At Resound, we believe that brand — not sales, marketing, or even unique products or services — is the cornerstone of any good business.
In masonry, the cornerstone determines the direction of every other stone laid after it. It is the guiding block for the entire building. By placing the cornerstone perfectly, you set your project for success. But if you build around a cornerstone that’s poorly positioned, you’re going to end up with an off-center building.
Culturally, we’ve taken this idea of a cornerstone and used it to speak to the importance of an idea or practice. If something is the cornerstone of your business, it is the most important thing, directing everything else. Our position is that branding is the essential component behind any good business.
We believe solid branding is more essential than stellar marketing, unique products or services, or world-class customer experience teams. This shouldn’t be shocking to you.
Think about the brands you use regularly. With rare exceptions, the marketing, the products or services and the customer experience teams are tied deeply into who they are, why they exist, and how they aim to serve you. In other words, all of these things flow out of a clearly defined and well-developed brand. Let’s explore that further.
How Brand Drives Effective Marketing
“Hello, I’m a Mac.”
“And I’m a PC.”
From 2006 through 2009 Apple ran their now-iconic “Get a Mac” campaign. In this series of Apple commercials we see how quality branding drives effective marketing. Apple deeply understood who they were. They knew what their values were and who their customers were so well that they created a campaign highlighting those very things.
The Mac actor had stylish hair, smart-casual attire, an approachable posture, and a more relatable way of speaking. Meanwhile, the PC was played by a middle-aged man, typically wearing an out-of-date suit and speaking in a not-quite-welcoming way. The point was that if you wanted a “professional machine” — maybe like the one your dad used — you could have one. But if you wanted a machine that provided a cool, effective and more intuitive experience, you should get a Mac.
Apple knew it was a small fraction of the market share. It wasn’t trying to be Windows. Nor was it trying to overtake Windows. Apple was sharing its brand values and telling the stories of the kinds of people they served. They were clearly defining who they were and who they were for.
Their sales, which were in a slump before the campaign, skyrocketed thanks to the clever highlighting of its brand.
You Don’t Have to be Apple to See These Kinds of Results
People do business with people who understand them and their needs. Apple very successfully demonstrated that they understood the real pains and needs of their specific customer base. Then they showed those customers a vision for computing free from those pains. They boldly shared their brand story and people responded.
You don’t have to be Apple to do the same kind of marketing, but you do need to understand who you are in the world. Who are you trying to serve? Why does the world need your company? What vision of the world do you have and why should anyone care? Could you hire actors, dress them up, and provide them with a script that perfectly speaks to those core things?
That level of knowledge about your brand brings with it a clarity that is so sharp it can’t help but drive sales. Without that clarity you risk sending mixed messages, trying to appeal to whoever you think might be inclined to buy, which can eventually sink your brand. Appealing to everyone makes you appealing to no one.
Your Product and Service Offerings Should Be an Overflow of Your Brand
Understanding who you are in the world is also essential when it comes to developing new products and services. To continue with our Apple example, how would you feel if Apple started a landscaping company? That would be pretty ridiculous right? But why do we feel that way? Let’s look at it from the 30,000-foot view to really see what makes that idea ridiculous.
Apple knows creatives spend a lot of time on their iPhones, iPads, and Macbooks. And they also know creatives can sometimes be a little distracted, needing to be reminded of the routine needs of life. Creatives often complain about needing to tend to these mundane tasks. It’s a real pain point.
Apple has been working on artificial intelligence for quite awhile. They have the technical chops. It would probably be pretty easy for them to develop an army of AI mower-bots — iMowers. At scale, it might even be profitable in the near future. So why would you laugh at that idea? Because Apple isn’t about landscaping. That’s not why they exist in the world. That’s not what we want from our relationship with them.
Your Products and Services Speak to Your Brand — What Are They Saying?
Obviously our ‘iMower’ example is a hypothetical exaggeration, designed to highlight a point. But that point is valid. When a brand offers a product or service that goes against its core mission or values, it’s painfully obvious. It communicates a lack of self-awareness and, worse, a lack of customer awareness. This kind of behavior signals to current and potential customers that maybe you don’t really understand your relationship with them after all.
But the opposite happens when your brand informs your product and service development. You demonstrate a clear understanding of your customers’ needs and struggles and you show yourself to be the friend and helper you claim to be. Every product and service demonstrate your trustworthiness and increases your brand value. And each new development is an invitation to your customers to buy in at a new and deeper level.
Every Customer Experience Should Celebrate and Remind People of Your Brand
Even your customer support team needs to be driven by your brand. Consider Apple one more time. Who are the primary support agents for Apple customers? The Apple Geniuses. Apple goes so far as to call them the “soul” of their company in their job listings. They understand just how vital the role of customer support is to their overall brand. These people are the hands, feet and face of the company. Every interaction with an Apple Genius is an interaction with the Apple brand. So we should expect these people to look, act, and feel like Apple.
Consider how a Genius is expected to dress. What is their uniform? A clean, simple shirt with a logo. They match that with a pair of jeans or dark pants. This is a strong separation from typical tech support attire. Why? Because an Apple Genius isn’t tech support — they’re the soul of the company and they need to clearly reflect Apple’s values.
Apple is a brand for the creative and the non-tech geek. They’re a brand for people who march to the beat of their own drum. If you walked into an Apple store and everyone was dressed in a typical business casual uniform, you might wonder if Apple was changing its direction.
Customer Support Builds up or Breaks Down Your Brand
Every interaction with your customer either amplifies the message of your brand or confuses it. The way your team speaks or writes emails, the way you dress, even the way you solve customer problems and address customer complaints speaks to your brand.
Your customers are looking to your customer support team to fulfill the promises your marketing and sales efforts made. This means it’s not enough to simply do a good job supporting them. You need to help them in the way they would expect someone like you to help them. Every interaction the customer has needs to feel like an experience with the company they thought they knew.
Bringing it All Together
Though marketing, quality products and services, and excellent customer service are important components to a successful business, none of them are foundational enough to build an entire business on. Only a strong brand can bear that weight. Not only does it hold up to the pressure, but a solid brand actually amplifies the effectiveness of every other aspect of your business.
At Resound, we really believe in the power of brand. We’re so convinced of its effectiveness that — in addition to the frequent brand-centric blog and newsletter content we share — we’re writing a book about it. This blog was inspired by a small portion of that upcoming book. So if you found this content thought-provoking or helpful, you’ll want to sign up for our book-focused newsletter. We’ll be sharing exclusive thought-provoking and instructive content as well as book updates only to those who signed up for the newsletter.