branders not being able to brand their own industry is like cobbler's children having no shoes
Steve Sue, the story guy®

Steve Sue, the story guy®

Confession: I participated in brand consulting for years as a strategic illustrator but never really got what “branding” was. One firm in SF (now defunct) used to take me along on their sales pitches as part of their “thinking” team. LOL. They’d fire up this super-slick powerpoint to explain what they did and why they should be hired. Every time I saw it, I’d be like, “Huh?”

I always thought of their presentation as the NOT GAME because they’d try to define branding by what is was NOT, “It’s not a name. It’s not a logo. It’s not a jingle. It’s not a smell. It’s not a product. It’s not a trademark. It’s not a strategy. It’s not a position…” I’d be like screaming inside, “Just tell us what frick it is!” OMG, it was like playing Where’s Waldo in a room full of grownups. Seriously lame and NOT very helpful. So after 20 NOT minutes or so, they’d count off two really pregnant beats then go for the punchline, A BRAND IS A PROMISE.” Ta-dah… skies open, rainbows arch, seas part… NOT.

I pestered them for months like a 2 year old trying to understand what they meant by “Brand Promise.” And it was like an eternity before I had even the slightest notion of what they were trying to communicate. That was all before the advent of the Internet. So today, I googled for a contemporary definition of branding and found not only that “Brand Promise” is still the moniker of the industry, but also that the concept is as murky as ever:

  • The brand promise is what audiences are assured of receiving as a result of their relationship with the brand. ~ www.texastech.edu
  • A brand promise is the statement that you make to customers that identifies what they should expect for all interactions with your people, products, services and company. ~ www.askjim.biz
  • Brand Promise. Benefits and experiences that marketing campaigns try to associate with a product in its current and prospective consumers’ minds. ~ www.businessdictionary.com

HOLY CRAP, they might as well have written:

  • The brand promise is lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt. ~ www.texastech.edu
  • A brand promise is lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud. ~ www.askjim.biz
  • Brand Promise. lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim. ~ www.businessdictionary.com

Granted I’m stupid, but not that stupid. Communication takes at least two, and I’m thinking the breakdown isn’t all on my side. In fact, it’s an epic irony: branders not being able to brand their own industry is like cobbler’s children having no shoes. No wonder the value of brand consultants is often held suspect. So, left to my own devices, I asked a lot of questions, read a bunch of books and eventually came up with my own definition of branding that substitutes “story” for the word “promise” to yield “Brand Story,” to wit:

A BRAND IS THE AUTHENTIC STORY OF A BUSINESS. Your Brand Story embodies all facets of your business including who you are, what you’re trying to achieve, who you’re trying to help, and how you implement your business. Brands are engineered by defining backstory business values, plotting development strategies and foreshadowing the future by setting goals and objectives–all with an eye toward achieving your Vision (aka. the moral of your story). And in regard to communications, your Brand Story is portrayed in everything your business does or produces including name, logo, jingle, tagline, marketing materials, sales environments, customer service, etc.

So How Can Branders Help? A Brand Story is not unlike any other kind of story format. Think of your business as a movie. Your management might write a great script, but you’ll need a great director, cinematographer and a bagel cart load of artists to craft the actual communication device to convey the story. The role of Branders in business is to direct the production of communications and to pipe up when the script isn’t working. Business, like movie production, is a collaborative art so the more well-rounded your team, the better chance you have to make a blockbuster.

Should You Hire a Brand Consultant? If you can afford one, absolutely. More perspective and talent is better than less. The more professionally you present your offering, the greater chance you’ll have at making a sale.

IF YOU CAN’T AFFORD A BRANDER: Try stickypitch.com, our do-it-yourself way to build your Business Plan, Sales Pitch and Brand all-at-once, in a day, FREE. Now that’s a promise. Sure this is a plug, but it’s for your own good, and in case you missed it, it’s FREE. We believe in the power of story and want to help budding entrepreneurs like you, that’s our story.

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