Recently I've caused a bit of a stir when I said that Google does NOT define your brand. The discussion that ensued has been informative and constructive (mostly). I even got a few sly insults thrown my way, which is fine, I can understand that my thoughts have stirred up quite a few hornet nests....
Isn't that what this is all about? Open discussion and the exchanging of thoughts and opinions? The answer is yes for those who were wondering.
So for my follow up, I'd like to talk about what I like to call the The Great BIG Branding Lie. Get your torches and pitchforks ready!
The Great BIG Branding Lie is what advertising agencies and marketers of all types like to tell themselves and their clients. Specifically:
1. Only we (the agencies or marketers) can help you define your brand.
2. Don't worry about your product, our brand marketing efforts will overcome your lack of quality.
3. Your brand is what everyone else says it is, so you better hire us to tell the world that it's good, or control the naysayers (Google?) who are out to destroy you.
4. Perception by those who don't touch your product means more than what your current customers think.
Did your head explode yet?
Look, I'm a marketer, and a brand manager. I've done both for publicly traded companies and mom and pop shops alike. I do understand the business I hope. I certainly have an opinion, eh?
I just happen to disagree that marketing and perception are the same thing as brand. BOTH are important, but different. No, marketers aren't evil, and ad agencies gotta eat. But–
I sometimes wonder if marketers are too worried about perception (and their egos) when maybe what they should be more concerned with is helping their customer improve their product through marketing intelligence.
Isn't that the appropriate way to service a customer? Shouldn't a marketer take the data they have uncovered and use it to help their customer build a better mousetrap?
Or is it your opinion that marketers are solely responsible for spreading a message? Maybe that's why marketers get such a bad rep, especially online?
Martin S. comment to me in my last post.
Brand, and all things associated with branding, are within the domain of perception and marketing - period. Thinking of it otherwise is simply bad business and very bad marketing. If you think a brand's meaning or value is only truly defined by those who have actual experience with the product/service, then you have limited your abilities as a marketer and severly hobbled the marketing efforts of anyone who has hired you. Perhaps that is why some of us work in marketing, and others of us work as bloggers.
Perhaps Martin. And actually, I am both a marketer and a blogger, but those are two different roles. And perhaps my inability to allow my client to simply flounder away with their product/service while I continue to spew ineffective marketing messages is what you like to call bad marketing.
I disagree, and it's not how I or any effective marketer should approach their efforts. To me, that's a huge disservice.
It's ALL about the product. That's where I start and where I explain to my client we're going to focus our efforts on– improving your product, which is in essence your brand– period.
How the customer gets to your product is the marketing. And yes, perception plays a part in that spot, but let's be honest, at the end of the day, when I need to look my client in the face and show them a return-on-investment from their marketing spend, I darn sure need to be able to say more than "Well, Google thinks your brand sucks."
Instead, hopefully, I was able to walk into my client's board meeting and say that through our marketing intelligence we've determined that your product needs some improvements, and here's why, and here's the marketing methodologies we're going to institute to get you there after your product issues are addressed.
How many marketers/brand managers reading this have done that? I have, and it's the only way I'll continue to operate. (Probably the reason I'll never get a job at an agency, and I don't want one for that exact reason). It takes a lot of walnuts to look a paying customer in the face and tell them that, wouldn't you agree?
Of course, yes, there are products that simply can't be improved, so what then? Someone brought up diamonds in my last post, great example. No, you can't improve a diamond. But are marketers really selling the diamond, or are they selling the experience?
You buy a diamond because it means something; because the idea of it has value. Therefore, in this case, the brand (the experience) is the sizzle, not the steak. So in that example, and others, it is appropriate to say that the marketing is the brand.
But that's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about products and services that exist solely on their merits of quality in their performance. A diamond can't perform or improve, but a piece of software can, etc–
Perhaps my views on all of this are wrong. I certainly have considered that. I can only go by track record of my performance and the success of my past customers, to which I have used my manta to hopefully improve both their marketing AND their brand.
Do my views and choices make me a marketing snob? Maybe, but I'll only work with customers who "get it". Otherwise it's a waste of time for them and a long term hit on my own personal brand as I won't be able to perform effectively. Again, to point, I could care less what Google thinks about me, only what my former customers think.
To those of you who disagree with me, and I know many of you will, I want you to ask yourself, if you were the client, which marketing team you would rather employ?
The team that is more worried about what people think about your product and how to control what they think, or the team that understands that your brand IS the product, and before you can craft an effective marketing message, your product may need to be tweaked by working with your customers (the people who really matter).
Fire away. I have my blindfold and cigarette in place.
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