Branding: An advertising account exec wonders “Why can’t I get my clients to brand effectively?”

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A large metro newspaper advertising account executive on LinkedIn was asking for some guidance today: “One of the biggest limitations of effectively branding is the client themselves.  I have had a lot of pushback from clients stating that they do not want to push the envelope to get their message out.  How do you deal with it for ad campaigns?”

As I replied (to unanimous agreement in the forum), branding comes from the top, not just from the marketing department and never from an account representative of a marketing channel (although, a good one will be able to sell the “fit” of what he or she offers with the brand already that’s in place, especially if historical proof can be provided).  Branding is not just one advertising or integrated marketing campaign, or even a themed series of them that lasts for years.

Many “professional branders” or vendors think it’s something else altogether or concentrate on just one segment of what makes up “the brand,” but branding is everything from the lighting in a retail store, to the public actions of the CEO (good or bad), to customer service, to the return policy, to professionalism (or lack thereof), to ethics, to “on hold” wait times, to public perception, and many other things. Much more than the shouted “warm and fuzzy” advertising message, logo or slogan (which too many companies think is all the branding they need).

Marketing is not branding, and branding is not marketing, but they are intimately linked.  If customer experiences do not live up to the expectations of a company’s marketing and advertising, or a website, or immaculate public or media relations, then those undeliverable promises will actually hurt the brand.  Branding is top down.  Marketing and advertising cannot save the brand all by itself, which may be a surprise to some CEOs.  Robert Bean of Northstar Partners succinctly calls a brand a “promise delivered.”  If the CEO, COO, CMO (and possibly CFO) or owner of the company does not see the value in branding, the argument from a vendor — or even internal marketers — is lost before it has even begun.

Jonathan Blaine

I've always called myself a "Marketing Guy." If I had a brand and logo, perhaps that would be my slogan. Measuring ROI is huge. Just because you're now using "new media" does not mean marketing fundamentals should be discarded. Customers' desires do not change. I'm a "right-brained creative analytical" guy (if you can fathom such a thing) who looks at a project several different ways. My first instinct is usually the correct one. I'm a "doer," and often a "diplomatic fixer;" someone who gets things done and still gets a thrill out of customers actually buying something because of something I mailed to them, or an ad I placed. Most of my success has come from strategy, writing, how ideas are presented to the potential customer and the actual thoughts that somehow originate within the ether between my ears. As a fan of DM guru Denny Hatch, I believe that the brand should never outweigh the message, and that art should never win over copy. The mix has to be “just right.” And continually tested. I have solid ryttan, err, written and verbal communication skills, and a reputation for consistently producing cost-effective quality work.

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