A million words have been written about branding. We only need 14. Over the past two decades, companies across the U.S. have focused more and more of their time, energy, and budget on building their brand, both internally and externally. However, many of these companies find their efforts fall short. Why? We believe that the problem is the lack of consensus about what “branding” means. Some people see it as making sure their logo is prominent on everything they do. Others see it as implementing rules from a graphic standards manual. After more than twenty years of helping companies brand themselves, we’ve adopted our own definition of branding that can be summed up in 14 words:


“A specific promise of value that is delivered in a unique and differentiating way.”


That may sound simple. But that statement is made up of four distinct parts – each reveals a crucial step to branding. Let’s take a closer look.


“A specific promise” The most effective brand advertising tends to be centered around one idea that expresses why that company exists: Apple delivers flawless design. Wal-Mart maintains everyday low prices. Mini Cooper combines style with efficiency.


This all sounds elementary, but it’s amazing how many companies fail to do this effectively. Many brands are not clearly shaped because they haven’t taken the first step toward saying why they exist.


“…of value…” It’s not enough to make a specific promise. You must also make sure that the promise you make is valuable to the customer. Most companies try to say things of value to their customers. The problem arises when members of the same organization cannot agree on the true value of their product or service.


The recession has made us more concerned with price, slashing overhead and doing more with fewer resources. Customer values have evolved. Companies have to find a way to adapt.


“…that is delivered…” Many companies spend weeks or months in internal meetings, meticulously constructing their mission statement, value statement, and core messaging—only to watch it wind up as a poster in the employee break room. For branding to be effective, your core messaging must be delivered consistently, relentlessly, and clearly to all of your relevant audiences, both internal and external.


“…in a unique and differentiating way.” Failure to create a unique or differentiating element in your communications makes your advertising blend in and become a part of the “clutter.” It’s what happens when too many players are shouting the same vague message. Everyone loves to shout “quality” and “service.” But unless you say it in a vivid or more convincing way, you’re not communicating your value; you’re blending in with the scenery.


This simple definition helps companies avoid four of the five major obstacles in branding: blurred messaging, unclear value proposition, ineffective delivery, and weak creative.


The fifth obstacle? Consensus: getting everyone in your organization – from CEO to sales to marketing to product development – to agree. Lack of consensus can tear apart your efforts and, ultimately, your company. Don’t let that happen. Call RSW to learn how to overcome these obstacles.