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Who Is Your Brand?

Posted by The Marketing Intern on July 27, 2009

If this picture makes you salivate, you might be a desk jockey.

If this picture makes you salivate, you might be a desk jockey.

It’s a simple question, really. When your clients think about your product, who do they think of as your representative? Who are you to your client, in other words, before he even picks up the phone to call you?

It’s an important question, especially now. Companies spend piles of money on branding and positioning, and at the end of it all what you have is a mountain of catch phrases and positioning statements — guidelines for diction, but no suggestion on voice or tone.

Do you suffer from brand personality disorder? You are if any of these statements is true of  you:

  • Your press releases use the word “leader” — as in “a leader in securities management software” — more than once;
  • When you read your press releases, you think, “Who the heck reads this stuff?”;
  • When someone asks you what kind of company you work for, you get the feeling that the answer isn’t all that interesting; or
  • You have ever looked at another company’s communications and thought, “Man, I wish we could do something like that.”

You can do something like that. All it takes is an understanding of who your brand is. So who are you?

The answer lies in what your customer wants. Your brand has to embody your industry niche, and has to respond to customer needs not just in text, but in subtext. Here’s a story to illustrate what I mean.

A very good friend of mine worked for a small tech startup in Boston which found itself in need of office furniture. After doing some research, they found a cool Danish furniture manufacturer and decided to do business. Over the years, as the company expanded, they bought lots of furniture from their Danish vendors — who, as it happens, had very few American clients — and met with several of the designers personally and often spoke through a translator.

Five years into the relationship, the Danish vendor launched a series of ultra-premium desk chairs. The company was very busy putting the line into production, and couldn’t afford to send any of the regular salespeople to the US. Instead, they sent a relatively new salesperson who had never dealt with my friend or his company before, but who came very highly recommended.

So my friend met this new salesperson. He was well-dressed, confident, poised, and spoke to his translator in what appeared to be a relaxed yet extremely professional manner — that’s how my friend tells it, anyway. My friend walked into the room, and knew before he even sat down that he would be buying one $1,000 chair for each of the company’s 14 full-time employees.

I asked him why. “It’s a matter of principle,” he said. “If everyone in a company, from the designers down to the newbie sales people, can internalize a brand message, regardless of what they’re selling, the brand is good.” My friend went on to say that to a customer, sales is closely linked to manufacturing in an unconscious kind of way. If a salesperson (and, one assumes, the collateral he’s peddling) can sell a concept on attitude alone, his audience assumes that the same attitude is present in the creation of whatever he’s selling. Attitude takes passion, and passion is often the hallmark of quality.

So I’ll ask again. Who is your brand? Is it the young, stylish, confident Dane that made a $14,ooo sale without having to pitch the product? And if it isn’t, can you get it there?

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