My first mentor in brand, Tom, forever changed my understanding of brand. (See Plain Talk post 1 and post 2 for that part of the story.) With the Winn Dixie agency of record account, a new agency officially launched. Tom and Frank offered me an equity position in the new firm. It was tempting, but I declined. I chose to keep leading my own agency with my new perspective and to continue serving small- and mid-sized businesses. We did not anticipate so many larger businesses who also reached out to engage our services, and our agency continued to grow.
Still, with the brand knowledge I had now acquired, I still sought to learn more. There was very little out there on brand development in the higher education realm at that time, but I searched nonetheless. Finally, I found a brand strategist certification program in California established by a pioneer in brand development and branding.
I reached out to find out about the program, process and fee investment. The founder, Jim, called me directly. And that call was one of the most transformative of my entire career. He explained the program, the process and finally the fee—the investment was equivalent to that of pursuing a master’s degree. During the conversation, I also learned the program continued long after certification was acquired. Fellow Certified Brand Strategists would convene twice a year to continue to evolve best practices in brand development. The talk with Jim was so stimulating and exciting to me. I took a leap of faith and embarked on my next brand learning expedition. Jim was an amazing mentor, teacher and strategist.
Lesson 3: Brand Development is Different from Branding
One of the first things I came to understand during my certification was to distinguish between brand development and branding. Prior to this program, I had often heard and used the words brand and branding. I had rarely heard the term, brand development. The phrase, however, made perfect sense to me at once. This was the third game-changing element in my brand education.
You see, brand development is the foundational step before branding or rebranding. It is the uncovering of your Unique Value Proposition(s)…your differentiator…the “why you” over any other business or organization. It includes a process for exploring and gaining consensus on who you are, what you do differently, why you do it and why anyone should care. Brand development should NEVER be relegated to marketing. Instead, brand development is a highly strategic corporate initiative that, like all strategic initiatives, must ultimately be led by the CEO.
Marketing cannot create your brand; it can only communicate your brand. Once your brand is clarified and consensus among stakeholders is gained, marketing is key in creating and executing all the more tactical branding initiatives. These include your logo, website, brochures, corporate identity, advertising, social media and more. Marketing is the perfect partner to roll out a strategic brand positioning.
If a CEO is not involved or interested in leading the brand, save your money and your time. The initiative will at worst, fail or at best, stall. Either way, it won’t be generating the successful results a powerhouse brand enjoys.
All of this had a huge impact on my understanding of brand at that time. The brand development step is the step many CEOs, entrepreneurs and business owners unknowingly skip. The results of not having a strong brand foundation? Ineffective advertising, more grinding to get a new customer, and ultimately, less profitability due to the excessive time and resources going towards marketing.
In our next Plain Talk About Brand, I’ll share an approach to brand development that makes it much harder for your competitors to replicate. Until then.
Certified Brand Strategist Jennifer Holland is a dynamic marketing and communications expert with a career in successful brand building spanning two decades. A top-rated presenter and national speaker on branding, she offers both private brand development workshops, as well as public Build Your Brand® (BYB) workshops.
Click here to schedule a time to talk with Holland about a private brand workshop for your organization.
Click here to see upcoming BYB workshops and trainings.