Focusing on Branding (September 24, 2014)

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Updated: September 24, 2014

Given my degree, I think I spend an abnormal amount of time thinking about branding.  When people hear “KPMX,” they immediately have a thought that comes to mind.  When you go to a Northeastern volleyball match or basketball game, you have an expectation of what you’ll see.  That’s not by mistake.  That’s branding.

The basics of branding a business involve creating an image of who you are and who you want people to perceive you to be.  It encompasses everything from the logo, to the way a store is laid out, to how the employees interact, all the way down to how the phone is answered.  When done right, it’s effective.

Branding comes with individuals as well.  It’s most notable in athletes.  When Tiger Woods got exposed for infidelity, his brand took a hit.  Sponsors backed out because they had “bought into” a person who had been exposed contrary to the brand they were sold.

Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson?  They’re camps are in full-blown damage control mode trying to make the best of their current situations.  The same can be said for the Baltimore Ravens and the National Football League.  Their brands are taking a hit due to negative publicity.

But personal branding isn’t something limited to the rich and famous.  You hear about it if you’ve been to a “How Do I Get Employed” type seminar.  Instead of a logo, it’s your name that is being branded.  From the moment someone looks at your resume, you’ve been branded.  If you have links to your social media profiles, what you say and do has a direct impact on how you’re perceived as both a potential employee and a person.

I follow many of the coaches and athletes I interview for Colorado Corner on Twitter.  It’s quite fun to see their reactions, delve into their personal opinions and experiences outside the world I know them in.  And it’s this social media world that we see the most significant amount of branding, both positive and negative.

Everyone is out for their “Fifteen Minutes of Fame” now.  Whether they’re posting YouTube videos, video blogs, vines, or any of the other variance of ways to garner attention, they’re looking for the latest and greatest thing to go “viral” to make them become famous.  Businesses are trying to use these same paths to create buzz with hashtags and commercials.

What’s funny to me is that these people and businesses feel that one thing going “viral” will give them everything they’ve wanted.  It will, for fifteen minutes.  Then they’ll be in search for the next thing.  And if they luck out and find the next thing, “fifteen minutes” later they’ll just be in search of something else.  Constantly rebranding themselves in the search of attention.

But if you look at the successful companies, they’re not the ones who have built themselves on one event.  They’re the ones who’ve maintained a consistent line in the brand, staying true to their image over a long period of time.  Those that constantly “weave their way through the fabric of society” aren’t wrong but it’s not going to be long-term success.

Yes, the brands of the long-standing companies have changed.  But they haven’t changed drastically because of a forced rebranding.  They’ve changed organically based on what the customer base has perceived about the company.  Take the Pink Out campaign, which is now getting underway for 2014 as a prime example.  The brand has always stayed the same.  It’s about raising money for the NCCRA.

But the perception varies from year to year based on what local businesses, area sports teams and vendors want to contribute.  Some years we’ve had hair bows, others we’ve had bracelets.  Sometimes just the area teams sell the shirts while others local businesses have given a centralized location to sell.  No matter the differences, the image remains the same.

And that’s called successful branding.  Not trying to garner attention by bigger and bigger stunts (I can only cut my hair every so often).  Not hashtagging or creating silly little saying that people need to say. Not a sports broadcaster trying to find his “home run call” to repeat ad nauseum each broadcast.   Just simple, and true to yourself.

Just like in sports, when the coach and team set a path for the goals, you stay the course.  Just because an NFL team is 1-2 now doesn’t mean it needs to sell every piece of the team.  It just means it needs to take a good look at what’s working and what’s not.

So stop trying to be what’s not you.  You’ll garner far more attention with consistent performances than silly gimmicks.  All the gimmick does is give a standard that can’t be lived up to.  And Lord knows it’s already hard enough to live up to standards when they’re not set that high.  Just ask Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson.