Rhonda Smith

I am often amazed at how nonchalantly some start-up companies regard their brands. I understand that “brand” has become an overused, industry buzzword, but what few new business owners realize, is that developing and maintaining a brand is probably the most important investment a company can make.

By definition, a brand is a claim of distinction. It is more than a logo, a tag line or an ad campaign. A company’s brand is its personality, its character…its voice, if you will. It’s the connection that everyone, from consumers to employees, from clients to fans, has with your product or service. And everyone within the company, from the board members to the managers to the interns, should be stewards of the brand.

Brand development takes time and soul searching, and if there is one consistent oversight that I have seen entrepreneurs and start-up business owners make, it is that they don’t take the time from the launch, to properly establish their company’s brand. Instead, most people rush to start a company, get their graphics-major niece or nephew to design a logo, buy a boiler-plate website that looks like everybody else’s, and start producing sales material with no consistency of design or content. And then they wonder why their company gets lost in the advertising clutter or why there is no ROI from their marketing efforts. They are afloat with no clear identity and certainly no defined integrated marketing strategy.

At this point, said companies usually reach out for help, which is more like asking for brand aid than brand development, because their brand is already disparate and disconnected.

But brand development is not just for new businesses. There comes a time when even established companies should re-brand. While a product such as Coca-Cola remains the same, year after year – the long established Coca-Cola Company brand adapts to cultural changes and keeps up with the times.

I can speak to that, because after 24 successful years in business, I followed my own advice and made the decision to re-brand Words and Pictures. We had grown and evolved as a company and in the types of services we offer, and I wanted a brand that would reflect the progressive company we had become and will continue to be.

The brand development process was exceptionally fulfilling, because we used the same systematic approach to re-brand our own company that we use with our clients. It’s a trademarked process that we have developed and honed over the years, and yes, we can say from first-hand experience: it works.

If your company needs brand aid, what that really means is you need brand development. Answer these questions to see if your company needs an honest-to-goodness brand development work-over:

  1. Do your company’s logo and tagline reflect the character of your company – today?
  2. Are your marketing communications executed with consistency and uniformity?
  3. Can you name your company’s “claim of distinction?”
  4. Have you established a brand franchise for your company based on your “claim of distinction?”

If you answered no to these questions, maybe it’s time to take your company to a brand new level!