The first time I was introduced to the concept of "brand" was when I was in high school in the 80's. Jordache jeans had become all the rage. "A $60 pair of jeans!" my mother exclaimed (back then it was unheard of to pay that much for denim jeans – the lowest end of the trouser spectrum). "What makes them any different from another pair of jeans? You’re only paying for the name."
Bingo! That's exactly what you pay for. If I wanted to squeeze my non-Brooke Shields' body into a pair of Jordache jeans, I was going to have to do it with my own hard-earned babysitting money. This introduction to what brand name really means was eye-opening. You're buying an image, an association, a distinction. And you're paying a premium to be part of what a brand stands for. You're buying a reflection of yourself and your beliefs.
Fascinated by brands with undeniable personalities and their passionate followers, it's no surprise that I got into the business. I wanted to be a part of helping build brands that people want to follow, to commit to, to be a part of. In the late 80's, after attending Syracuse University—a brand well known for delivering amazing advertising minds to the business—I moved to New York City where I worked on brands such as Capri cigarettes (remember those long, skinny cigarettes featuring sexy models with big hair?), Sambuca Romana, SONY, Lysol, Jiffy Pop, and other famous brands. It was exhilarating to help form communications around these brands that were revered nationally and internationally.
Fast-forward to today, where I have built an agency that specializes in building brands. We work with companies, both large and small, that want to create a unique position to stand out from the competition. Because brand building is my passion and my expertise—I am one of only a handful of certified brand strategists in the country and the only one in New England—I am disheartened by the agencies who slap "brand" on their list of services as if it was the same as creating an advertising or digital campaign. Often, these agencies consider logo design what it means to build a brand.
Brand is actually intangible. Proper brand development happens from the inside out. It's all about discovering who you are at your core and making sure you have a true claim of distinction that no one else can match. It's about aligning management’s vision with corporate culture and audience motivation. It's about putting your stake in the ground and ensuring it's defendable in the marketplace, deliverable in a consistent manner, and desirable to your audience. It's not about logos, taglines, jingles, and little lizards that sell insurance. True brands know exactly who they are; true brands are willing to state their position and plaster it on a flag, waving it for all to see. Once a brand stakes its claim, it can confidently build its brand platform, which manifests itself in the more tangible logos, taglines, and lizards.
When my mother told me I was buying a "name," she was right. Consumers buy a name and everything it stands for. That is the truth of brand.
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