I often hear the expression in business circles that “branding is fluff”. It’s often said because you can’t easily pin down investment in brand strategy to a direct ROI.
I often laugh this off saying that, with my beard, I’m the king of fluff etc etc (I know I'm a funny guy). But. I’ve been thinking about it. And I don’t think I like branding being called fluffy. Is it really fluff?
"Fluff" noun Definition:"something inconsequential" Merriam-Webster Dictionary
No. I can't go along with that.
A brand is the meaning people attach to you and your offer. Branding is an attempt to manage that meaning. When done well it should enable your business and culture to be designed around big ideas which your team align behind and your customers want to connect to.
Cat Image Credit: Wes Hicks Source: Unsplash
Think about it.
Is it fluff to have an authentic and genuine framework upon which to base all business activities?
Is it fluff if it aligns your team leadership team so they can make swifter and better decisions?
Is it fluff to have a long term view of your business and where it's going?
Is it fluff if your culture activities all lineup and ladder into something bigger that makes sense?
Is it fluff if it helps you better attract and recruit the talent you need?
Is it fluff if your communications are strong and distinctive?
Is it fluff if it helps you create meaningful experiences for customers so that they share positive stories about you to their peers?
Is it fluff if it gives you a clear focus for innovation which adds huge value to customers?
Is it fluff if you can sense check whether an idea will help or hurt your business long-term?
Is it fluff if you are a clear and obvious choice for customers so that they are willing to buy more and at a higher price?
Are these things really "inconsequential"? How about we think about this another way. Without the so-called “fluff” of brand strategy, what is the alternative?
Let’s see. It’s:
No clear authentic and genuine framework upon which to base all business activities (apart from ideas around making money).
No leadership team alignment so decisions are splintered, not joined up and there is often loads of infighting.
Short term thinking and decision making which damages long term prospects.
Non-sensical culture activities which happen organically and nobody really understands why.
Difficulty attracting and recruiting top talent. The only thing keeping everyone motivated is their next paycheck.
Weak, confusing, inconsistent and sporadic communications
Poor customer experiences occurring which are shared amongst peers.
Little or no meaningful innovation or future direction.
Poor analysis of ideas which mean nobody knows if the idea will help or hurt the business long-term?
No customer loyalty, customers buying on price and no reason for customer to choose us over our competitors.
Now let’s talk ROI. How long do you think your business will last without a brand strategy being employed? Without designing and planning and building a business without it being fueled by strategic brand ideas?
That's why you need the “fluff”.
In fact, I don’t think it should be called fluid at all. A better analogy is glue. It’s the glue that sticks your plans to reality. It motivates. It directs. It enhances. It aligns.
And it should never be underestimated.