Developing a brand for a retail, wholesale or correspondent lender is a science and requires a very different skill set than that needed for developing a marketing or public relations strategy. But why is the skill set different? Because marketing and PR focuses on communicating your unique selling points, evidence of distinction and promoting your products and services. Your brand, however, focuses on what your unique selling points are, what your evidence of distinction is and whether any of it is compelling enough to drive your audience to want to do business with you.
From this comparison, you can see how attempting to solve a branding challenge with a marketing or PR strategy could actually hurt you by furthering an already unstable or weak brand and making it harder and more expensive for you to fix it in the future. This is why it’s important to work with someone who understands this difference and also has the right credentials to assist you with your brand development needs.
Here are five common myths marketing and PR firms have about developing a brand:
1) Assuming brand development comes down to a good marketing or PR strategy.
Brand development is a process by which a company works to define its unique selling points and evidence of distinction through a process of uncovering who they are, how they’re different and why they exist. This is the basis upon which future marketing and PR campaigns are launched.
Establishing your brand must precede marketing and PR campaigns, it is not developed simultaneously to developing campaigns.
2) Referring to a logo as a brand.
A logo is nothing more than an icon; a visual representation of a brand.
When you see the logos of Rolex, John Deere, Ritz Carlton, Crest or any other brand for that matter, each makes you think of something based on experiences and perceptions. Likewise, if you are looking for places to stay on your family vacation and see five different hotel brands to choose from on TripAdvisor (Marriot, Four Seasons, Bernie’s Beds, Hilton Hotels and Motel 6, etc.) you most likely are able to rank them in quality from excellent to rat trap. If you dig a bit deeper and ask yourself how you were able to rank those hotels, it’s because of experiences (brand touch points), reviews, word-of-mouth, etc. That’s brand driven marketing!
3) Confusing or conflating a brand position and market positioning.
A brand position takes into account the emotional benefits a product/service provides to its target audience. Therefore, brand positioning, done well, is sustainable over the long haul.
Market positioning, on the other hand, is always in a state of flux due to the influence of outside factors whether they be political, economic, technological advances, competitive issues and so on.
To understand brand positioning, think about this; before the Mac, there were just computers.
4) Believing that refreshing your logo refreshes your brand.
A logo refresh is nothing more than a visual facelift. Refreshing a logo without a matching refresh in the culture of your company and the offering of something new that is deemed to be desirable to your target audience does nothing more than cause confusion. It makes the audience wonder what’s going on with your company that you now have a new logo. “What else is new?” they ask. If you don’t have a meaningful answer to this question, then refreshing your logo will be an exercise in futility.
Take Pepsi for example. They’ve been competing with Coca-Cola for market share as far back as we can remember. Coca-Cola’s logo has changed ever so slightly over the years since its inception in 1886. Pepsi, on the other hand, has changed their logo nearly a dozen times. Except for small blips in increased market share due to short-lived Coca-Cola brand blunders, they’ve never managed to overtake Coca-Cola. This is perfect evidence of the fact that a logo refresh by itself doesn’t do much of anything to refresh or change the perception of your brand, except possibly add in a bit of confusion.
Before a logo refresh, think through the brand promise, then bring it to life through visual assets, experience and communications. Well-planned brand identities create vastly improved bottom line returns.
5) Believing your brand is determined by gathering intelligence from your target audience.
Nothing could be further from the truth. This is a terribly confusing and ineffective way to create a brand. It relies on the voices of those who have no knowledge of your companies’ intellectual or creative assets, the only assets that a brand can be built upon.
Companies that adopt this approach are essentially telling customers, “We give up. We have no idea what to do anymore because you’re not buying our stuff. Please tell us what you think we should do and we’ll try our best to do it.”
Brand development is a science unto itself that is separate from marketing and public relations. Therefore, it’s always best to work with a firm that not only understands the mortgage industry but also has the proper credentials to provide branding and brand development services.
John Seroka is Principal of Seroka, a full-service brand development and strategic communications firm specializing in the mortgage industry. He may be reached at email@example.com or 866.379.0400. You also can connect with him at linkedin.com/in/johnseroka, twitter.com/johnseroka or on Google+.