Brand Walk, Brand Talk

By Reid Neubert, February 21, 2012
Categories: Branding

We all know the expression, “walk the walk and talk the talk.” It’s very appropriate when it comes to branding and marketing.

“The brand is your promise that represents real things that you deliver,” says Steve Cannon, marketing vice president for Mercedes-Benz USA,  A company walks the walk when it delivers on what it promises.

Of course, part of that has to be promising only what it can deliver.

And the talk? We talk the talk when we are clear what our company’s brand stands for and how to talk about it. A company’s branding work needs to include educating its employees on what the company and brand stand for and how to best communicate that.

Notice I said “what the company and brand stand for.” You cannot separate them. Successful branding is drawn from the essence of the company: how it is run, what the owners or executives value, what the culture is like.

Unsuccessful branding — and rebranding — on the other hand, are often attempts to put on a shiny new coat. But one that doesn’t go with what’s underneath.

As an example, there is a now-defunct software company whose president wanted help coming up with a tagline to help brand the company. The tagline ended up being something uninspiring like “top quality software at affordable prices.” An even bigger problem, besides the fact that the tagline was a yawn, was that it wasn’t true. It didn’t reflect how the company was run.

The company management’s primary concern was how the numbers looked month by month and quarter by quarter. To meet their numbers, they often pushed new software releases out the door before they were really ready, quality be damned. Predictably, the numbers looked good in the short term, but longer term, they incurred more expenses and suffered from a bad reputation as a result. In the end it proved fatal to the company. It didn’t walk the walk or talk the talk.

In contrast, once upon a time I worked for Autodesk, developers of AutoCAD. AutoCAD is a very complex and powerful program, and the QA department had complete authority to stop shipment or hold up new version launches if they found serious bugs in the software. In the three years I worked there the company quadrupled in size, and that never changed. The company truly walked the walk.

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