“We spent $20,000 on branding and it got us nowhere”

Good branding should always “disappear.”

Yes, I said it. You probably think I’m losing it. So let me explain!

Let’s start with some context. Branding has a clear role for many businesses. When used properly, branding can be a stable mindset, offer perspective or a set of values that allow you to make clear and consistent decisions across all aspects of a company, from product through to marketing.

Many of you have put a lot of time, energy and money into figuring out exactly what that core branding represents, and what it needs to say to a consumer or client.

But that’s where the problem starts. To begin, let’s look at an example.

SONY has produced one of the hottest items this holiday season, the Playstation 5. It’s a product that has sold out in every store across the country within seconds of release, and is expected to eventually sell over 7.5 million units by the end of the fiscal year. SONY makes a whole plethora of other products as well, including TVs, cameras and phones…and they even have their own (very large) music division.

But when you think of SONY, what do you think of? What does the brands’ branding “say”? It’s probably not very clear.

When you’re considering that PS5 purchase, you’re thinking about the fun you’re going to have, the hype behind the release, or maybe even just getting your hands on the latest technology. The “branding” aspect almost disappears. Would you consider that successful branding?

Consider Apple. It’s a very similar concept. You may associate Apple with beautiful design and elevated cultural norms, but if you think about their branding over the years, Apple has come to represent an association with quality, culture, design and function without needing to constantly post about their products on Instagram. They’re able to communicate through their product, and by showing (in media and PR) that they truly understand the wants and needs of their consumer. Would you consider that successful branding?

In many cases, product and service are doing the branding for you. In others, cultural relevance takes center stage…and when your branding is successful, all the marketing, copy, and creative decisions you made vanish in a flash leaving your customer to enjoy what it is you were branding in the first place. I’m not buying next year’s iPhone because the last one came in fancy white packaging or because I saw clever words on a billboard, I’m buying it because I enjoy using the product, and the tech within it.

I don’t love branding, I love the brand.

To wrap this up: Absolutely. Do spend time on branding. But don’t try to cram so much into it that it distracts you AND your consumer from the goal of branding a business in the first place: to get your product or service into the hands of the people who want it, and to have them come back for more.


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