Brand development starts with introspection.

Porter CommunicationIn many organizations faced with a brand development initiative, or rebranding, the focus and management of such efforts often reside within marketing. Brand development is not marketing. Brand development is soul work.

In nearly four decades consulting on brand development initiatives for global brands to baby startups alike, we’ve found, in most instances, brand development initiatives originates and is driven by a marketing bias. It’s rare that brand development initiatives begin as a deep introspective soulful process by the leaders of the enterprise.

This might be the main reason brand development is seen by many business leaders as an abstract process that has no meaningful quantifiable value to the organization or as a strategic tool to build additional financial value to the business.

At the risk of proliferating the echo chamber of the branding world, and assuming you believe that a brand is the sum total of the perceived value of all experiences people have with your brand, why do most business leaders delegate the soul work of brand development to a marketing function?

Brand development is not logos, taglines or marketing campaigns.

It’s easy to equate branding efforts with logo making, writing clever taglines and creating media campaigns.  These artifacts are tactical, not strategic. In our experience, we can’t think of one enterprise that created lasting financial value creating a new logo.  Yet so much energy and money are spent creating these things as though it were enough to change the trajectory of business enterprise.

True enough these are important outbound messaging elements that serve to distinguish the “identity” of the brand or enterprise in the marketplace. But by itself is meaningless to building the business equity that a strong brand provides its owners over time.

The same is true for marketing campaigns. While media campaigns help build awareness, and perhaps trial, they do nothing for creating lasting customer experiences. In the white noise and clutter of the marketplace, increasingly customers ignore most marketing altogether.

Why not what.

Brand development begins with organizational clarity on “why” not what.  Why does your brand exist (besides making money)? Why does your brand matter to high-value customers? Why is your brand currently competing for the value created by others in the category rather than creating new value that does not yet exist?

We live in a world where everything (in time) becomes a commodity. For many emerging brands, the fight against commoditization can often feel like a struggle against gravity itself.  In a world where all products and services are good and will eventually compete on price, it’s exceedingly difficult to build a brand with unique and highly relevant differentiation.

Brand development begins as an introspective process where the leaders (not the managers) answer their “why” questions with clarity and conviction to pursue the answers with focus and discipline. This level of introspection should never begin as a marketing activity.

The business value of a brand lies in the behavior of the entire organization.

The business value of a brand lies in the behavior of the entire organization, not in the functional benefits of the products or services it provides, or clever marketing. Once the “why are we here” question has been answered by the enterprise leadership, then it becomes a strategic imperative to align the entire organization to set of unifying principles that will guide the behavior of the entire organization to “deliver” on the value proposition of the brand.

All things being equal (and they usually are) the brand that wins the day is the brand that stands for something everyone inside and outside the enterprise truly believes in.  These are the values that drive the enterprise in every action– growing the culture of the enterprise, attracting top talent, the products and services offered, the interactions with customers, partners, and stakeholders– all driven by a unique, highly differentiated promise of value.

When business leaders engage in an introspective process of tapping into the unique soul of their brand, they effectively bake in the marketing.