I write about the things that matter to me. All opinions are my own.

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Communication - Not Branding

If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck and looks like a duck, it's a duck.

Just like a tree has to be green and leafy and grow tall, even among a stale parking lot full of cars.

The branding profession is about image. That's fine, but that's as far as it goes. Those who claim to do more - such as changing the employee culture - are not brand ducks.

They are either practicing organizational development under another name (unlikely and probably uncertified), or practicing image-building and calling it "internal branding for employee evangelist brand ambassadors" (a.k.a., B.S.)

Over the years I have sometimes found that people got annoyed at my blunt and direct manner. In the end that's how I learned that I don't really do branding. Because brand ducks are adept not only at building your image, but at projecting an image of themselves.

Rather I was (am) a communicator. In a profession composed of image manipulators. "All marketers are liars," as Seth Godin's popular book proclaims.

In the end I am a communicator duck, if you want to call it that, because I believe honesty + integrity generally gets you the reputation you deserve. A good one.

The art of communication is to get to the truth, say the truth, and say it in a way that connects with the audience and provokes a reply. Starting a conversation.

If you communicate well you are building a brand anyway. But it is possible to build a brand without communicating. Without honesty. Without connecting.

I don't do that. So I have decided to get away from the term "branding." Although the end goal is really the same - an excellent image based on delivery of benefit - the mechanism is not.

Communication is on the side of substance. Of culture. It says, build a stable set of processes that establish values, norms, and traditions. Tell us who we are, and let us talk back.

And the result of that conversation is the reality of external image.

What kind of duck are you? Think carefully before you answer. If your profession is perceived in a negative way, or you don't fit into its culture, maybe you are really a hippopotamus.

Which is fine!

Good luck.