I recently had the opportunity to attend a leadership round table headed up by Judy Bishop of Bishop and Associates. Judy has been a key player on the Vancouver business scene for 20 years and her discussion surrounded building your personal brand.
During the conversation Judy pointed out that “branding” is not a term that should be used in a business context and that it in fact should only relate to cattle or livestock. Its an interesting point and got me thinking about the process we go through as marketers trying to influence our audience. A mistake is often made in focusing on “us” (ie the company, product or service) and not “the audience”.
Taken literally as a verb, using -ing to form the progressive tense: branding, is grammatically correct. However, I think its not the grammar that Judy has a bone of contention with but the implication. Branding implies that we actively seek to make our mark on the audience when in actual fact its not marketers who are in control of our brands but the audience itself. Many marketers fail to recognize this and go about building their brand from the inside out without giving too much thought to the audience who is on the receiving end.
So what has all this got to do with social media I hear you ask. Well, since you asked, I think its vital. You shouldn’t go about using social media as a means “to burn your brand” into the minds of your audience. Social media users are particularly sensitive to manipulation. Rather, look on social media as a great tool for making contact with your audience, to understand them better (what makes them tick)and to allow you to build better products for them. Use it as a tool to build better relationships with them so that they, in turn, build a great perception of your company in their minds and are more likely to turn to you when in need. The best way to do this is to constantly be on the look out for ways that you can help your target audience and add value for them. The key point here is that it is all about them not all about you.
Unlike Judy, I may use the term branding from time to time to categorize the efforts we make as marketers to build awareness but I do see her point. Branding is something that is done to something else – the word implies a lack of respect. Building a brand is all about respect: understanding your audience and catering to their needs. By placing your customer front and centre and catering to their needs not yours, your marketing efforts will be more likely to succeed.
And thanks Michelle for the great Highland Coo image!