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Made in America?   Leave a comment

As midterm elections draw closer and closer, here’s a quick question for you:  What’s the brand of the United States of America?

The answer is a powerful example of the truth about any brand, including yours:  It depends on who you ask and sometimes it will be the “wrong” answer.

That’s because brands are not tangible or carved in stone.  They are not the product (or the policy in the case of a country) or the service being offered and delivered.  Your brand is the story being told about what you have to offer.  It’s the reaction you get and sometimes the one you hope for.

And it’s never really the “wrong” answer.   If the brand story you hear back from your target audience isn’t what you expected, find out where their experience differs from your promise – where you might be going “wrong.”  The listening is what keeps your brand strong and growing.

 Also, have the discipline to hear what’s being said by those who are not your audience without reacting.   They may not like your story even though it’s perfectly authentic and exactly what you offer.  That’s why they’re not your customers!

But the most important lesson about the American Brand may be this: the more confusion there is about your brand internally, the weaker your story will be to those on the outside.

So quick: what’s the Exceptional Promise that now defines the U.S.A. brand for you?  What’s is it for your brand?

If you’re interested in more discussion of the intersection of politics and branding, join the debate.


Posted September 20, 2010 by Don Wells in Branding

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Trust Me. Sometimes.   1 comment

What is the single most important aspect of any brand strategy?

If you answered quality, customer service or even consistency you were a little off the mark. There are hugely successful brands that don’t promise high quality or great customer service but do offer inexpensive, no-frills and “do it yourself” as their compelling story. Consistency is closer to the core of what’s essential for effective positioning but that still must go beyond simply repeating your message or creating a reliable experience.

So what’s the single most significant thing in your Brand strategy? Be authentic.

If you’re thinking, I talked about this last month then you’re paying attention which is good. The reason I’m repeating myself is simple. Too many brand managers still take their authentic foundation for granted and go on to concentrate on dressing up the brand story with clever copy, cool graphics and a great pitch to sell the staff. But then no magic happens. And branding becomes a daily battle.

That’s because an authentic brand takes on a life of its own. It is who you really are so it’s easy for staff to remember how to create the essential experience for customers. It’s what your company lives so there is no confusion about the brand being just the latest slogan the marketing department came up with. It’s so much a part of your essence that it’s almost effortless to get your target audience engaged.

Someone once said “Tell the truth. It’s the easiest thing to remember.” The same notion applies to your brand strategy and brand experience. Be authentic and your customers will learn to trust you and that makes longterm relationships possible. Your staff will trust as well. After all, they’re the first know if the brand is real or just a sometime thing.

So are you telling the truth about your brand? Sometimes?

Posted August 2, 2010 by Don Wells in Branding

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Brand Graduation   Leave a comment

Why was I thinking about branding at a graduation ceremony I attended recently?  Glad you asked.

 I was there because a young woman I’d mentored for years was getting her diploma.  I’d watched since she was 8 as she overcame tremendous family obstacles to get to that day – the first in her family to graduate from high school.   As I listened to her talk afterwards, her conversation was a rollercoaster of hopes and concerns, confidence and uncertainty, realism and dreams.  Anyone listening was inclined to come closer and engage her because she was in such an authentic place.  No image.  Real.  And you couldn’t help but love her in that moment, especially if you knew her story.  

 So what does that have to do with branding, you ask again?

As I talk to people about their brands, the conversation too often begins with Image, sometimes even logos and taglines.  It takes awhile to move to what really makes a brand live long and prosper.  It’s authentic.  It’s engaging.  You can’t help but love it.   And that means it’s very, very personal because building a brand is about developing an authentic personal relationship with your customers.

So ask yourself: Do I have a personal connection to my brand?  Do I LOVE my brand or am I just trying to leverage the name?  If you want to read about why the answer is important, pick up A New Brand World by Scott Bedbury.   I’m off to give a recent high school graduate another driving lesson.

Posted July 5, 2010 by Don Wells in Branding

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