The Brand Man Cometh

Cattle_brandFastCompany.com has an interesting article on the "Obsessive Branding Disorder" that is afflicting businesses and nonprofits alike.

Like Peter Pan, determined to stitch his own shadow to himself lest it get away, executives are obsessed with branding their companies. It's metastasized to encompass every aspect of business, from logos to supply-chain management, and every nook and cranny of our society.

The article quotes Bill Schley, author of Why Johnny Can't Brand, who defines branding as "not what you say but what you do."

I disagree.  A brand isn't what you say or do.  It's who you are.  It's your identity, your character.  (Now there's an old-fashioned word.)  And words and actions flow from it.

But a brand isn't a one way street.  The people that come into contact with your brand are the ones that will ultimately breathe life into it.  Thinking otherwise is like me saying I'm "cool" when every one else thinks I'm a dork [although everyone really thinks I'm very, very cool].  Our challenge as marketers is to align the best of what we are with what our key audience thinks we are. 

Take Boston Medical Center.  For those who aren't aware of our current incarnation, the BMC brand is not "Exceptional Care.  Without Exception." but the Boston City Hospital of old with its second-rate medical care, run-down facilities and poor, inner-city patients.  As one major gifts prospect told me: "I'm happy to visit.  Just don't make me get my health care there!" 

But that's not the brand for which we want to be known.  BMC is a top-notch academic medical center with state of the art facilities that treats everyone, regardless of who they are, where they're from or their ability to pay.  That's the brand we want to communicate, and the one more and more people will hopefully bring to life.

I say hopefully because it doesn't always work out that way, does it?  Not long ago I read an article on how Boston-based Dunkin Donuts was experimenting with more upscale stores that looked (gasp!) like a Starbucks.  But the Dunkin brand most people know is all about tasty donuts, good, affordable coffee and fast service.  You're in, you're out, and on with your day.  Dunkin has delivered a new brand into the world, but consumers will ultimately decide whether it lives or is DOA.

Hat Tip: Donor Power Blog

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