When thinking about a brand, do you think about the logo, website, or stock symbol? Maybe. But these are just expressions of a brand; they are not what brings a brand to life. So if not these elements, what is the most important thing when you think about your brand? And how do you build brands from the inside out? I recently asked these questions to those I’m connected with on LinkedIn, and I was inspired by the feedback. There appears to have been an overall theme: the way that your customers and employees experience your brand will define it.
Here are a few of the comments that stood out to me:
Ron Johnson, Author, Speaker, Storyteller, Co-Founder, Blueprint Creative
“The origins of the word “brand” come from (at least in part) cattle owners literally branding a unique symbol onto their cattle to show ownership. This led to the word “brand” being associated with a company’s unique mark or symbol (such as a logo). But, we’ve come a long way since those days. While a company’s visual brand (logo, packaging, fonts etc.) is still important, the word “brand” has evolved to mean so much more!
There are dozens, if not hundreds of great definitions of the word “brand”. Perhaps the simplest and easiest definition of a brand is that “your brand is what people think and feel about your organization, its products and its services.” In other words, your brand is your reputation. If people hold your organization and its products/services in high regard, then you’ve got a great brand! On the other hand, even if you have a great website, great packaging and great ad/marketing campaigns, but people have a poor view of your organization, or if they think your products/services are shoddy, then you’ve got a weak brand.”
Your brand = your reputation, a simple yet profound statement.
Lia V Mote, Providing Corporate Training Worldwide at PD Training US
“While visual representations are called brands, I tell my clients that they are the brand: their firm’s integrity, quality of product, process and service is their true ‘brand.’”
Lia makes a fantastic point. It goes far beyond visual representation — integrity matters.
Abbie Mirata, Sr. Director and Intrapreneur at Offerpad
“Besides some of the obvious stuff – when I think about different brands, I truly wonder if they operate internally in the same way they operate externally. I find more and more that no matter how good a brand’s product or customer service is, if I find out they don’t treat their people with more respect and investment than they do their customer base, it begins to sour my outlook on them.”
I agree with Abbi — prioritizing our employees as much (or more) as we prioritize our customers impacts our brand.
Kari Kennedy, Chief of Staff & Operations to SVP of Implementations Conversions at FIS
“I think a brand is more than a logo or symbol. A brand is the impression that the company/person exudes and how it’s perceived by the customer. It’s aligning the internal culture and external expectations with the marketing.”
When the internal culture and external expectations align, you have a recipe for success!
Melissa Lynn Galland, Brand Strategy & Experience Leader, Founder at DO&Be
“I believe that the brand is everything. It starts with how you hire, onboard, communicate with, and empower your team, and concludes with how you treat the customer before, during, and after the sale.
In the middle of that “everything burger” is your marketing, advertising, business practices/values, and the product itself.
Your logo is essential, but it’s the pretty toothpick on top of the burger. It plays a vital role that helps hold the burger together, but if the ingredients are bad, it doesn’t matter how beautiful the toothpick is.”
Melissa even created this wonderful illustration to help us visualize her analogy!
As I reflected on each response, there was a definite thread throughout all of these industry leaders’ thoughts. Impressive products and services cannot create an enduring brand if the team is not inviting to each other AND to customers. Similarly, a team that is kind and strives for excellence is not enough to create an enduring brand if the product itself is subpar. Just as Melissa Lynn Galland displayed in her brand burger – the brand is every moving part of a business sandwiched together in the proper order!
Thank you to everyone who participated in this discussion. Together, we can create and sustain cultures of enduring greatness!