Similarly, there are a few Urban Legends floating around out there about good branding that need some dispelling (or, at least, illumination).
1. Exposure is awareness.
The more you get your brand out there, the more people will pay attention to you. It is simply false. The splatter technique of brand building will only work if it resonates with the recipient of the message. While you might get noticed more frequently...it doesn't mean people will "pay attention" to you more.
The key to generate good awareness is a sound messaging strategy that includes clearly communicated, simple ideas that people can concretely grab onto.
2. And speak of getting your brand out there: If I build it they will come.
The simple fact of the matter is that if you build it...well, that's nice. But you've got to be proactive in getting to the consumer. Don't stop at building something impressive that people would love to enjoy, only to never let people know about it.
Seth Godin, guru on marketing and the like, has a book called "The Purple Cow" which is like a fast track course on Marketing 101. Develop a unique property in order to get noticed. The only flaw of the book is it doesn't give you the practical measures to getting the message out.
It's a lot like marriage. The hard part isn't actually getting married. The difficult side is working through the communication and relationship building after the wedding day that trips so many people up. Building your brand is great. But getting it into the minds of the consumer as an actual choice is a whole different ball game.
My premise has been, yes, get your Purple Cow. But make sure it's close enough to the highway for people to see...because it won't matter what color your cow is if can't be seen.
3. I've got a good product. My brand is my product.
Unfortunately, a brand is not really ever the product. Think about big brands you know that seem product driven. Kleenex. Kellogg's Cornflakes. Old Spice deodorant.
Those products are the brand. Instead, they resonate some quality that people desire in themselves. Comfort, health, nostalgia, or cleanliness.
Unless your brand communication can connect with people at a deeper level - approaching a felt need or desire - it won't matter how good your product is. Start thinking about not only your service, but the felt need you are meeting and your brand will become better as a result.
Stop focusing so much on your product, and get you communication strategy down.
4. If I have a good brand strategy, my product will sell.
This is almost the converse of the previous point. If you don't pay enough attention to your product, you might sell a few products (heck - you might sell a ton). But I can bet you won't trick those same folks into buying more.
Make sure your product is good enough to sell before selling it. Otherwise, you'll beak the promise of delivering your brand. And if you break a promise to your consumer you'll spend a lot of money trying to win them back.
Urban Legends can hurt your brand. It's always good to do your homework before "buying" into brand technique or ideas.
With the prevalence of advice (and frankly, advisors) out there, you should always require due diligence and deliberate thinking even through the smartest sounding ideas for your business. Always consult with someone whose advice is consistent, makes sense and can be validated.
(Note: This "holiday" blog was previously published as a Merge left Marketing article titled Cinco de Made Up...)