Accidental, arbitrary, superficial and non-branding. These are a few common approaches to branding. Since they’re all covered in our forthcoming book we’ll only cover one here. Let’s talk about non-branding and how it affects your business. We explored this idea briefly in our first post this month, but we will flesh out the business effects of it more fully here.
What brand is the shirt you’re wearing right now and how much did you pay for it? If you’re like me, you’re probably not sure on both accounts. I can tell you I didn’t pay full price for it and that it wasn’t very expensive. It’s not very important to me to have exceptionally high-quality shirts for most occasions. I could, however, tell you the brand of my phone and how much I paid for it. More importantly, I could tell you why I was willing to pay that much for it. The brand matters to me.
When a brand is developed, intentionally, it connects with an audience in a way that transcends basic mathematics. It moves the question of purchase to a deeper level. I know the components in my phone are present in most other phones. The company paid a fraction for the production of the phone as I paid to own it. I don’t care. Why? The brand is worth it. I am not only buying a product, but I am supporting the ideas behind the product. I am supporting the whole tech ecosystem that gave life to this phone. And it feels good.
Non-branding turns your product into a commodity with no compelling reason to choose your product over another beyond price. This means the only way for you to really compete is to lower your price and cut into your margins. That may work for a short while, but you can’t build a growing business while cutting your margins. It’s not sustainable. Developing your brand is crucial, and not just for strictly financial reasons.
Morale and culture within
Happiness drives productivity, creativity, and effectiveness amongst employees. It’s crucial that your team feels happy about their work, your company, and the impact they have on the broader world. If you’ve chosen the non-branding route, it’s likely your employees don’t really understand the why behind their actions. They clock in every day and get tasks done, maybe they do them well, but they’re aimless. What good are they doing in the world? What does their job well done mean for the customer? Over time this can create internal discouragement, tension, and frustration.
Part of developing your brand well includes specifying who your company is, how it behaves internally and externally, and most importantly why it behaves this way. The why of any action is crucial. Friedrich Nietzsche philosopher and psychologist once said, “He who has a why to live for can bear almost any how.” Nietzsche realized that the crucial question at the heart of humanity is the question ”Why?” If there is a strong enough why a person can endure anything.
Determining your brand values and personality isn’t just a nice thing to tack on at the end. It’s the intentional development of the fundamentally most important question on your team’s mind. Without a clear sense of the meaning of your company’s work, your team can’t understand why their work is important and how it impacts the world. Eventually, their energy will stutter and they will crash. Sales will slump, customer interactions will be sapped of energy and compassion, and attention will be focused on all the wrong things. That kind of struggle has a way of leaking out into the world
Word of mouth without
Like a virus, the depleted state of your team and their general lack of enthusiasm about your brand will leak out into your customer base and market. Long-time clients will begin to question their decision to work with you. Potential new clients will sense the lack of investment in their conversations with your sales team. And your own employees will begin to share their frustrations with their friends in the industry. Not good.
When a company chooses to not invest in developing their brand, often the reason given is that it’s a waste of precious resources that could be given to marketing, product development, or training. But all the training, development, and marketing in the world won’t matter when there’s no buy-in to your brand, even internally. A better-developed brand, with an empowered employee base, and a buzz about it will simply displace you in the marketplace.
At this point, you can either address the problem or double down on your non-branding efforts and attempt to cut costs, becoming a commodity.
Lower propensity toward evil
The only way to cut costs is to further cut internally. You can lower starting salaries, remove bonuses, cut training costs, and choose to go with the cheapest production companies. Those same companies end up in global news for poor working conditions and low employee salaries. Your employees suffer, your community suffers, and you support a terrible work ecosystem across the globe. This may sound exaggerated, but it’s not. Every month we hear about how some corporation tried to cut costs and ended up harming or killing a swath of people. It’s just business. But it shouldn’t be this way. It doesn’t have to be.
By rejecting the non-branding approach, and creating a clear positive mission for everyone on your team to rally behind, complete with brand values, you actually lower your propensity for evil. You position yourself to do good in the world and to do it well. You create a value that transcends your product and commands a higher asking price and because your brand represents more than a product, people are willing to pay it. Your team can understand why they’re working so hard to do well and they’re excited about it. Your sales team actually believes in your brand, and making sales becomes much easier. The positive energy within reverberates without, and word spreads about the good work your company is doing. Everybody wins.
If you’ve found this content interesting, you might be interested in our forthcoming book which served as an inspiration to these articles. Maybe you want to take the next step towards clarifying or developing your brand. You can check out our upcoming webinar or sign up for our newsletter for insights into what your next step could be.