Founded in 2004 with $14 and a dream, Imagine is an integrated marketing, branding and design firm that combines Northern Virginia’s flair for innovation with Chicago’s warm personality and West Coast creativity. We’re an industry-leading group of problem solvers that believe that marketing can’t truly be effective unless it’s integrated, and handled by dedicated experts in each field.
I recently sat through a webinar that broke down the “science” of branding, where I only learned one thing – a greater respect for mankind’s ability to complicate things. This mind-numbing onslaught of graphs and scenarios broke the average consumer down to a series of worthless numbers and statistics, so mundane I actually felt my life leaving my body. Maybe I would have been more attentive if they looked at their consumer as something with a pulse. Maybe it’s my short attention span that forced my hand to close my browser. Either way, I couldn’t sit through it.
Just about everything I learned about branding was taught to me before I could perform long division. I still have trouble with long division, but that’s getting off the subject. Developing your brand can be compared in many ways to developing your personal character and, I don’t know how you were raised, but my parents never flashed pie charts at me to keep me in line.
1. Find your voice and be authentic. Ask yourself one question: what makes you different from anyone else? If you can’t answer that question with a quick, less-than-40-word elevator speech, take some time now and develop it. I’ll wait.
Once you have an honest, distinct statement that truly sets you apart in your industry - be it a specialized niche offering, a cost advantage, whatever – make sure that it’s spoken loud and clear. Your consumer doesn’t like mixed signals, and I’m sure I don’t need stupid charts to show you that.
2. Be a team player. The only way you can hope to develop a strong brand is to have the entire company on board. The way they interact with your consumers, and each other, has to be a reflection of that statement. So, if you have a number of employees, distributors, contractors, etc., your best bet is to bring them all together to help you define step 1. A company party is always a good, tax-deductible way to develop ideas.
3. Know your limitations. You know your industry better than I do. Unfortunately, that doesn’t mean you make a branding expert. Once you have found your message and what makes you different from anyone else out there, it’s time to show it to the world. Find an expert that can deliver that message, and don’t let them show you too many dumb charts – it’s just showing off and you do pay by the hour.
Building a brand, in my opinion, is more of an art than a science. It’s an expression; a communication that transcends “key phrases” and doesn’t limit itself to suburban housewives, aged 25-34 with 2.5 kids and an annual household income of $100,000 to $150,000. Seriously, I’ve had mascara ads that “spoke” to me. Good branding knows no limits.