The Biggest Problem in Branding


Part 3- Becoming the Real Deal

A few years back, my daughter worked in visual merchandising at a big box department store in Chicago. I will leave the store unnamed, although I am quite sure you have been there or at one of its affiliates. I asked her one day, out of curiosity, how a big company goes about communicating its mission internally to its employees. “Quite unsuccessfully in our case,” she answered. “Our mission statement glows from every computer screen, but the employees just make fun of it.” Despite the continual glowing of the visual reminder, the mission failed to glow from the hearts of anyone whose task it was to make it come true.

And there you have it.

The biggest problem in branding is not the cost, although it does cost something. It is not the time, although it requires much thinking. It is not the internal management required to make the brand images consistent, as important as consistency is.

The biggest problem in branding is making Brand happen.

It is obvious that it is just as hard for the large company to carry out its intentions as it is for the small firm. Wherever the mission and vision of a company meets or exceeds the expectation of the customer, you create magic. But wherever mission and vision depart from the actual customer experience, you have the antithesis to business at best, and potential toxicity at worst.

Entrepreneurs start off with good intentions. Many understand the power of brand, and craft a well-defined mission, vision, culture, and story. But as they grow they tend to pay more attention to sales quotas than they do the customer. In doing so, they bypass the heart of marketing, and the pulse weakens.

What is this like? Let’s imagine a man named Jim takes on one of those reality show challenges to win a large sum of money. All he has to do is find a romantic muse, get married, and inspire his partner to say that he is the perfect husband at the end of one year. If he is successful, he will win a million dollars. But, if she does not claim he is the best husband ever? He will have to pay back every expense plus finance charges. If he takes the goal seriously, Jim will work hard to keep his muse amused. He will go out of his way to be everything she needs him to be, albeit with dollar signs in his eyes. He would study the behavior of good husbands. He would study his partner’s behavior, and make long lists of her likes and dislikes. He would check his calendar to determine all the right dates to send flowers. He would plan breakfasts in bed. He would plan to say the all the right things, and do all the right things, at all the right times.

But, six months in, his partner begins to feel as if something is up. She may not know anything about the contract, but senses something is off-kilter. Jim is a little too perfect. He has no sparkle in his eye, and no spontaneity–his words are a bit too scripted. She can’t quite put her finger on it, but the relationship feels a bit, well . . . . cheesy. Of course. It is cheese. It is not a relationship. It is all about Jim.

This story may seem a far-fetched example, yet many businesses do marketing in the exact same way. In the reality show of business, this exact scenario has played itself out so many times that consumers are now suspect of anything that smacks of an advertising overture. When a company only seeks a sales quota, and sees its customers only as a package of behaviors–as someone to convince to ‘click here’–it will not be long before that customer describes the relationship as plastic. Customers want real passion. They would rather experience serendipity than scripts. They can better endure anything–even a screw up–than a fake company.

There are a thousand ways to build real relationships with your customers. Knowing what your customers need and want. Staying true to your core values. Providing real value that you know is your best work. Setting up systems so you can deliver with consistency. Doing what you say you are going to do. Making it easy to do business with you. Respecting the customer as intelligent and worthy of your time. Being genuinely excited about helping them achieve their goals. By ensuring your customer has experienced your company in the way you planned for them to experience it. And these are just a skim from the top. 

A wise entrepreneur will craft their customer’s experience from start to finish. But business is not theater. It cannot be an illusion of real relationship to obtain a sale. It must be the real deal.

Are you looking to create real relationships with your customers? You cannot fake it. Truth will prevail. Experience is hard to argue with.  How do you help your customers best?

Put your customer first, and you will become the Real Deal.


Why do we at etc!graphics inc, a graphic design company, care about your business strategies?  Because no matter how beautiful we make your visuals, your graphics will never make more sense than the clarity of your own vision. The clearer your target, the more lucid your marketing will be, and the better connection you will create with your visual graphics. We want to help you become the best you can be. Join us all this month as we share ways to help your small business sustain and grow in a crowded marketplace. Etc!Graphics is devoted to helping you, the small business owner, think like a marketer.