Branding, A Holistic Approach
The average American child is able to recognize and identify the McDonald’s arches before their own written name. The average American adult is able to identify the smells, tastes, menu costs and inside of a McDonald’s even when there are no brand symbols available. McDonalds is a fully branded company, and like them or not, a good example of what complete branding is about.
Most people, including corporate executives and business owners, are not aware of what complete branding means. The perception is that a company logo is the brand, but that is just the symbol of the brand. A company’s brand includes every single aspect of every part of the business. It may serve you well to re-read that sentence.
The product, price, quality, location, service, cleanliness, warranty, availability and selling outlet are some examples of the various components that make up a complete brand. It has become common to hear the word ‘holistic’ associated with the branding process. Holistic means to consider the entirety and wholeness of something rather than individual parts. Holistic medicine is the process of treating the mind, body and spirit to achieve complete health. Likewise, threading all aspects of a business together so they work successfully as a whole unit is necessary to achieve a complete brand.
A business can have the best product, but if it is overpriced or never available, then the brand will be negatively affected. We all know places we say have ‘bad service,’ ‘poor quality’, ‘rude staff,’ or are ‘hard to get to’, and ultimately we don’t solicit such places because of our emotions associated with that brand. As consumers we seek out or avoid various places based on what we know about their brand.
McDonald’s, Las Vegas, Disney and Nike are examples of perfectly branded companies because the consumer has a full understanding of what to expect from the product or service. From California to Maine, a customer knows exactly what to expect when they enter a McDonalds. A company such as Nike has branded themselves so well that just the ‘swoosh’ is image enough for people to speak in-depth about its products.
The lemonade stand is another perfect model for understanding the process of how to develop a brand. All product and service elements are necessary for a successful stand. Product, price, stand, signs, location and the server will all contribute the consumer’s perception of the stand. You can have the best lemonadein the world, but if you are set up at the end of a dirt road there won’t be many customers. If a customer sees you stir the pitcher with your finger they probably won’t want any and so forth.
As noted by J.T. O’Donnell at Catapult’s recent Social Media Networking Workshop, the same principles that apply to developing a business brand also apply to our personal brands. If you walk around with a frown you can be perceived as an unhappy person, or walk around in a suit and tie and you may be seen as professional.
When you understand that it is every single aspect of every part of a business or of yourself that determines a complete brand, you will understand that details matter. Even when most things are in good form — priced right, demonstrated well and/or merchandised properly — the breakdown of any one element can cause destruction to the entire company or person.
If you are considering starting a business or starting to elevate yourself within a business this understanding of what a complete brand is about will serve you well.