No Brand Design Can Work a Miracle

If it’s a dog, it’s a dog.  Not to insult dogs.  No branding effort or redesign or flung mountains of marketing cash can make a silk purse out of sow’s ear.  If that were the case, we’d be guzzling New Coke by the 2-liter.  Having lived through a similar exercise (Crystal Pepsi!  Soon, everything we drink will be clear!) on the creative side I can swear to you on a stack of Addys that there’s a metric ton of good intentions and enthusiasm that goes into the work, almost to the detriment of perception.  No amount of marketing, and no degree of design genius, will ever salvage a product that’s just not right.

Any branding agency that pretends otherwise is lying.  “The product or service is the source of the power,” as I saw it put recently.  You can’t raid customer’s wallets — at least not for very long — with swashbuckling branding and advertising.  Even the big guns behind established brands can get it spectacularly right, and appallingly wrong.  Because brand perception is the aggregate of a lot more than anything a marketer does in terms of design, or advertising, or clever consumer engagements.

The flip side of that?  You do need good branding, because in the continuum of considerations that go into a buyer’s process, how your brand looks and communicates itself is crucial.

For small to mid-sized marketers, especially in B2B, there are a few simple points you can take into consideration as you go about re-branding your company, product or service that can help you put branding or re-branding in proper perspective:

  • It’s not a cure-all, but it’s critical care. A strong brand that serves to draw attention and help position you in the mind of your target audience is crucial — it’s that “visual handshake” that’s part of a first impression.
  • Will a new brand really change anything? Don’t fool yourself into thinking a new name, logomark or communications strategy is automatically the solution to your business ills.  There may be other factors you’ve got to address first.  Good luck with those whalebone corsets!
  • Think it through — thoroughly. Talk with your own team about what you mean to accomplish with a new look or logomark; it should be about more than how awesome your letterhead looks.  Branding is something that should run deep in the organization, and it can serve as a strong rallying point and motivator.  So give it long, hard consideration.  And make sure to screen and hire a true branding resource that’s about more than just creating a pretty look.
  • Fix it and forget it. Once you’ve created and launched a new brand design, or re-branded, resist the urge to tinker.  If you’ve covered the point above, you should be set.  Concentrate on how your overall branding  and positioning “walks and talks” in sales, customer service, employee behavior and beyond.
  • But don’t let it lie fallow. Definitely take account of how customers and prospects react to a new logo, or identity suite, or graphic grammar.  But don’t panic if they’re not all on board — there’s no such thing as a perfect brand that’s loved by all.  If you find it’s really not working for you, over time, then accommodate that.  But a key strength of a brand is consistency, and that should be reflected in its look and feel over time.  So don’t futz with it unless it’s absolutely necessary.
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