What Is a Brand, Anyway? An Answer You Can Use

by Vince Skolny via @GrowDemand

If you asked a dozen marketers exactly what a brand is, you would get at least a baker’s dozen answers. The better ones settle around what your customers think (or say) about you, but that’s not quite right. That’s only an opinion. It doesn’t become a brand until your customers develop expectations of you:

Your brand is your customers’ collective expectation of doing business with you.

That’s it, but it is enough. Because expectations are one of the six factors that can increase demand for your product, your brand essentially determines what you will be paid and to the extent you’ll be forced to compete on price (which isn’t really competition at all — http://goo.gl/JRhJhL): The higher your customers’ expectations of you and the more self-defined, not you-defined, value (called utility) they expect from doing business with you, the more they will pay to do business with you.

That is why you do not have to compete on price, unless you choose to. There are at least three factors that create your brand:

1. What you say about yourself. It’s a common marketing misnomer (because most marketers don’t know what a brand is) that your own marketing communications don’t influence your brand. Of course they do. What you say and how you say it are vital to framing expectations.
2. What your customers say about you. It should go without saying that word of mouth is vital. If you fail to meet customers’ expectations, that becomes the expectation — and, thus, your brand — of each and every person they tell.

3. What you actually do. This is the most important factor. A customer’s expectations are more influenced by her experiences with you than by anything you or your other customers say about you.

In practice, it is vital that these three factors align:

What you say about you must be both quantifiable and verifiable before your customer spends a penny to judge for himself. What your customers say about you must match what you say about yourself; if they differ, your customers’ claims, not your own, will establish expectations. And, finally, what you do, must match (and ideally increase) your customer’s existing expectations of what you are and do.

What do you think? Feel free to comment here or tweet at me. Shares and +1’s are appreciated, too. Also feel free to add me to your circles; I’ll add back, and let me know if you’d like me to tweet you my #MarketingMonday each week. I’m happy to.

Next week: The Three Things Customers Pay For

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