You can’t build a brand with branding.


Content warning: don’t read any further if you’re happy to accept prevailing branding practice 

You can’t build a brand with branding.

The idea that a strong brand can be created through branding is wrong.

I’m betting most everything you’ve heard or read from branding professionals has lead you to assume there is only one way to build a great brand – with branding. They couldn’t be more wrong. 

Ever since the term began to be used as a verb, marketing and graphic design firms have been falling over themselves to adopt the terminology, christen a methodology and push the party line. Instead of a brand being a naturally occurring, tangible thing that is nurtured over time through reputation and reflected in visual identity or advertising, it’s now considered an idealised construct to be applied at will.

It’s the AFL footballer school of marketing: if you don’t have a personality, get some tattoos.

The raft of Australian businesses who buy into the myth that they’re going to be successful if they just get their brand right are being deluded by the brand peddlers, misguided at best. You want a strong brand? Stop all “brand-building” activity immediately. A strong brand is simply a by-product of doing a bunch of other things. If you get them right, the brand will take care of itself. If you don’t, all the branding in the world won’t help.

This is my simple 5-step formula for building a professional services firm into an international “mega-brand”! Not necessarily easy, but certainly simple:

  1. Start by selling an excellent product or providing a truly great service. Ensure you’re attractively presented with a compelling message
  2. Identify a local audience that: a. needs your service; b. can afford your service; and c. is big enough to support competition
  3. Concentrate solely on servicing the bejeezus out of them. Recommendations carry a hundred times the weight of advertising
  4. Keep on taking good care of your core customer group, and your reputation will grow
  5. When this has allowed you to earn enough to advertise, do so to expand your market.

That’s what builds brands, and that’s all you need to know. The rest is a load of farmyard confetti.

Steve Osborne

director at Stephen Roger Osborne

Marketing, advertising and design consultant with many years experience in small business marketing strategy; brand advertising; packaging and identity design. Expert in developing creative campaigns to attract new prospects for professional and service-based businesses. Deep and broad experience with digital and traditional media channels; sales and general business acumen

Comments (6)
Steve Osborne

Steve Osborne, director at Stephen Roger Osborne

Thanks John. Yes, Aussies have by far the most number of colloquialisms for BS than any other Western nation. Interesting, is that perhaps because we see so much of it or simply because we dislike it so intensely? When large organisations get through doing 1 – 4, they generally go to No.5, because the very nature of business growth means they outstrip their initial market. The price of customer focus is eternal vigilance. If a firm becomes complacent, cracks will appear in the form of customer complaints, failure to win new business, a drop in hiring standards, a marketing department that's no longer confident it has the right tools at its disposal. There's no magic bullet solution, but it does require a genuine top-down commitment to lifting performance.

Michelle Tupy

Michelle Tupy, Content Writer at Freelance Writer

Recommendations most definitely - I can't stress the importance of a good recommendation. I don't think businesses use them as effectively as they chould - possibly because they don't like to brag - who knows!

View all (6) comments