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Mike’s definition of Brand

Since I began this blog by comparing talking about brand to discussions of the Great Almighty, it’s only fair that I impart to you, in the interest of full disclosure from the start, my own personal religion.

I decided to begin my mission evangelizing branding almost a decade ago, while attending a Sandhill Group software conference.  The tone of the conference, with the enterprise IT industry still emerging from the dot-com market bust, was sullen and introspective.  Why were our sales still so flat?  Why did our industry suck at marketing? Why did our customers hate us?  I added to these laments one of my own: Why does my industry not respect branding?

In the course of my ongoing education on the state of branding in the B2B tech world, I’ve discussed the Brand Diety with many fellow IT marketing professionals.  I’ve heard brand gurus from the B2C world evangelize their unique dogma, and seen way too many powerpoints about the future of our religion as a whole.  Some descriptions include: “Brand is a personality.”  “Brand is a promise.”  “Brand is your DNA.”  So what’s the definition that fits our industry best?

Brand is What Your Customers Say About You.

Simply put, your brand is the grade you receive from customers, prospects, investors and the marketplace at large on your ability to fulfill the need you promised to address.  Did you make the pain you targeted indeed go away?  Do you always deliver as advertised?  Is your reputation one to be trusted?

A vendor cannot buy its brand.  It’s not a website or an ad campaign or a press release.  It’s created over time by a company’s consistent behavior in the marketplace, by how the company sets expectations and then exceeds or disappoints.  The vendor asserts its competitive positioning, executes against this in the market, and then is rewarded or punished by the brand it receives in reply.  Customers define your brand, with or without your help.  In this way, brand is about perception…and reality.

Brand Happens.  So B2B technology vendors better start joining the conversation.

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