One of the most challenging and elusive aspects of building a business is creating this thing called a “brand.” It’s not like a machine where you can just write a check and it gets “installed” next week. You can’t go to a website and choose the type of brand you want from a menu – and check out. That being said, if this were possible, the people least likely to ever build a brand for their business are those who’d select the “Standard Brand” over the “Premium Brand,” given a choice.
You can’t even hire a service provider or marketing company to create a brand. At least, not without your company’s full participation and adherence to what the “brand experts” tell you to do. (For example, we could help you create a brand, but it’s like trying to lose 30 pounds with a trainer and never following the meal plan – the pounds aren’t coming off.)
Creating a brand is an incredibly detail-oriented, and carefully curated process that is only validated… let me repeat… ONLY VALIDATED by your customers. What does that mean? It means that your customers will be the ones to say if you created a brand. Not you. You’re probably saying, “You mean to tell me, all the money we paid that marketing firm to “brand” our new product didn’t actually create a brand?” If you’re Unilever Corporation and your customers are still asking the clerk at Wal-Mart what aisle they can find cotton swabs, instead of Q-tips – then yes, you didn’t create a brand. If you’re 10 year old nephew doesn’t shame you for not yet upgrading to the iPhone 6 (like mine did today) – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.
If your customers don’t promote, defend and obsess over you – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.
If you are just like everyone else, but with a fancy new whiz-bang-whatchamacallit – then yes, you didn’t create a brand.
My feelings on branding are summed up in this simple litmus test: “Create a company that people want to do business with, before they even know what you do.” That’s what we did at Hotcards. Our customers validate this ALL THE TIME. They often times refer to Postcards and Business cards as “Hotcards.” As in, “I’d like to buy 5,000 Hotcards.” We have to ask them to be more specific – because you certainly don’t want to end up with 6” x 10” business cards! Try stuffing that in your wallet. I recall being sent a picture from my friend judging a high school business plan competition in Ohio. Each one of the students put on their list of marketing tactics, “Distribute Hotcards.”
When people start calling products like postcards, flyers and brochures (products hundreds of years old) by your company name – then my friend, you’ve created a BRAND!
Below are a few more examples of customers telling us… “You created a brand!” Including the group of ladies wearing our shirts and taking photos wearing Hotcards oven mitts (how they even got their hands on our mitts, I don’t know!). Then there’s Eddie Griffin holding a box of Hotcards with oven mitts. And how about the dude on Twitter spreading his love for our cooling station?! It’s humbling to see this stuff!
These are brand validations. You can’t fake ‘em... and you can’t buy ‘em. We’ll talk about some of the ways Hotcards created this “movement” in future posts.