Years ago, as a sales manager, I was asked to develop a brochure for my company. Aside from the fact that a sales manager should never be assigned to the task of creating an effective marketing piece, there were a number of key problems with the development of this brochure. The process I went through to develop this brochure is critical to the understanding of the problems with trying to ‘fake’ your way through the marketing process.
As I was asked to create this brochure, I went through a number of iterations of what I wanted it to say but just couldn’t come up with anything that made sense. I had a background in graphic design, so this should have been easy. Shoot, I had just come from a job as the Color Systems Specialist for the Western United States for Canon USA… I knew how to do this. But, alas, I couldn’t get it done for the life of me.
On the fourth or fifth iteration I took to the president he finally gave me the content that he wanted in the document. It included a number of philosophies that our company didn’t exhibit and services that we really didn’t offer.
My response was simple, “But we don’t do any of that.”
He told me that it didn’t matter. He said, “We just need to say what we want people to think about us and then we can figure out how to pull it off later.”
I remember trying a few more times to get something compelling out but it ended up being hollow because I realized that it just didn’t make sense to not be authentic… it would come back and bite us in the posterior.
After a few more tries, the project was finally taken off my hands (thankfully). The president wrote the content he wanted. He hired an outside graphic designer who made it “pretty” (it wasn’t really). Then he printed 1,000 full color fliers that never were used by anyone. Not long after this, the brochure was converted to an ineffective Web site that looked just as “pretty” as the brochure (and was used about as much).
In thinking about the experience, I realized that there were three key areas that need to be addressed when thinking about marketing our businesses. These principles are everlasting across all mediums of marketing. Get these three areas wrong and your message won’t hold water.
I am going to share these three areas in order of importance.
Contrary to popular belief, brand is not your logo. Your logo is a simple a mark that represents your brand. If a logo was all a brand was then there would be even less excuse to have a bad brand. Your brand is a definition of who you are. It is your culture. It is they way you interact internally as well as externally. If you could paint a picture that embodied your values, philosophies and culture, this would be your brand. Even bad brands have a brand. The personal equivalent to brand is your character.
Your identity or brand identity is they way you look. This is really where your logo fits. It is the colors you choose and the way you present your messages. It is not your message but how it looks when presented. The personal equivalent to brand identity is how you dress and how you groom yourself.
Content is what you say. It is how you communicate your brand when spoken. Don’t confuse content with written content only. It also includes pictures and video. It is the words and imagery you use to communicate your message. The personal equivalent to content are the words that come out of your mouth when you talk.
In thinking about the brochure that I was attempting to create, we certainly had a brand. We, for the most part, knew who we were. We even had a brand identity. We had a logo and colors we used. What we didn’t have was content that matched who we were and therefore it all failed. More to the point, we had a president who didn’t like who we were and rather than fixing that problem he made up content of what he wished and tried to sell that.
When failing with a brochure, you aren’t failing much. You may be out a few dollars (unless you are stupid enough to mail it to a large audience). The World Wide Web is the great magnifier. It shows you who you are better than any other medium. When you put something out on the web, it may be permanent because you never know where that content will end up.
If your brand sucks, no amount of pretty colors or content is going to matter. All three parts of brand, brand identity and content need to work in concert in order to effectively communicate who you are. If you have a great brand but your website sucks, it’s like "wearing sweats to a business meeting" (quote from my good friend, Justin Foster).
If you try to hide who you are in the minutia of content, you will lose every single time. You have to be authentic. If you can’t be authentic in what you say about your business, then you should consider changing your brand to be who you should be.