“Truth is irrelevant. What matters are the perceptions that exist in the mind. The essence of positioning thinking is to accept the perceptions as reality and then restructure those perceptions to create the position you desire.” – Al Ries, and Jack Trout in the 20th anniversary edition of Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind.
What is branding? On cattle it’s a burn mark that denotes ownership. The permanence, perhaps even the cruelty, of that mark is hard to disguise. It’s a sign of ownership. Perhaps power. It’s not easily erased.
For organizations, from non-profits to public companies, brands have become symbols. Symbols of quality, of guarantee, and of validation. For many, branding has been relegated to a logo. This is misguided thinking.
No one loves a company for its logo. No one hates a company, but loves their logo. A logo is not a brand.
As a military man, the importance of symbolism is not lost on me. I grew up an enlisted Marine. I’m now an Army officer. The Marine Corps lives by the eagle, globe and anchor, worn by every Marine, and which has a history so rich, every Marine can recite on demand it’s meaning.
The Army is into merit badges. The uniform has become a virtual resume — a combination of metal and cloth that gives clues to how long we’ve served, our rank, our specialty, what training we’ve completed, and how many deployments we’ve served.
None of these symbols make the brand of the Army or the Marines. These brands exist in the minds of America.
And how do these branches of the Armed Forces build brands? By doing. In real life. As reflected in the news. As depicted — for better or worse — by Hollywood. And now on social media.
A study by eMarketer finds that one-fifth of US internet users — that’s 244 million people — would buy from a brand their friend follows. And how do you get people to follow? With ideas. With engagement. With content. With conversation. And with action.
Action, I’d add, often leads to content — earned content. The sort of content that is produced by raving fans who have been acknowledged by a brand, who have had a customer service complaint addressed. There is no greater reflection of the minds of our customers and prospects than their words posted online.
Content marketing is the new branding.
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