Lately, I have been reading a lot of discussions in LinkedIn Groups that are attempting to define brand and branding. Often, half the challenge of master a subject is to have a common understanding of the lexicon. I have authored on this topic in the past, but thought it might be helpful to reprise the subject.
In economic development, I have indeed found a significant degree of confusion around, and misrepresentation of, what a brand is and what branding entails. Over the years, I have developed and teach a fairly simple way to think about the concepts.
My Working Definition
I define a brand as “a promise”. In the case of capital investment, it sets an expectation for what a CEO will experience if starting, expanding or relocating company operations to your community, region, state, or nation.
There are three success characteristics of great brands (promises).
- Relevancy – The promise is meaningful to the CEO. You are offering something to help the business be even more successful than it might be otherwise. Typically this means you are promising something the business currently does not have, but wants.
- Competitiveness – The promise focuses on a point of positive difference versus competitive location alternatives. It can be something the competition can’t deliver, something the competition offers but your location delivers more of, or something the competition offers but your location delivers it in a better way.
- Authenticity – Your location can consistently deliver the promise over time. It is neither puffery nor a misrepresentation of the facts.
Most of us have been taught since childhood that with any promise, the only two choices are to 1) keep it or 2) break it. While conceptually easy, consistently keeping your community’s promise is challenging because the competition is constantly changing and so many people are involved in the delivery process.