There, I finally said it. Branding is crap! Sure, it might be fine, even important, if you're Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Proctor and Gamble, etc. While I’m at it, the whole idea of Top of Mind Awareness (TOPA) is crap too! Maybe if your competing for the 2 second purchase decision of what laundry detergent you’re going to use then all that stuff matters. But – and this is a big but – if you're a small or mid-market company selling products or services to other businesses (large or small) stop worrying about your (Capital B) Brand or top of mind – trust me, your customers and prospects have far, far more important things on their minds than thinking about your company.
A great brand is a result of being relevant, important and delighting people. It’s not a logo, an icon or an exercise. As I’ve said hundreds of times – your brand is what others say you are, not what you say.
I’m writing this post because it’s making me sick seeing how much money small and mid-market B2B/B2G companies are spending on useless “branding” exercises.
I’m working with a potential client who currently has 20 clients that his company works with. Success for him is adding 2 – 4 solid clients/year. He just spent more than $20,000 to “assess the market and his brand.” Here’s the problem – HE DOESN’T HAVE A “BRAND”! And that’s okay.
He’d be far better off taking the $20,000 and investing it in building an effective marketing asset; and so would every other B2B company.
The problem I have with branding is that it puts the focus in the wrong place - twice.
- First, it places the focus internally on you, rather than your customer. Great companies look outside, not inside.
- Second, and worse, it looks at the world as it is, rather than as it could be. As a marketer, I'm not particularly interested in what customers think today. I'm interested what you want them to think, and the actions you can take to increase the probability that they'll think that. And you can't ask customers what they want - as Steve Jobs says, "It's impossible to ask people what they want, when what they want is around the corner."
It's your job to figure out what they want - and then to focus maniacally on making that happen. If you do that, you won't have to worry about your brand - you'll have too many people wanting to work with you to have the time.