Think of a popular global brand, let's say McDonald's. What is their brand? Is it the name McDonald's? Is It the golden arches? Is it hamburgers? Nope, it's none of these.
Here's the Marketing Comet Definition of a brand: A brand is the set of promises made to the consumer through all marketing and business activity and the conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings the consumer has about the business. OK, I know that's a little abstract. Don't worry - I will break it down for you.
There are two parts to this definition:
- A set of promises made by marketing and business activities
- The conscious and unconscious thoughts and feelings the consumer holds about the business
Back to McDonald's - what are the promises made over the past decades by McDonald's marketing activities? let's see - they have a clown mascot, playgrounds, brightly colored signage. Their slogans have included phrases like, "you deserve a break today," and "I'm loving it." If you had to sum up what McDonald's branding was all about you could reasonably say that they are all about the experience of fun and relaxation. They put forth strong messages appealing to families and children. The promise is that McDonald's is an affordable "mini-vacation" for the whole family.
Of course Morgan Spurlock came across with his movie "Supersize Me" exposing the health risks of eating too frequently at McDonald's and the branding has changes. Remember, part 2 of the brand definition - the conscious and unconscious thoughts people associate with the business. When "Supersize Me" came out, McDonald's had a branding crisis. Suddenly the country associated McDonald's with the rising rates of child obesity, diabetes, and other health risks.
McDonald's responded by removing the Supersize option, and offering seemingly healthier choices. They have recently added organic coffee. It will be interesting to watch this brand over the next few years.
Now, if part one of the brand matches with part two, you have what I call "brand congruence". Congruence is important because it means that you have control over the how the world sees your business. The only ways to know if you have congruence are: 1. wait and see if you go out of business, 2. Do research with your customers. I have said many times that one of the most important questions you can ask your customers is, "why did you choose us?"
You don't need to be Michael Jordan, American Idol, or FedEx to have a strong brand. Look at some powerful brands that started very small: Kinko's (now part of FedEx), Ben and Jerry's, Tom's of Maine, Doc Martens. Look at businesses in your area that have achieved stellar growth over many years. You will most likely find a strong, congruent, and consistent brand.
In Boston, we have the restaurant chain Legal Seafoods. They expand every year. Many companies grow really fast and then go out of business. Not this one. Their brand is very strong and year after year they enjoy tremendous success. Their promise is extremely fresh, well prepared seafood, and you know you're going to get it there. They are highly congruent and thus extremely successful.
What promises do you make to customers? Do you always keep them? Do you know what your customers think about you, and why they chose to do business with you?
J D Moore - Marketing Comet