Explaining the difference between a logo and a brand
In film, specifically the Westerns or “cowboy flicks, the cowboys would run the steers one by one through a gate into a narrow fenced-in enclosure where another cowboy would brand them. The process involved using a red hot branding iron to burn the mark of the owner into the hide of the cattle. As the hot iron bearing the logo of the ranch was pressed against the poor animal’s skin, the steer would let out an agonizing “moooo” as it was left with a permanent marking on it’s flesh. The mark usually consisted of two initials such as “OK” for the OK Corral.
What in the world does cattle branding have to do with business branding? The correct answer is, wait for it, “absolutely nothing”. However, there is a possibility that the branding scenes that take place on reruns of Rawhide have a lot to do with common misconceptions about branding. For many believe that having a brand in business simply means having a logo. Did they get this idea from Westerns? While I can’t say for sure the similarities are obvious. A well designed logo will go a long way in identifying your business. But, the logo is just one part of an effective branding strategy. So, what exactly is branding?
A brand is a list of unspoken promises from the business to the public. How can you make a promise without saying a word? You do so through expectations that you caused the public to have, based on both your past track record and clues as to what you are all about. To illustrate, we all know that tomorrow will have a sunrise and a sunset. We know this because everyday we have lived on this planet began with a sunrise and ended with a sunset. We aren’t promised this in so many words but still we know for a certainty that this is the way the day will unfold. In a similar way, our track record as a business can speak volumes without our saying a word. Are we known for reliability? Do we consistently have the best prices in town? Are we quick to settle complaints? These shape not only what others think of our business but also what they believe they can expect from our business; an unspoken promise.
Another way we make promises is by giving clues as to what our business is and what it is not. We could take our earth cycles illustration a step further and reflect on the weather. If tomorrow morning we wake up to a sunny, cloudless sky our hopes increase that we will not have our outdoor activities impeded by rain. If, however, we wake up to dark clouds then our hopes of sunshine deminish. Nature gave us clues as to how our day might turn out. In the same way our branding strategy can provide clues to the public as to what they can expect from us (our promise), without us ever using a spoken or even written word. If our company color is pink then we have told the world that our business is in some form female oriented. If our company vehicles are dirty, dented and leaking oil then we have told everyone that we either don’t care about our business or don’t make enough money to properly care for our business equipment. If we are a contractor with vehicles in disrepair; we may inadvertently be promising that we will ask for a deposit but never complete the work.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, says, “your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”. Are we the cowpoke or the boss man? Do we think that because we have a logo for our business that nothing more is needed? Or as the boss man do we take charge of our business and plan out a brand strategy that lets customers know exactly what they can expect from us so that neither party leaves disappointed. If we do, then what others say about us when we are not in the room will be positive, will be repeated, and will ensure our success in business.
Companies like Nike, Amazon and Starbucks have a clear understanding of what they are and what they are not. Through their individual branding strategies they educate their customers as to what kind of business experience they can expect. This helps to connect the consumer with the business that is right for them and vice versa. The house painter that each morning leaves his cigarette dangling on the top of the trash can while he goes inside the 7-Eleven to buy a dollar cup of coffee and $5 worth of lottery tickets isn’t likely to start frequenting the new Starbucks that opened a block closer to where he lives. I know it, you know it, but more importantly, Starbucks knows it. Because they have so meticulously carried out their branding strategy, a lot of time and confusion is avoided. Their store is seldom the scene of an angry outbust between a disgruntled contractor and a coffee barista over prices that the contractor believe are akin to “highway robbery”. Why can’t we as small business owners learn a lesson from the big boys? Why can’t we draw the right consumers to our business and at the same time repel the ones who we will never truely satisfy? It is my hope that this and future blog posts provides a starting point in helping small business owners and contractors to brand their business in a way that leads to increased revenue and better customer relations.