September 28, 2015
Branding is hard at startups. Why? It’s the ultimate abstract marketing activity. It’s not at all clear to most people why it’s valuable or important. In fact, many people perceive it as getting in their way.
But branding has a huge effect on people outside your organization, and therefore on your success. If it’s done right, it makes it a lot easier for your customers and prospects to see your company as a consistent, coherent, whole — as a personality that can deliver a great experience end to end. That includes marketing, but also sales, customer service, the product team, HR, recruiting, and so on.
Where does the brand come from? We know from Jeff Bezos that brands are “what people say about you when you’re not in the room”. These “people” say what they say because of a huge swath of interactions, including contact with every public-facing employee in your organization.
That includes marketing and sales, but it also includes customer service, recruiting, HR, and even the product team (who are busy designing the features that people will use). And actually, counting public-facing employees is too narrow, since every employee experiences culture, and your work culture is your brand, too.
So pay attention to what they say (“Amazon”, “big ideas”, “bruising workplace”).
This means, in order to have a brand that’s consistent, everyone in your company has to be on board. Your customers want to perceive you as a person, and they’ll take every interaction as part of their picture of you. Your website and visual identity, your written communication, your social media presence, your customer support, and everything else.
And this in turn means: Marketing doesn’t own the brand. Marketing can own the identity and it can own much of the content that’s produced. Marketing can even own the tone and voice, and it has to own the positioning. But the brand has to be woven into everything the company does; it can’t be viewed as Marketing’s sole responsibility.