YOUR BRAND SUCKS

Or maybe it doesn’t. But it probably does.

We know what you’re thinking. “How can this stupid blog know anything about my brand? It hasn’t even seen it!”

Well, either this blog is some omniscient, magical creature that can see through time and space with uncanny precision, or brand happens to be something that most people simply do not fully understand. You decide.

But before we get into WHY your brand almost definitely probably totally sucks, let us clear something up.

A LOGO DOES NOT A BRAND MAKE

It doesn’t matter how awesome your logo is. It could have incredible typography, beautiful color, and the coolest icon ever created by man, and it would STILL just be a logo. It’s not a brand because brand isn’t something you can see or print on a tee shirt. Heck, it’s not even something you actually own.

It’s an idea. And that idea lives inside your audience’s brain. Not in your logo.

A logo may be a reference point for your brand, but that’s all. Think of it as a kind of bucket that holds everything your audience knows and feels about your brand. Good things, bad things, things experienced and things anticipated. Everything your audience knows about your brand is crammed into that bucket, and on the outside of it is your logo.

It’s not just something the brain does. It’s something the brain HAS to do. You bounce through the world barraged by heaps and heaps of information and stimuli, and your brain processes it by categorizing and sorting it. In effect, you make sense of the world bucket by bucket.

OMG! THAT MEANS EVERYTHING IS A BRAND!

Yes. You are a brand. So is your dog. So is the guy who cut you off in traffic (let’s just call his brand “Jerk”). Brand happens whether you try or not. And you build brands in your mind every day, even when the only kind of logo available is the back of a beat-up green Toyota with a “Coexist” sticker on the bumper.

And your audience and everyone in the world does the exact same thing. Which means that your brand is not something that you actually control.

BUT IT’S MY BRAND! WHY CAN’T I CONTROL IT?

You can control your actions, but not what people think of them. When we’re talking about the brand for your business, you might be able to control customer service, product quality, and price. You can also control marketing, and how your business is positioned against competitors.

What you can’t control is everything else.

Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that your business sells kumquats. In order to distinguish yourself from all the other thousands of kumquat places in town, you came up with the clever moniker “The Kumquat Spot,” so that’s your brand. After investing in kumquat-themed décor and hiring a professional graphic designer to create an amazingly kumquatty logo, you open your doors to the public. Let’s say Jack is your first customer.

Jack adores kumquats, so much so that he even has a tattoo of a kumquat on his thigh. Yes, Jack is a weirdo, but he’s also exactly the kind of customer you want, because he starts telling everyone about how incredible The Kumquat Spot is. Next thing you know, you have a line out the door of people eager to get their kumquat fix.

While that line means business is booming, it also means that people are waiting longer. And while they’re waiting, they are building up expectations. This is a long wait. These kumquats better be worth it.

Next thing you know, customers start leaving, deciding that they just don’t want to wait that long for kumquats. And those that do stay are finding themselves underwhelmed by the kumquats they finally receive. Customers start posting on social media: “OMG, The Kumquat Spot is totally overrated,” and “These Kumquats suck.”

People who don’t even like kumquats, and who have never visited your store are trashing your brand, saying “I’d rather eat a pickled turd” and “tastes like a hairball dipped in turpentine.” You know that people are listening to the backlash, because your business starts falling off sharply.

Now, you didn’t change anything. You’re still the same Kumquat Spot. But your brand changed due to the perceptions of your audience. Perceptions you can’t control.

…OR CAN YOU?

No, you can’t control the random perceptions of an audience you’ve never met, but like the loud, pushy guy at a party, you CAN control the conversation. This is where marketing comes in.

As mentioned above, the message you take to market is completely under your control. And by putting out a lot of messaging, you can effectively drown out a lot of the negative perceptions of your brand.

Let’s say you hire an agency to help you. They create messaging, and build a bold, yet personable brand character that comes across in the tone of the words and images used on your website, and in the marketing campaigns they create. The marketing efforts help you find new customers, and give your former customers a reason to give The Kumquat Spot another try. Again, you find yourself with a line out the door. But this time, you take your agency’s advice and go through the line introducing yourself and handing out free samples and bumper stickers that say “Got Quat?” In doing so, you influence your customers’ expectations, and personalize your brand’s character. And you’re not just promoting your brand, you’re also making your competitors look bad in comparison.

Okay, so you’re not selling kumquats, but it doesn’t matter. Every brand and every market are unique. You still need to build a strong brand by aligning your messaging to your audience, capturing attention, and managing expectations. Allow your customers to imagine how your brand will improve their lives. Inspire them to champion your brand.

SO WHY DOES YOUR BRAND SUCK?

Your brand sucks because you either aren’t doing these things, or you’re not doing them enough. Somewhere, someone hates your brand, and it’s up to you to try to change their mind by refining your message, upgrading your imagery, or just turning up the volume of your marketing to better control the conversation.

And let’s be real here, why on earth would you be reading this article if your brand DIDN’T suck?

Boom.

Leave a comment below if you have any questions or suggestions for future topics.

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