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Love those brand flakes…

No, the title of this blog is not based on my favourite cereal. Rather, it is a term I came up with while on a recent flight from Lisbon to Venice (yes, it was a morning flight, and yes, my stomach was grumbling). Chances are at some point, you have ‘felt the wrath’ of your marketing department (or consultants like us), being oh-so-politely informed that what you want to send to your clients can’t go out in its current form because it isn’t ‘on brand.’ Like a watchful mama bear, the company brand is our cub, and us marketers will do anything to protect it! So, why is this whole brand thing so important to us? Let me clarify – it’s not because of the thrill we get from copying and pasting one word document into another ‘branded’ version, or the joy of spot checking business card print orders to ensure colour accuracy, that the trim is cut just right, and the paper stock is consistent throughout. We worry about these meticulous details to ensure that every aspect of a company’s brand is consistently represented to the external world. To put it simply, your brand is your story. And the more consistent that story is, the better positioned your company is. Without a strong brand, you are depriving your target audience the opportunity to attach themselves emotionally to your company. I can feel a few of you rolling your eyes at this point – emotional connection? Really? OK, (and I mean this in the nicest way possible) all of you brand flakes who aren’t ‘buying’ this notion… here’s a little exercise. It starts with you taking out one of your business cards. Not a lot of people take the time to study their business cards. I mean, why would they? You get them on your first day of work, put them in a drawer, and then in your pocket before it goes into someone’s hands when you meet them for the first time. Ah ha! When you meet them for the first time… let’s explore that. Imagine you are at a networking event where you’re introduced to a prospective client for the first time; you generally do what at some point during the conversation? You give them your business card. Now in this exercise, you’re going to give the prospect two different versions. In the first scenario, you give them the business card that you’re holding right now (you know, the one you were supposed to grab a paragraph ago). Aside from the mandatory elements – name, phone number, email, mailing address – what do they see? Perhaps they’ll notice the company logo, the corporate colours, or even a unique trim. These elements all contribute to your company’s brand identity – in other words, what story is being told through the colours, the quality of card stock, and intricacy (or simplicity) of design? Chances are, if you have a visually interesting (and this does not necessarily mean flashy) business card, your prospect will mention one of the elements we identified. If not, perhaps they’ve simply recognized your company’s logo. Perfect – that’s a great start! Let’s move on to the second scenario. Recall the elements we just discussed (logo, colours, design, trim). Now visualize that they aren’t there. All you see is a plain white rectangle with black ink centred on the card that states your name, email, phone number, and mailing address. Now try to ‘sell’ yourself, or your services, to your prospect. If you think it may be a bit harder now, you’re probably right. This is an example of how the brand becomes noticeably larger than the individual. Without your company’s brand supporting you, this person has no connection to what you or your company represent – you are just another individual trying to sell your widget. Now, I understand this is an overly simplified way to explain the importance of a brand. There are many more elements that we will blog about in the future, but my inspiration for brand flakes came to me when I was a hungry bear on a flight, with time to burn, and all I could think about was cereal!

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