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Brand is Not a Garnish

Lipstick doesn’t go on pigs, and brand is not a garnish.

Everyone talks about branding, but only the best leaders are willing to address the real issue.

A brand is nothing more or less than the perception of your organization in the mind of your audience. That perception is shaped by experiences – a series of touchpoints as they encounter your product or service. Word of mouth, a customer service agent, your friend’s sister-in-law who works for the company, the delivery truck, the sales receipt, and your website are all customer touchpoints that add up to what you know and believe about a company – a brand. The primary touchpoint of course is your company actually delivering – not just broadcasting – value to your customers. The brand promise is the promise you have made to deliver on that value.

Often have we been hired to refresh, repackage, update, or otherwise refine a “brand,” often referred to as “rebranding.” The trouble is, too often there hasn’t been enough attention paid to making the value proposition more compelling. If the graphics have gotten more compelling, but the value proposition has not, we risk false advertising, not to mention wasting a company’s investment in “branding.” Even if you don’t see this alone as a cardinal sin, we now live in a world where customers see through empty promises.

New communications and social networking technologies have made it increasingly difficult to be anything but transparent to your customers. Customers demand it of their commercial providers and politicians alike.

We’ve been following the work of Bruce Temkin (VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research), and we recently participated in a webinar during which he shared some of his latest research on Customer Experience. His findings continue to reinforce the premise of our work. Among the useful pieces that he shared was the following chart, which lays out plainly the difference between communicating and delivering value.


Rebranding should coincide with repositioning, attending to the right side of this diagram. Communicating the value proposition, designing a great experience, is essential but follows the hard decisions required to create a good position. Too often people see branding as only what’s on the left – making promises – or worse, just window dressing, just designing a logo. Don’t get me wrong, I love logos! We live in a world of global ideograms and visual language, and it is critical to understand and capture the essence of your brand and realize its potential in your customer’s experience. But be clear about your strategy first.

Lipstick doesn’t go on pigs, and brand is not a garnish. If you are considering a rebrand, really understand your core value – what you plan to offer to whom. As Tom Koulopoulos noted in a recent seminar, innovation begins with understanding what you’re good at. It sounds easy, but it’s not.

If you’re looking for a brand consultant, throw a rock and you’re bound to hit one. If you want to dig deeper and find new ways to add value for your customer, we can help.


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