What’s in a brand?

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose                                        BRANDZTM TOP 100
By any other name would smell as sweet*

Little Bo Creep vs. Big Dog

Little Bo Creep vs. Big Dog

Brand is what and who your technology company is, in reality and perception, to all people who know of your company and its technology. In the context of communications, brand is your complete rhetorical Ethos. It is the character you portray and it is the character you have. It is the nexus of reality and perception. When people talk about building a brand, they are really talking about the sum of your interactions with all stakeholders—internal and external—over time. There is not a word or an image, not an action or reaction relating to your business that doesn’t contribute to (or detract from) your brand.

If you think brand is not a business asset, a simple illustration is the recent breakup of Hostess Foods. People who knew instinctively that the Twinkie brand had value were able to sell box of a snack, which any baking company could make, for over $100.00 on eBay.  One brazen seller started bidding at $5,000 for a box. The Twinkies brand, along with other Hostess “snack cake” items, was later bought for $410 million. Certainly, it was the name, not the actual process, that fetched this price.

It may seem, then, that as far as brand, perception is reality. But a brand is more than perception. Brand represents ideas, things and actions that accrue to your products and services through the life of a business. For this reason, your marketing communications should tell the truth about what you have to offer (conceptually and as a tool), what you have done and what you plan to do. That’s how brand value is built, and no amount of communications talent can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. In the long run, reality trumps perception, and good marketing communications reflect that reality.

This is why the claims of companies like Reputation.com (HerdingCats.com would be more apt) are inflated. They merely comb search engines but they cannot in any effective way control what people are saying about you. If your product doesn’t work or your customer service is bad or you spill oil in the Gulf of Mexico, and—worse yet—you lie about it, no amount of “reputation management” or crisis communications is going to fix that.

In fact, the Internet has taken us back to small-town living. People talk. And there’s nothing you can do about that except to offer value for money, tell the truth about what you have on offer and deal honestly with people. That is how small-town and now big-business reputations—their brands—can grow into valuable assets. There’s really no other way.

Advertising can be clever. Graphic arts can be stunning. Words can beguile. But don’t count on these to sustain a technology that is not innovative and workable in the marketplace. People filter marketing communications, and they are merciless when what you promise doesn’t match what you and your product or solution does. Good marketing communications can help create, enhance and define a brand, but they must be in sync with the reality of what you are, with the totality of your reputation.


*Juliet to Romeo in the famous Balcony Scene of Romeo and Juliet: “But, soft! What light from yonder window breaks / It is the east, and Juliet is the sun.” (II, ii.)

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