Marketers are a confused bunch.
In what other industry do professionals disagree so vehemently about the basic goal of their work?
Do engineers debate whether their buildings should stand up or fall down?
Do accountants wring their hands over whether their beans should add up?
Do teachers wonder whether it’s important for their students to learn stuff?
But ask 12 marketers what the goal of their job is and you’ll get 13 answers.
Today, let’s see if we can find a workable definition for the purpose of branding that marketers can actually use.
But, first, allow me to get into some trouble with my opinion on the context…
There are generally two types of Marketers: “brand marketers” and “response marketers”
Sidebar: I should preface the following by saying that my experience as a direct response marketer probably biases me slightly toward seeing the Response perspective. I’ve worked in ad agencies creating direct mail and email campaigns. However, before that, I began my career doing freelance design, so I also appreciate beautiful aesthetic design even if I’m no Lee Clow.
Here’s what I’ve seen in many organizations: The Branding camp sees Response marketers as subservient, tactical geeks, and the Response group sees Brand marketers as fluffy, granola airheads.
In my agency days, we Response marketers always envied the budgets the Brand marketers were awarded. I think I can summarize the general feeling as injustice. After all, “We’re the ones bringing in all the sales. What has that brand ad done for you lately?!”
Response marketers often reference John Wanamer’s quote, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” and shake their heads mumbling, “We can tell you which half. That’s why we measure!”
The Brand marketers just laugh at the Response marketers’ naiveté as they enjoy their lunch martini and strip club with the clients.
But, I digress… the first question to ask is…
What is branding?
There’s an ongoing debate in many organizations between the Branding and Response groups about the role of branding itself.
Response marketers are frustrated when Brand marketers’ create brand rules, codified in brand Standards or brand Guidelines or even “Brand Bible” documents when they’re based on aesthetics-alone. On the other hand, Brand marketers are disgusted by the ugly campaigns Response marketers create to drive sales.
I define a brand as the concept a person holds about a thing (person, business, place or activity, etc.) based on his or her accumulated experiences.
I think of the brand essence as a mix of intangible and tangible concepts, words and images that create a feeling.
So, if the role of branding is to create this brand essence, why do it? What is the ultimate raison d’être for branding?
What is the purpose of branding?
I have to admit that I don’t care who wins this argument between the marketing camps. My goal here is to devise a workable definition of purpose for branding.
I think the way to do that is to go to the top of the goals waterfall. I introduced the goals waterfall concept with respect to setting conversion optimization goals, but it works for branding too.
If the goal for your brand doesn’t have a direct line of sight to your business goals, you’re probably making poor decisions about your brand.
Ultimately, your brand exists to create action, likely to sell products and/or services.
If your brand doesn’t create action, it won’t exist for long. Somebody has to pay the bills, right?
So, what’s the goal of branding?
I believe a brand needs to cause an effect. I think it needs to stand for something different and singular. Something focused, memorable, meaningful and valuable enough to cause emotion and, ultimately action.
I put that question out to my Twitter followers recently and had an interesting debate refining the wording.
I started with this tweet:
Opinion: the goal of branding is to own a phrase in the minds of your prospects that they believe you can credibly deliver. Do you agree?— Chris Goward (@chrisgoward) May 2, 2014
I think the end result shows I have much smarter followers than myself.
After a few good iterations, here’s our co-created opinion on the purpose of branding.
I think the important points are:
- The brand should aim for exclusive ownership of their mindspace
- The brand should own a feeling; not just a word, mark, phrase or idea
- The feeling should compel action!
What do you think?
How would you refine that? Do you disagree? What’s your definition of branding?