Thursday, March 3, 2011

Awareness and Branding

The office phone rings and the person on the other end of the line is asking a simple enough question, for which there is no simple answer.

"I know this client that needs design work for a billboard campaign. Is there a way you guys can do it?"

But, why does this particular client feel they need a billboard campaign? What are the specific objectives they are trying to achieve?

"I don't really know ... I just know from talking to them that they have some money in their marketing budget and they want to get some awareness going out there".

Like I said, there is no simple answer to this question.

But, here goes.

Personally, I cringe every time I hear a business owner or a board of directors heading down a one-way street marked "marketing message" or "advertising tactic" before taking "brand strategy" and "clarity" into account.

Ask yourself what can be accomplished by burning tons of marketing fuel and money without first figuring out what the purpose and meaning is? How will it help gain competitive advantage?

One of the toughest things to help business people understand and appreciate about "brand" is that it has little or nothing to do with logos, taglines or advertising strategies. The concept of "brand" once fully understood, needs to be clarified first before any truly effective marketing, promotional or advertising strategy can be implemented.

Otherwise you find yourself on the branding highway with a proverbial cart before the horse.

"Awareness" alone won't create a strong, sustainable, emotional brand.

You could buy all the radio ads you want, splash billboards all over town or beg for likes on your Facebook fan page, "awareness" by itself won't be enough.

Just because we know about something or someone doesn't mean we want to buy it ... or them. Forget products or services you see on the shelf or on TV. Just think of all the plastic posing Pollyanna’s or chest-thumping jerks in your circle that you are "aware" of. When was the last time you opened your wallet for them?

Customers need to be aware of what your brand stands for and more importantly, what it stands against before they will believe in it. And you can always measure that belief by how much they buy.

Listen to what Simon says.

Really pay attention.

And see if this makes sense.

Simon Middleton is one of the UK's top branding experts and the author of "Build A Brand In 30 Days" and "What You Need To Know About Marketing". And his thoughts echo what The Seamless Brand have discovered to be true in terms of sharpening your message and anchoring your story.

The formula for success in the 21st century Digital Economy is still astonishingly simple.

Whether it is personal and/or professional, uncommon success lies within your ability to create a powerful and emotional brand.

Put in park any logical thoughts about products and services, because when you shift gears and speak in the context of "brand":

- Starbucks sells "affordble luxury" not coffee.
- Vegas sells "sin" not tourism.
- Mont Blanc sells "prestige" not pens.
- Harley-Davidson sells "rebellion" not motorcycles.
- Disney sells "family togetherness" not an amusement park.
- sells "control" not real estate.
- Rolex sells "achievement" not watches
- Dove sells "self-esteem" not soap.
- Apple sells "cool" not computers.
- Martell Home Builders sells "confidence" not new homes.
- Riverview Ford Lincoln sells "transparency" not cars.
- Alice Cooper, KISS and Marilyn Manson all sell "shock" not music.

Successful global, regional or local brands have "meaning" figured out long before taking any steps towards "awareness". They actually know why they developed the brand strategy in the first place before deciding on any messages or tactics.

Products and services only get you in the game.

A carefully crafted brand allows you to win the game.

"Awareness", on its own, never cuts the Heinz 57 branding mustard.

Not ever.

"Once you have established a brand, then you can talk about all the different marketing disciplines. Otherwise you are marketing without meaning"

P.S. ... For the record, we passed on doing any design work for a billboard campaign that threatened to populate our highways with even more advertising "white noise" and marketing without meaning. We suggested they approach several graphic artists instead.

P.P.S. These guys from Black Dog in Buffalo, NY also "get it" when it comes to understanding that building a brand involves much more than fancy logos, clever slogans or cool designs.

Would you like Gair to re-energize, re-focus or re-inspire your organization or event? Details on his keynotes and speaking programs can be discovered at His book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" is also waiting patiently for you at and

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