As Walter Landor once said, "Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind." So how much effort does your business or nonprofit allocate toward branding? If you don't spend time and effort building your brand, you won't be the Nike, Disney, or Coca-Cola in your industry.
I recently met Bill Ellis on Twitter, and since we share a passion for branding, we had an interesting discussion. Here's a brief introduction before the highlights below: Bill works with business owners and professionals who want to increase their value to better serve others and achieve stratospheric success. His experience, perspective, and insights drive powerful results including clarity of purpose, executable strategies, business growth, and personal fulfillment. As the principal of Branding for Results, Bill works as a coach, speaker, and thought partner and is a certified Go-Giver speaker and coach. Connect on Twitter @WCEllis, Instagram @wcellis, LinkedIn, and visit his website Branding for Results.
What is a fearless brand, and why should a brand desire to be one?
BILL ELLIS: Let me start by defining a brand. First, it’s important to understand that the meaning is the same for a personal brand, a company brand, a product, or a service. Your brand, a brand, is the value that you offer. A brand is the value proposition which is defined by the combination of purpose/passion, skills/assets/attributes, and relevance.
A fearless brand is built on a base of authenticity and is one which has complete conviction in its value and relevance. A fearless brand accepts both its strengths and shortcomings at face value, is committed to growing its value, and keeps its focus on the needs of the people it serves.
It's very important for brands to conduct audits on a regular basis. How do you define the three stages of a brand audit?
BILL ELLIS: The purpose of a brand audit is to obtain an impartial and expert assessment of your brand. Think of it similar to an accounting audit where an independent CPA is brought in to review your books, to verify and validate your financial situation, and to identify areas of improvement or concern. Your brand is your most valuable asset so it’s important to treat it as such. My brand audit has three overlying stages – the 3D’s of my brand audit:
* Discovery – This phase is comprised of learning, investigating, inquiring and seeking. Speaking with the business owner, key stakeholders to understand how they define their brand and its current messaging.
* Development – Phase II begins with a deeper dive into the brand via interviews across a broader slice of stakeholders – including employees and customers both past and present.
* Deliverable – The final phase of my brand audit is defined by my assessing all of the information, connecting the dots and then providing recommended actions which fall under one of three headings – Start, Stop or Continue. Discussions then take place to address any questions or strategic needs the client may have.
You've established something called the "Seven C's of Branding," what are they?
BILL ELLIS: I developed my Seven C’s of Branding as the result of my transformation from a marketing executive at Anheuser-Busch to a solo provider of business services. I present the C’s in a linear fashion, yet all seven of them interact and occur simultaneously.
*Control – Determine what can and cannot be controlled in order to make the most from one’s efforts – and to avoid wasting energy and time on those things which will not yield tangible results.
*Clarity – Perhaps the single most important “C,” clarity is where the work is done to identify purpose and passion and then talents, assets, and skills in order to identify the most effective value proposition. It is here that the work is done to validate what is the brand’s relevance and to whom.
*Conviction – It is at this stage that a brand knows that it is optimized – that it has become a fearless brand.
*Conversion – The intangibles of the first three C’s need to be converted to tangibles which define and communicate the brand’s essence.
*Communication – Determining what the correct message is, how to best package it and which delivery channel(s) are most effective.
*Connections – Creating connections with customers, prospects, and brand advocates.
*Consistency – A critical “C.” Consistency does several things, notably, it reinforces the brand’s value and message at every single touch point and it builds trust. Trust leads to more repeat customers, more referrals, and an expectation that the value sought from your brand will always be delivered.
You spent many years at one of the most well-known brands in the beverage industry. What three brand tips can every brand learn from Anheuser-Busch?
BILL ELLIS: I learned a great deal during my 25+ years in brand management at Anheuser-Busch so narrowing it down to three is a challenge.
*Know how your brand meets the needs of those you will serve.
*Be flexible in your strategy as the market dictates.
*Avoid change for the sake of change.
What's your favorite brand and why?
BILL ELLIS: I’ve reviewed and written about and worked on so many brands I can’t select just one. I’ll just point out the two most ‘liked’ and ‘shared’ brands I’ve featured on my Building Fearless Brands blog. Those are Judge Judy and Jack Daniel’s…draw your own conclusions.
What's your least favorite brand and why?
BILL ELLIS: Any brand which is disingenuous, deceptive, or has just awful marketing – sadly there are far too many to list.
Most businesses have added to their C-level suite with a Chief Talent Officer, Chief Digital Officer, and even a Chief Customer Officer. When will businesses create Chief Branding Officers?
BILL ELLIS: I don’t foresee the majority of companies creating the position of Chief Branding Officer…nor should they. What I would rather them do is adopt a philosophy of providing the greatest value possible to their customers, vendors, and most importantly, their employees. I would hope they learn to focus more on the human brands that are at the core of their success.
A big thank you to Bill for appearing on my blog!
Image Credit: Stuart Miles via FreeDigitalPhotos.net