Predicting Success in Branding August 27, 2012, by Peter Mirus in Branding

A brand is only as good as what you put behind it. As a result of conducting a brand strategy process, your people and/or your product might need to change in order to produce the desired business outcomes. Hence, it is prudent to assume that every brand strategy process is to some degree an organizational change process.

In my experience there are four types of companies that undertake a branding process:

  1. Bad companies don’t brand properly for long-term success and fail to take advantage of the opportunities presented in the process. They conduct their branding work in fits and starts, ignore qualified outside perspective, and often focus primarily on the visual expression of the brand (logo, business cards, brochure, etc.) to the exclusion of developing a truly sound brand strategy and identity.
  2. Mediocre companies often know that brands are more than logos, and might go through a successful branding process (in terms of getting to the conclusion of the strategy creation part), but ultimately find they are unwilling to make the changes necessary to drive a higher level of success.
  3. Good companies intuitively find good strategic branding partners who will help them identify and understand change opportunities—and then take action to make sure desired outcomes are achieved.
  4. Great companies share the same characteristics as “good” companies. The difference between them is typically that the great companies have better leadership, team members, focus, and drive for excellence (among other areas in which they excel).

My perspective (yours might differ) is that most companies are either mediocre or good. Truly bad companies (in this case, “bad” reflects poor business skills and not an ethical judgment) don’t last long or don’t create much impact. Many companies aspire to be great, but few actually make the grade.

A reasonable question for most business leaders, therefore, is “How can I tell if my/our company is mediocre or good?” I find this question is best answered by some sort of leadership assessment (these are most accurately conducted by disinterested third parties). As the leaders go, so often the company goes. (Mediocre leaders eventually will have mediocre teams and good leaders will eventually have good teams, even if those conditions were not present at the outset.)

Typically, by spending time in conversation with business leaders, their managers and subordinates, I can tell if the brand strategy process will be successful—and it often has to do with leadership. Some warning signs (among many) include blame shifting, lack of willingness to set clear standards and hold people accountable, lack of clarity surrounding roles and responsibilities, entrenchment, and significant divisions among partners (or leadership team members) as to whether the process is even necessary.

Some positive signs include willingness to make and implement tough decisions, a desire to have assumptions challenged and discussed, an eagerness to “know what we don’t know,” a holistic understanding of what a brand is and how it functions, the ability to define clear goals, and a spirit of eagerness (rather than trepidation) about seeing the brand strategy project outcomes in action.