Have you ever played “branding baseball?” I sometimes initiate a game with attendees at my branding workshops to warm them up and get them involved. Volunteers get three swings at the correct answer to “What is your brand?” The first inning typically goes something like this…
“Our company name is our brand.” says an eager-beaver client employee. “Strike One!” I say quickly.
“It’s our logo and company colors.” says the person with the graphic arts degree. “Strike Two!” I say and get a dirty look in return.
“It’s our tagline.” says the marketing manager. “Strike three… you’re outta here!” I yell annoyingly using the exaggerated baseball umpire arm motion — thus ensuring that I will never be invited back.
The answer, and a home run if you got it, is that your organization’s brand is really your organization’s reputation. Your reputation is built by what you promise and what you deliver.
Promise + Successful Delivery = Good Reputation
Your marketing should focus on that promise and successful delivery.
Too many organizations forget that brands are built to support the business, not the other way around.
In the early days of mega-companies, there was typically one person who founded and owned the majority of shares and publicly represented the company. His or her name was the name of the company — Rockefeller Oil, Ford Motor Co, etc.
The reputation of the company was based on delivery of promises made by the owner/founder/spokesperson. Those promises could be made even more profound and compelling in the media.
In 1988, a legal and marketing genius named Joel Hyatt bucked the legal establishment by becoming the first lawyer to open nationwide consumer offices and (gasp) use television advertising to promote them. It was a huge success. His formula? Personally promise in his advertising — then deliver in his clinics.
Hyatt’s iconic TV spots (search “Joel Hyatt commercial” on YouTube) featured him walking through a law library delivering this promise:
Somewhere in all these dusty law books a great idea got lost – the idea that law is for people — and people should be able to afford it. At Hyatt Legal Services, we took the fear out of legal fees. You can consult with one of our lawyers for just twenty dollars and for cases like divorce wills accidents and bankruptcy, we tell you our fee up front.
Then he doubled down on the promise:
I’m Joel Hyatt and you have my word on it.
As companies grow larger and original owners leave or more people got involved, brand names are sometimes created from scratch. But Josh Welshman, co-producer of Mad Men and author of Seducing Strangers — How to Get People to Buy What You’re Selling says:
As long as you can fit everyone responsible for the success or failure of your business into one room, there is no need to use the word ‘brand.’ It’s too abstract and tends to sound like a stand-alone entity that can be built or addressed in and if itself. Try using the word ‘reputation’ instead. It’s much more compelling and causes people to care a little bit more.
If you want to win the brand and business-building game, focus on creating a better promise and delivering on it — then develop your marketing around that promise and delivery.