The best branding consultants do more than “package you up.”
The best branding consultants, in my opinion, are those who understand that genuine brand discovery reveals not just one or two business truths – a piece of insight about your targets, for example, or a leaning toward this or that tactic. That’s marketing assignment type thinking or creative campaign-level thinking, at best. Though simplicity (distillation) is most assuredly a key branding objective, getting to simple is far from simple. It’s what I call the “mad variable juggle” wherein we aren’t just performing a single inquiry, we’re opening up hundreds of explorations simultaneously… and we aren’t signing off on definitive answers to any of them until we’re assured we can arrive at a holistic set of organizing principles for the company.
Though the joys of helping companies get to a better place faster are many, too many branding consultants out there are operating more as creative service providers than they are agents of business development, so their celebrations are more about the surface of the work. But even positive impacts on marketing ROI (especially if they’re short-lived) don’t come close to what working with a real brand strategist or branding consultant can do for your business.
Common business reasons for branding versus branding’s biggest benefits
For purposes of this blog post, let’s make quick work of the most obvious reasons companies brand.
Seven reasons why most businesses brand
- They want to increase awareness and forge perceptions of value.
- They want to differentiate and set their products and services apart.
- They want to better connect with their targets.
- They want to leverage their strengths into a recognizable marketplace reputation.
- They want to support a premium pricing model or defend against commodity pricing pressures.
- They want to support their sale with greater credibility.
- They want to bring greater clarity, impact, consistency and efficiency to their marketing.
Branding’s biggest benefits
As if all of that weren’t enough (few capital investments can deliver as much return), it’s important to consider some of branding’s even more impressive benefits. Why? Because it is our understanding of these issues that directly impacts a brand consultant’s ability to perform the objectives listed above successfully. Whether these are your hot-button issues today or not, knowing what brand strategy is really all about will help you make a better business decision.
The thoughtfully engineered business brand:
- Puts customer creation back at the center of the business model
- Operates (not just markets) with greater focus and efficiency
- Uses the brand to spell out the CEO’s vision internally and externally
- Uses the branding process (not just the resultant brand) to accelerate business development, specifically with regard to how we are:
a. Strategically working our SWOT (strengths, weakness, opportunities, threats) to advance for today and position for tomorrow
b. Defining our value and our specific approach to the capture of the marketplace opportunity
Where branding consultants go wrong
Too often these days, I see companies being led down a primrose path of sorts, so, yeah, I’m gonna speak up. Your brand is not your logo, your name, your website (no matter how great the web copy writing), or the latest promotional item being sold to you. These may all be expressions of your brand’s identity in the marketplace, but if you would like your brand to function as a true engine of business development, work with a true branding professional. If he/she has the courage to challenge your existing premises, and you can tell these come from a place of service helpfulness and not ego, that may not be the end of your evaluation, but it’s a damn good start.