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Brand Building: The Long Road

Brand Building: The Long Road

A Slice of Knowledge by Freddie Wehbe

You own a small or mid-size business. Should you invest your advertising dollars marketing your products or building your brand? Though the difference may seem insignificant, the long-term payoff for one significantly outweighs the other.

Failing to make the distinction between marketing and branding is one of the most common mistakes small business leaders make; and I believe they make it because few small business owners really understand branding and the significant impact it has on business tenure.

Factoid: Branding and marketing are two different disciplines.

According to the American Marketing Association (AMA), marketing is “the activity, set of institutions and processes for creating, communicating, delivering and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners and society at large.” The key word here is “offering.”

Branding, on the other hand, is the emotional consumer response to a collection of images that identify your company—your name, reputation, logo and design scheme. The key word here is “emotion.”

Where marketing is about the short-term act of selling goods or services, branding is about the long-term strategy of building positive associations about your company.

An effective marketing campaign builds financial capital through “special offers” and “sales” and is measured in dollars and cents. Effective branding builds social capital through customer experience and is measured in relationships and reputation, in addition to your positioning as a business.

When considering a marketing plan – before I even ask myself how this will affect my sales – I ask myself, “How will this affect my brand?” Effective marketing activities are key to developing your brand, but they are not the same as building your brand.

Marketing activities are things you do; branding is how you or your products are known or perceived in the marketplace. While marketing is tangible, branding is intangible.

Brand building is a delicate science, almost an art form. Most business professionals need help creating a strategy for branding success, and there are many consultants specializing in this area. Sadly though, many of these professionals do not sufficiently understand the subtle nuisances between marketing and branding. You should interview as many companies as possible when choosing outside help and reference their clients’ brands and position in their perspective industry.

One useful approach is to ask the consultant what brands they have worked with. Then, ask yourself how you respond emotionally to the brands. If it is a positive emotional connection, then you know you are on the right track and the consultant knows his or her stuff.

When developing a brand strategy use the following four keys that define a brand:

  1. Target Customer – The main audience and demographics to who the brand is positioned for.
  2. Brand Essence – The “heart and soul” of the brand.
  3. Brand Promise – What are your customers promised, and are you delivering that promise?
  4. Brand Personality – Adjectives that describe the brand as if it were a person.

Whether you hire an outside branding firm or do it yourself, here are a few pointers to help clarify your brand objective:

  • Design your brand to be admirable, compelling and difficult to emulate.
  • Know your customer, and study them well. Try to find out what they care about.
  • Remember you are in the “positioning” game.
  • Create a long-term strategy and look beyond tomorrow’s financial scorecard.
  • Be different—differentiate or come in second.
  • Take advantage of technology. Social media has changed the branding world. Companies that effectively use social media will always be a step ahead.
  • Understand that customers decide what’s important to them, not what you define as important. In other words, be open-minded and don’t try to fit all customers into your box.

To be “first in class,” a brand must be “first choice” in the consumers mind in its particular category. For instance, Disney owns family entertainment, Nike owns winning, Starbucks owns the customer relationship and Apple owns innovation. At Gator Domino’s, one of our brand strategies is striving to own cause marketing and community giving. What category does your company strive to own?

While building your brand, you must constantly monitor the way your message is being perceived—and be ready to change. Big budget companies like Apple and Starbucks use focus groups to get feedback about their brand. Small budget companies – like Gator Dominos – monitor social media, send out customer surveys and solicit feedback. Both can be effective ways to determine how consumers rate your brand.

Your brand-building initiative should cross all business functions and be holistic in nature; it should be the overarching goal of all your advertising and marketing initiatives.

Remember, advertising grabs the eyes, and marketing grabs the brain. Good branding grabs the heart—and the best way into the consumer heart is to be sincere.


“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign. The companies that are lasting are those that are authentic.”  ~ Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

“A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.”  ~ Jeff Bezos, CEO AMAZON

See Also

“Any damn fool can put on a deal, but it takes genius, faith and perseverance to create a brand.” ~ David Ogilvy

“A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.”  ~ Scott Talgo

“Mass advertising can help build brands, but authenticity is what makes them last. If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.” ~ Howard Schultz CEO Starbucks

“Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.” ~ Warren Buffett

“A business based on brand is, very simply, a business primed for success.” ~ David F. D’Alessandro

“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does.” ~ Howard Schultz, CEO Starbucks

“Ensure your employees understand what your brand stands for, so they can be your first line of word-of-mouth advertising.” ~ Simon Mainwaring

“When people use your brand name as a verb, that is remarkable.” ~ Meg Whitman CEO EBAY and HP

Freddie Wehbe is the owner of Gator Domino’s, a ten-store franchise serving the greater Gainesville area. Freddie is married to Daurine and has two children, Ronnie and Dany. For feedback or questions, email Freddie at


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