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Branding: Part One of a Series

It Ain’t What You Think

This week’s Marketing Brief is the first of a multi-part series on Branding: What it is, what it isn’t, what it can do for you, how to implement a branding project, and a case study on a successful, real world branding program.

Later in the series: How these furry creatures strengthened a brand.

To most people (including those who should know better), branding is a new “look”, starting with a logo, perhaps reinforced with a slogan or tagline. Then to make it a really effective, professional branding program, all you have to do is apply the new look to stationery, collateral materials, signs, giveaways, advertising and so on. Wrong.

What is described above is in reality a corporate identity project, and it comes much later in the branding process. Think about this: when was the last time you made a purchasing decision based on a logo? Or based on a clever slogan? We’ll give you the answer – never!

And if a company or organization is counting on branding to improve sales, it should consider this fact: Branding alone—without the foundation of a strong marketing plan—will not sell anything on its own. We should understand this basic marketing tenet: Branding is not fancy new logos. It is not catchy slogans. It is not a symbol, a name, color(s) or signs. These things come at the end of a new branding program, representing a potent brand statement.

Good branding acts like a friend who refers you to the firm and/or its products and services. With a well managed brand, the trust that comes from consistently delivered communications and experiences can feel much the same way as advice from a trusted friend. One believes that the experience will be what was promised… today and in the future.

But what happens when the promise and impression of a brand do not match? A most serious problem arises, and it’s called a Brand Gap. This is the difference between what you mean to say and do and what actually occurs and registers in the mind of a customer or potential customer. While you may perceive your products and services as among the best, most competitive and satisfying, your consumers may be getting a completely different communications message and services delivered. Since a brand is a promise, inconsistent implementation of the brand represents a broken promise. Unsure of what they will get, a buyer or potential customer will instead turn to a competitor that they know and trust (or think they do).

Probably the biggest mistake we at Roster see is the belief that marketing (and its component, branding) can make an organization into something it is not, and attract the desired consumers and repeat business. You cannot attract and retain a customer if you do not deliver what that person is expecting.

In the next Roster Marketing Brief, we’ll examine the positive side of branding. Future Briefs will demonstrate how-to steps to start a branding program, and offer case studies. Taken together, this special series on branding is a valuable, basic primer for branding your organization. 

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