Simple branding in three steps

Let’s talk about simple branding. It is easy to make business complex these days. All of the technologies and tools available to us are wonderful but if we let them distract us, our brand will suffer.

This is exactly the conversation I had with my good friend Jeff Dolan. He is one of the more talented and brightest creative professionals I know. When he told me he was going to be in town, I jumped at the chance for us to grab dinner and catch up. What I love about talking with Jeff is we always discuss big ideas. It is amazing where the conversations go and the things we come up with. Most sentences start with “Wouldn’t it be cool if….?”

This time, our conversation kept coming back to a three-step formula for simple branding. Here it is:

Know what you are about and never deviate from it

Ask yourself “What are we about?” on a monthly basis. And make sure you can answer it. Be single-minded and focused on the one thing that defines you. I love the way IdeaPaint does this. They are all about turning anything paintable into a dry-erase surface.

Be predictable

A large chunk of branding is managing the emotional expectations of the consumer. If people get what they expect, you are on track to win. For example, on the popular Beancast podcast, a panel of marketing thought leaders talked about GM’s desire to be the country’s most beloved consumer brand. To have a chance at this lofty goal, they will need to do a better job of giving customers what they expect and care about.

Tell the truth

Bill Bernbach said, “I’ve got a great gimmick, let’s tell the truth.”  This is a powerful branding strategy and takes a full commitment. The benefit, besides making steps (1) and (2) easier, is developing trust. Trust is what holds up the brand’s name. There is a restaurant in Greensboro called the Iron Hen. It uses locally grown and organic ingredients. They’re also committed to sustainable and slow food practices. This is validated by the great lengths they go to in showing transparency as to which local markets and farms they buy from.

Remember this doesn’t have to be complicated. Keeping the branding simple makes it easier to differentiate, position, and create an identity that adds value to the story and culture of the company or organization. My guess is that your favorite brands align with these steps.

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