“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

Chinese Proverb

 

What is branding?

There is much speculation and discussion about the definition of ‘branding.’ For a start-up company it may be their product or service. For an NPO, it could mean their name and mission. Marketing professionals may tell you it’s your logo, colors and social media presence. An ad agency will convince you it’s the battle cry your audience rallies around.

Whatever your connection to ‘branding’ may be one thing for sure is everyone claims to do it. But what is ‘it’ anyway?

Before I was a consultant helping build brands from the inside out, I worked with various firms as an art director and creative director. I was part of the ‘branding’ conversation with many clients and found it comes down to two key areas, development and management.

What is brand development?

The majority of services sold today are brand management with a small amount of brand development mixed in. Think of management as the branches of a tree. Management deals with maintaining and advancing the brand through efforts such as marketing, advertising, design, PR, acquisitions and business strategies. On average, this is what most people think of when they hear the word ‘brand.’ It’s also where most people start when developing a new company or refreshing the identity for an existing one.

If management is the branches of a tree, then development is the trunk and root system; it’s the foundation. It unearths the authentic and unshakeable aspects of your organization and plants it firmly in the market. Development deals with character, values, personality, voice, positioning and differentiation. Development gets to the heart of your customers and establishes a bond. It’s what keeps you grounded and strong while supporting those branches to reach far and wide.

How can you manage something you haven’t accurately developed, don’t deeply understand and can’t clearly communicate?

The discovery process of brand development brings great awareness for managers and their teams. When we clarify thoughts and opinions, which are typically felt or not directly shared, and put them out for everyone to see, the impact is astounding. The company’s internal culture, how it treats employees and the outlook of the future is an integral part your brand’s longevity. When you begin with development, you create cohesion. Your employees understand “why” they come to work everyday. It supports a creative environment where ownership over the brand’s success is a priority. Your customers understand “why” you are different than the competition.

Beginning with the management phase is a common practice when an organization is faced with change. Instead, you need to Begin WithinTM to develop who you are, what you do and why it matters.

Who needs brand development?

I’ve worked with real estate agents, mortgage loan consultants, corporate trainers, NPOs, land developers, cyber security agencies, and entrepreneurs. Every organization from small to medium businesses, startups and large corporations can benefit from beginning with development rather than management.

I’ve worked with real estate agents, mortgage loan consultants, corporate trainers, NPOs, land developers, cyber security agencies, and entrepreneurs beginning their startup company.

Even if your company has already done work similar to this, as markets and customers evolve, so too must the organization. It becomes less a question of ‘who’ and more a question of ‘when.’

As the Chinese proverb goes, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today.”

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