and when you put the energy into understanding and utilizing brand to its fullest extent, you will reap the rewards.
Lindsay Pedersen is the author of Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. She is a brand strategist, board advisor, coach, speaker, and teacher known for her scientific, growth-oriented approach to brand building.