The Truth About Branding

People will get you to believe that you can create a brand as if it is separated from your product or service. Meaning, the visual representation of your company is what makes your brand. People will say a brand’s strength is directly related to its logo. Design firms will convince you to believe that it is how your marketing material is cohesively designed, everything from your logo, your website, social media and print materials. Consultants will say branding is your personality, the way you interact with your clients and how they perceive you. So, which one is it?

I must admit, at one point or another I believed each of these statements to be true in defining the term “branding” only to realize that none of them were fully true.

This is because most people confuse branding with marketing – it’s not the same thing.

In layman’s terms, marketing is promoting one’s self in the marketplace through many times, tangible means. It’s communicating what you can do or provide better and more uniquely than your competition. This is done typically through channels that are either, visual, audible, or both.

Branding is the opposite though. It’s not about what you say about yourself but rather what others say about you. You may or may not like it.

So how do you get control of it and create a “great” brand? Well, you don’t create a “great” brand, at least not in the way you’ve been taught. Why? Because brand is not something you create directly. It is the outcome of the product or service you provide your clients that is formed over time.

Let me phrase the definition in another way.

As fruit is to a believer, brand is to an organization. It is the byproduct that is produced over time.

Did you realize we all bear fruit? From a kingdom perspective, it is what Jesus said would be used to discern who we really are.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” Matthew 7:15-20

The quality of our fruit is directly related to our relationship with the Lord. The type of fruit born is the outcome of one’s walk. Everyone enters trials through various doors and how we exit them relates to how we persevere in faith while in them. If we endure, we bear fruit, life giving fruit. Paul says,

“fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Galations 5:22-23

These are intangible fruits that are born without us focusing on the fruit itself. We do our part, handling the things we can control and allowing God to do his part in areas we cannot control. We work out our faith with fear and trembling and trust that he will bear the fruit which takes time to produce. Period. It’s not a walk in the park, but we believe enduring has its rewards and the Lord promises fruit. Note that fruit bears seeds which when the planted, produces more fruit over time – a life giving cycle.

I would venture to say that branding is parallel to this.

If a business were to focus on what it provided and how it grew – not necessarily how fast it grew – and worked on developing quality products/services, the natural byproduct of that would be better outcomes – good fruit.

Our customers would experience an organization that is real, authentic, and meaningful to them. They would be evangelists, loyal followers whose faithfulness would surpass our expectations as we seek to serve them. Marketing efforts would be less contrived and more authentic, speaking to the heart and mind of our customers. Groups would emerge creating communities who freely provide feedback driving innovation, allowing our business to work on product development, essentially creating a cycle that allows for more business growth. At the core, this is branding. It’s not about patting yourself on the back and saying how cool and sexy you are. It’s about how you service your customer and the fruit that is born from it.

It is powerful and cannot be hastily put together with reworking your logo and marketing material (which is really the external appearance of what your business is – and we all know it can be fake). It cannot be a quick fix that so many of us resort to in times of uncertainty and stress when things don’t go how we planned. It is something many will not be patient enough to work through, and the reason why so many of us will fail. It’s hard and it takes time. It’s development on self and a willingness to hear what you don’t want to hear, and then…to work on it.

It means going back to the drawing board, throwing out what you thought was great, figuring out what your customer really needs versus what you thought they needed and doing it again, and again, and again until it works. It requires, “blood, toil, tears and sweat”, to fully give of yourself and truly serve those who God brings your way. It calls for sacrifice (which if you think about it, must happen to fruit in order to reap and replant the seeds) and is what will ultimately determine the quality of your brand. At the root, it is the result of your character. Do you have it?

As CBF’s Chairman of the Board, Bill Molinari, has said, “Don’t worry about your reputation. Worry about your character.”

This is a strong word and we should be careful to take it to heart. If the Lord is truly the owner of our business, we have to transform our mindset and accept that branding starts with us – working on our character and that of the business.

So what does this mean in regards to your logo, website, print and marketing materials? Do you throw them to the wayside and only focus on the quality of your product or service, the character of your organization? How does it play a role in your outcomes and influence your brand? How much time and effort should you pour into it and when? These questions and more will be addressed in our next post, and we’ll share how one should think about it with a biblical perspective.