A couple of years ago, I spent a really long time with a VP of Marketing whose definition of a brand was a logo, a tag line and a color pallette. I tried as hard as I could to explain that a brand was far more than a set of choices in stationary selection. I talked about reputation, customer intimacy, the difference between customers and the marketplace, the role of customer service and awareness.
With a completely blank stare, she asked me what I thought of the shade of blue she was thinking about.
Logos, taglines and color choices are important. They can set the tone for communications and shape both market perception and the organization’s internal aspirations. They are big deals.
A well run branding process that just focuses on logos, taglines and their infrastructure can transform a company. The artwork takes on a symbolic meaning as the various stakeholders come into alignment. I’ve seen masterful executions that have reshaped company cultures.
But, a company with a fresh new logo, a smart tag line and well chosen colors is a lot like a teenage boy dressed and ready for his first formal dance. Looks good, smells good and makes mommy proud. The rubber meets the road at the curb of the girlfriend’s house. From there it’s about putting substance into the fresh clothes and cologne; it’s passing the girlfriend’s father test; it’s creating a good experience; it might even involve customer intimacy.
Long after the cologne wears off, the tuxedo goes out of fashion and the father mellows, the reputation launched that night will be evolving and growing. No reputation remains pefectly pure and spotless. Experience, learning, partnerships, performance, tenacity and a host of other intangibles shape the world’s perception of that young man.
The same is true with organizations and their brands.
In the long run, the logo and the presentation have the same relationship to long term success as the young boy’s careful fashion choices on the first date. Much more important are his choice of school, the way he builds his network, his integrity and tenacity, his levels of creativity the ratio of self-centeredness to compassion, the overall value he creates in the world and the consequence he leaves in his wake. Companies also have brands that include comportment, values, customer experience and the views of potential buyers.
Faced with this hard to manage/understand set of variables, it’s not much of a surprise that a certain set of Marketing managers focus in on logos, stationary and color choice. That’s something you can control.
But the brand is something entirely other than a choice of paper.