The number of high profile CEOs who have no idea what branding means never ceases to amaze me. They think about branding as nothing more than logos, campaigns and, in the best of cases, go-to-market strategies. Maybe that is why, when asked to organize the brand of a corporation, I often feel like I’m trying to prevent the Titanic from sinking.
Nothing can be further from the truth. At least that is my point of view, and I believe I share it with Apple, Coca-cola, IBM, Nike, American Express and all the other corporations that have earned the right to be on top of their game. Branding is fundamentally the ability to identify the guiding principles of an endeavor. From understanding the problem being solved to what makes this solution better and relevant. But that is only the beginning.
One of the most robust branding processes that I can think of is the U.S. Constitution. This document describes the purpose of this remarkable country (the pursuit of happiness), it defines the value proposition (freedom), and it states all the rational attributes that make all its 300+ million inhabitants rationally and emotionally proud of who they are.
But, the difficulty in branding is not just about having a great guide or even having the elements that identify a brand (e.g. the flag, the hymns, the slogans, the messaging deck). These things are hard (can you clarify what you mean by ‘hard’?), but any capable team of focused writers and creatives can and must do this… on a daily basis!
The main difficulty in branding starts at the implementation phase. In an ideal world, every department in the company, or country, works towards a unified objective. But we all know that different people have different motivations, and this is where the biggest mishaps happen. Successful branding becomes like a cult within the entire organization, from R&D to fulfillment, and not simply a stamp on the packaging.
Our takeaway from this branding exercise of the U.S. Constitution is the understanding that marketing, like politics, is a never-ending struggle between a purpose and its execution. To see the extent of the Constitution’s power as the creed that drives forward this “enterprise” called The United States of America, take a look at this speech by its 40th “CEO.” And if you want to look further, I am certain that you will find a similar speech by each of his successors and predecessors.
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