‘Brand’, as a word, is derived from the Old Norse brandr meaning “to burn.” It refers to the practice of manufacturers burning their mark (or brand) onto their products (often animals) to signify ownership. I am sure you have witnessed, may be in the movies, how ranchers brand their cattle. The process appears painful but relatively simple. In addition the ‘mark’ appears relatively simple needing to be clearly visible and recognisable to avoid ongoing disputes over animal ownership as they move around.
Let’s go forward to today and the world of branding has become a complex mix of terminology, seemingly all designed for and by various consultants to impress their clients. The terminology may include Brand Pyramids, Brand Values, Brand Platform, Brand Promise, etc, all of which are used to define and articulate the brand.
When did ‘what you stand for’ become so complex? Albert Einstein said: “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”. Why is it this level of complexity has entered the business vocabulary when it is the simple definitions that are normally the strongest? Do not get me wrong, the management of brands does require expertise. Without a distinct market position and well articulated brand benefits, the ability to clearly stand out from your competitors is highly unlikely.
I personally believe that so many brands are similar that they have become commoditised. Perhaps this is the reason for the level of business vocabulary complexity as brand consultants try create imaginary positions in the market place. Unfortunately for these groups there is only one voice that matters. The customer. You can have the most brilliant presentation defining the brand but if the customer does not get it then you have lost the battle. Or to put it another way, “If you can’t explain it simply, your customers won’t understand it.”
Take a step back and ask yourself, “Can I define my brand in a handful of words”. Then go and ask the same question to some of your team, peers, etc. Do the words line up? Can everyone simply explain what your brand stands for? If the answer is yes then congratulations, you are better for it. However if the answer is no then I strongly recommend you implement a process that brings you brand clarity that is clearly articulated. Remember if you cannot define your brand, how do you expect your customers, potential employers, suppliers etc to do it? In today’s business environment where there is a substitute product or brand just waiting to take your business, your customers or prospects are not going to spend time waiting for you to try explain yourself or what your brand stands for.