Why a Senior Executive Was Right to Criticize Branding

I recently noticed that a senior executive at a company in the western United States had viewed my LinkedIn profile, so I dutifully viewed his profile. What I read wasn’t the usual just-the-facts-ma’am copy I’d come to expect, but these opening lines:

For the last 20 plus years it has been a pleasure to work with the dedicated and hard working people of [company] While many companies are spending millions of dollars on branding and corporate logos, it is the people that make [company] a unique leader and master distributor in the […] industry. As social media has taken the personal part of business to impersonal, [company] still believes in personal relationships.

There’s a lot in just a few sentences!

First, this senior executive clearly believes in great customer service. His profile shows how passionate (and proud) he is about how well his team provides old-fashioned personal service to customers. That’s commendable at a time when customer service is almost an oxymoron in some industries.

Second, he contrasts “companies…spending millions of dollars on branding and corporate logos” with “people” who make a difference. Of course that caught my attention because I’m a brand strategist.

But you know what? I’m inclined to agree with him.

While that may seem shocking, before I started my own company I too was involved in numerous so-called “corporate rebranding” initiatives where 90% of the attention was placed on fonts, logos and what constituted “powerful” colors.

Who’s left out of that equation? Not just your customers, but also your employees.

True branding is first about understanding your company’s history, its uniqueness, its identity and where it wants to go in the future. And then it’s about connecting that to the needs of the company’s ideal customers. Finally, it’s about documenting all of this in company and customer brand narratives (or stories) that drive the agenda of the business.

Only after this is done does it make sense to think about implications for fonts, colors and logos, not to mention marketing, sales and business development.

If you think branding is synonymous with redoing your logo, you don’t understand what branding is all about. But because so many people do think a company’s brand is reducible to (and identified solely with) its logo, it’s not a bit surprising that this executive didn’t want any part of “branding” as he understood it.

I take a different approach based on my experience with what doesn’t work in branding. To learn more, see my FAQ on branding.

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