Keep Your Filthy Brands off of Me

I haven’t had a serious rant on this blog yet so today is the day!  Corporate marketers at big companies, you can just ignore this post, it’s not for you.  I’m talking to you product marketers at little companies or you folks that own marketing budget for new products at bigger companies.  You know who you are.

Lately I am hearing the word “brand” so much it’s making me ill.  Seriously.  Worse than having to watch people use the word brand inappropriately all over the place, is when I see “branding” used as an excuse for bad marketing.

Maybe it’s because I spent so many years of my life marketing database software but I am a bit of an analytics nut.  In my world if you aren’t measuring it you aren’t managing it and if you aren’t managing your marketing spend then you might as well hand out $20 bills on the street asking for sales calls.

So you have a marketing budget.  It’s puny.  In fact your CEO and your Finance guy are probably in a room right now cutting it as we speak.  Why are you still spending money on things you can’t or don’t measure and calling it “Branding”?

Oh I can hear you right now – “April, we have to run those ads – we are building our brand!”  “We have to be at those tradeshows, it’s important for our brand!” “We are spending tens of thousands of dollars on graphics and art and colors and logos and naming, and all that because we are building a brand!”  So how exactly are you tracking that?  Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Let’s just call it what it is.  Marketers do this stuff because they have always done it, because they are afraid to stop doing it, because they are afraid to do new things, because they didn’t know why they were doing it in the first place so they don’t know when to stop.

I understand that awareness is important.  How do you ever get considered by customers if they don’t know you exist?  But unless you have a lot of extra money hanging around, any spending on awareness that can’t be tracked back to revenue (i.e. is it translating to consideration then preference) is, quite simply, wasted.

And PLEASE stop calling it branding!  Your brand is determined by how customers feel about you.  How customers feel about your products and services is determined by their interactions with your company.  Did you meet their expectations?  Did you exceed them?  Focus on your customer experience.  Is it easy for prospects to find you?  When they do, is it easy to figure out what you do and how you can help them solve their problems?  Is it easy for customers to evaluate your products and/or measure the potential return on investing in your products?  If you took the money you are currently spending on “branding” and spent it on making it easier for companies to do business with you, would you drive more revenue?

We’re in a recession.  Stop fooling around and get out there and sell something!

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7 thoughts on “Keep Your Filthy Brands off of Me”

  1. I’ll add to your definition of branding, if I may. Branding can also be about helping customers to define your products or company, even before they become customers. It is about leading them to answer, “What word best defines Comany X?” in the way you want them to.

  2. Hi David,
    Thanks for the comment. I totally agree. In my opinion messaging and positioning are super important and those are all about making sure that customers understand the value of what you do. The more you can do to point customers in that direction the better.
    However, if you are spending money on marketing tactics and saying “I don’t have to track this back to revenue because these tactics are just about educating the market”, then we have a problem. I’m not in the education business, I’m in the business of making money by selling stuff.
    April

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  4. Great post here, April. Branding is an amorphous word that is tossed around a lot but there’s more to it than a kitchy logo and a blog.
    I wonder if the word usability belongs in this conversation. How are customers using our products? How can we make it better for them? How are they using our services? Can we streamline these processes for them?
    I’m sure you can answer this question: what’s the difference between usability and marketing? How are these fields similar and how are they different?
    Thanks,
    Al

  5. Pingback: David Leonhardt

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