Have the Branding Gurus Got it Wrong?

It frustrates me when branding guru’s bang on about a logo not being a brand. It’s a foolish semantics game that complicates what should be made simple for clients, particularly small businesses and entrepreneurs.

The term branding comes from the age-old practice of using a hot iron to mark livestock to identify ownership. The graphic created by this process acted much like a logo does today, to identify and differentiate a product or service. An animal that hasn’t been branded is called a ‘slick’. There are many slick gurus suggesting that a brand is not a logo. This may be true in the modern sense of the word but it creates confusion that benefits nobody except those selling the new, sophisticated branding packages or programs. Let’s move past the semantics game and start looking at what is going to best serve our clients and customers.

I do not believe branding, in the way the gurus define it, should be outsourced to consultants or brand advisors. What the guru’s describe as branding is the intrinsic identity of a company. I believe passionately in defining and communicating these aspects of a business. So much so that I cover these principles in detail in my book “The Simple Manifesto” however, I believe these characteristics of a company should not be created by a third-party consultant. They must be developed from within the company, from it’s leaders. If it’s a small business, the owner or entrepreneur who has the vision for the business is the best person to establish and define these attributes of the company. If it’s a larger company, the team involved in creating the vision and providing the leadership of the company are those that should be establishing what the guru’s call the “Brand”.

These days the term branding is much more than a single logo or graphic, I agree, but the way this idea is presented often creates smoke and mirrors. The purpose is to elevate the importance of the “branding” company. It’s a pitch that is not created for the benefit of the customer.

It’s important to understand the whole package of who a business is and what it represents but we don’t need to lump all this in with branding. Call it what it is; vision, values, purpose, standpoint, culture or position – There are countless other ways to better define what it is we are meaning. Naming all these areas of a business as branding helps nobody. We should be more specific with the terms we use in order to create more value for the companies we serve.

I understand the value in what some of the branding companies can provide. What they are looking for is consistency and congruency throughout every aspect of your business and what it represents. I don’t believe any “branding” company and consultant will ever have the capacity to re-brand a company in the way they may tell you they can. The DNA of a company can’t be so easily manipulated by a fancy branding strategy no matter how much you spend on it. Putting a plaque up with your latest brand positioning statement will be useless if it’s artificially created by a third-party. What you need is authenticity, so it’s got to come from within the organisation so everyone buys into it.

There are many aspects of a businesses identity that you don’t have control over although you can influence them. Other people will talk about your business and that goes a long way in positioning your business in the marketplace. This too cannot be easily fabricated externally yet it is something the branding gurus can often gloss over.

Your logo is the most important aspect of your brand

The look and feel of your marketing material will likely evolve over time as styles and fashion changes however your logo is one aspect of your business that you should not change frequently. It’s important to get it right the first time so it lasts the distance and can become recognisable. It’s expensive to change your logo frequently when you consider all the items that would need to be replaced if you change it. Consider your business cards, signage, marketing collateral, social media profiles, advertising… the list goes on.

Your logo is one of the most important aspects of your business, large or small. A good logo gives you a great advantage in an increasingly competitive marketplace. Your logo should be a clear and distinct representation of who you are as a business. While the logo won’t create the thoughts and feelings the marketplace has for your business, it should represent your business well, showing your business in the best possible light. For these reasons, your logo is the single most important aspect of your branding strategy.

My advice to the branding gurus:

Next time someone comes to you request a branding or re-branding, get down off your high and mighty horse and listen to what they are actually asking for. If they are talking about a logo design then serve them for what they are looking for. If they can’t clearly who they are as a business and what they represent then make some suggestions on how that could be improved but don’t look down your nose and scoff at the incompetence of the person who doesn’t understand ‘branding’ the way you define it. Perhaps it’s you that needs a re-brand! Just saying…

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Have the Branding Gurus Got it Wrong?
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It frustrates me when branding guru’s bang on about a logo not being a brand. It’s a foolish semantics game that complicates what should be made simple!

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