Branding: Expectations Versus Reality

Branding is an important part of business because, when done right, branding creates market demand, customer loyalty, competitive differentiation—and most important, financial value. The key to realizing these branding benefits is to have the right expectations about branding. Below, I explore some of the typical misalignments between brand expectations and the realities achieved.

Expectation: Branding is about a name and a logo

Reality: Branding is actually about identifying and instilling compelling, differentiated and credible perceptions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes (PEBAs) in your target audience for your offering and delivering customer experiences that are consistent with, and reinforce, those PEBAs. The brand’s name and logo are just two examples of how branding is manifested.

Expectation: Branding is a once-and-done thing

Reality: Because branding is about instilling and managing perceptions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes about your brand offering, it is an ongoing process that requires consistent execution over time. Like a person’s reputation, brand-building is a long-game. The companies with the strongest brands are always asking themselves whether their intended and actual behaviors are “on-brand” or “off-brand.”

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Expectation: Good branding will lead to automatic success

Reality: First, financial success depends on more than branding and includes many other variables, such as quality of offering, organizational efficiency, supply-chain reliability, effective distribution, and functioning markets, to mention a few. In fact, strong initial branding may actually detract from success, for example, when the promise your brand makes to the market is unfulfilled or contradicted by a failing or even harmful product/service, inauthentic corporate statements or behaviors and/or persistent customer service failures that violate customer expectations from the brand.

Expectation: Branding is easy; we can do it internally

Reality: Companies can get lucky building a brand from scratch. And some companies have so much experience in creating and launching brands that they have the expertise in-house. Even in those circumstances, though, working with an external branding agency is likely to make brand-building efforts more effective. An external branding agency will be better able to go through all the necessary sequential steps and not be as susceptible to the natural pressure to launch sooner rather than later. Branding is part science (methodical and analytical) and part art (creative and subjective). Moreover, an external branding agency will also reduce the likelihood that an outsized internal or otherwise myopic perspective drives the brand strategy.

These are some of the most important expectations and realities to keep in mind when creating and launching a new brand. The branding tips or imperatives coming out of this discussion include:

  1. Understand your target market, competitors, and internal aspirations to find the “sweet spot(s)” (i.e., opportunities) for your brand.
  2. Craft a brand strategy and messaging blueprint to ensure your brand stays “on-strategy” once launched.
  3. Consistently deliver your brand promise and your desired brand perceptions, emotions, beliefs and attitudes across all stakeholder touchpoints.
  4. Evolve your branding as the market evolves.
  5. Consider hiring a professional branding agency to benefit from their experience and keep you objective and strategic.

Branding is an important, long-term investment in your business. Treat it accordingly.

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Frank Schab
An experienced marketing and branding strategist, Frank has been helping clients optimize the value of their brands through insightful analysis and effective strategy for more than three decades. Along with holding positions at General Motors and Pfizer, Frank served as a Managing Partner at Interbrand New York and VP of Global Brand Research at Opinion Research Corporation before co-founding Six Degrees. His brand-building work in various sectors including hospitality, medical device, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology has taken him to 17 countries on four continents. Frank holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale University and speaks fluent German.

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