Defining the concept of a "brand" is not straightforward, but it is worthwhile.
Many will fail to see beyond superficialities, reducing the concept of a brand merely to the brand's "assets"; the logo, the website or even a motto or a mission statement. Yet, this approach is unnecessarily restrictive. Yes, these assets form an important part of the context for your brand. But, they are features only. They are the tools through which your brand is communicated, but not the brand itself. The idea of a brand comprises much more.
Others confuse brand with reputation. Even Jeff Bezos, who is oft-quoted as saying that "your brand is what other people say about you when you're not in the room" falls for this theoretical trap. And, although your reputation certainly matters - significantly so - it too is distinct from your brand.
Branding is the premium that your customers will pay to use your services or purchase your products over other available alternatives - it is a differentiator that sets you apart from competition. On the other hand, your reputation reflects your track record of delivering on the things that you claim to be able to deliver.
Obviously, these concepts have something of a symbiotic relationship. Blue-chip brands, like Apple or BMW, will often succeed by leveraging hard-fought reputations for producing high-quality products.
In contrast, business suffers when brand and reputation are misaligned. A firm that positions itself in the high-end space without laying solid reputational foundations risks crumbling under its' own weight, whereas building a compelling history behind an undifferentiated brand will probably result in leaving profits on the table.
At Philip Friede & Co, we have always prided ourselves on our reputation. We are confident - rightly or wrongly - that our stakeholders say encouraging things about us when we're not in the room. And, that doesn't happen by accident, by the way. It's the result of a fanatical focus on professionalism, client care and technical excellence.
But our brand? Well, that's been a different story altogether.
It's not that there was anything wrong with our brand, but we were not playing an active role in its' curation. It had become clear to us that this was a missed opportunity. Going forward, we are still very much us, and we will still endeavour to do all of the things that have contributed to our reputation, but we will also do a better job of telling our story - who we are, our culture, and the value we provide.
This permeates at every level. Our brand will resonate across our visual assets like our logo and our physical location, as well as radiating from 'soft' factors like the way we interact with clients and each other.
This will help us not only to build loyalty with our existing clients, but also to reach new clients more easily.
In Part 2, I attempt to answer the obvious follow-on question - how?