An ad is not a brand

June 26, 2013 

Ads are the Fast Food of Marketing. As I used to tell my students, an ad is like a date, you see each other one time. A brand, on the other hand, is like falling in love; that is, your brand connects on a deeper emotional level and you can’t wait to see each other again. Ads represent short-term thinking, and as Richard Branson, CEO and Founder of the Virgin Group has said; “Short-term thinking delivers short-term results, which is the biggest enemy of building your brand.”

Think about it. You run an ad to promote your product or service, hours of operation, maybe even include a price point, a phone number and a web address. You love it, you show it to you employees and they tell you how much they love it. Maybe, even, your neighbors stop you on the street and tell you that they saw your ad and they love it. Right about now you’re feeling pretty confident about your advertising expertise. Then something happens. You fall victim to the dreaded “me-too” syndrome. One of your competitors runs an ad, too. And why not? Your competitors can duplicate your product or service in a matter of weeks, if they put their minds to it.

However, the one thing your competitors can never duplicate is your brand, because your brand inoculates your audience from any and all competitive messaging. Brands are steeped in research and therefore cultivate an emotional preference (and loyalty) by creating a relationship with your target audience. Great brands convey a single promise that resonates with the consumer because it speaks to their needs, wants and desires. Because a brand, hopefully your brand’s promise, is directly linked to a fervent wish or solution to a problem.

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Listen-up Facts:

1.) It is no longer about selling. It’s about creating relationships with customers that create an emotional preference for your brand.

2.) Selling a product based on price and availability will ensure that you will stay a product rather than become a brand.

3.) Communication today must focus on “Consumer Wish Fulfillment” not “Advertiser Wish Fulfillment.”

4.) Staying Relevant is the main challenge facing businesses today.

5.) Most businesses don’t have an objective perspective and therefore make assumptions that aren’t as obvious to individuals outside their business.

Brand leaders not only define the category, but their messaging eventually becomes part of the culture by creating their own mind-space: Just Do It, The Big Apple, The Real Thing, I’m Loving It, The Happiest Place On Earth…

Yours Truly

James McKenna is the branding manager for the City of Lee’s Summit. Reach him at JMcKenna@lschamber. com.

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