What the Hell is Branding, Anyway?
I’ve been having a lot of conversations about branding lately. For those of us who live in the world of branding, the term has almost become invisible. We eat, drink and breathe this stuff. It’s like water or air to us. But I had a conversation the other night with someone who was grappling with the need to brand her progressive religious organization. She was having a lot of trouble reconciling the crass, commercial connotations of the term, “branding,” with the need to build her congregation.
Here’s what I told her.
Branding, the way I see it is just a fancy term for building your tribe. You start by thinking about who you are – or your product, your business, your organization, etc… You figure out a way to describe it in its purest essence. The second part, and this is really the key, is for you to communicate about yourself in a way that will reach the people with whom you wish to connect.
It Is What It Is
Branding is creating messages that will get you to the right people. It’s about communicating in a way that your audience or your customers will recognize as honest and authentic. It’s about finding the best way to build your community, by creating genuine relationships.
Branding, in and of itself, is neither true nor deceptive. It’s a neutral term that describes the process. It can be carried out with varying degrees of integrity, depending on the nature of the people doing the branding. Personally, I’m a proponent of genuine, honest communication. I’m also in favor of quirky, original messages that always push the boundaries of current standards and practices just a bit. Or sometimes, a whole lot.
Are You Talking to Me?
Think about who you are speaking to, when you craft these messages. Your audience is not the whole wide world. As brilliant and earth shattering as your ideas or products may be (and I’m certain they are), you have to narrow your concept of your market just a tad. Start with your natural allies, the most obvious supporters. Trust me – if your stuff is that good, you can grow your audience from there.
Keeping it Real
OK, there’s all the rest of the details – market research, brand guidelines, graphic design, keywords, business plan – you know, all that stuff… but that’s not what we’re talking about here. My main concern is that regardless of your overall goals and strategies, whatever budget and other resources you bring to the table, no matter how brilliant are your ideas, none of that matters if you don’t know how to talk to people. Real people, like you and me.
Be clear. Be authentic. Be respectful. Be funny, if you can! Find your tribe, and talk to them the way you’d want them to talk to you. And that’s branding.