Branding Your Business – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

By Hector Cisneros
Courtesy of The Blue Diamond Gallery

What is a Brand? Typically, when we talk about a brand, we are speaking about two different things. First, it’s a brand mark of ownership (aka registered logo). Like in the cowboy days when they branded a steer with a mark to prove the cattle was theirs. Second, and more importantly, it has to do with the reputation of the owner, the business entity and business practices. In other words, large companies with longstanding and well-entrenched reputations, have “National or International Brands.” Small, new or unestablished companies only have logos and need to establish a positive reputation.  In other words, they have yet to establish a brand.  In this instance, their logo or registered brand mark comes to represent the owner or business over time. In the beginning, their registered logo only represents ownership of a business, product or service. It’s that businesses operational practices which will build a positive or negative brand over time. In this episode of Working the Web to Win, we will explore in the ins and outs of branding. We will answer how to positively brand your business, how to get customers to spread your brand, what effect does changing your logos have, when should you make a logo change and other important questions that surround branding in general.
Today, large businesses can have many owners, so the brand comes to represent the value and reputation that the company has built for itself. It does this by providing products and services (good or bad) to its customers. For example, IBM used to stand for International Business Machines because they sold typewriters and other business machines. Now IBM stands for a company that sells top-notch computers, electronics, and software. International Business Machines is no longer mentioned as part of the IBM logo (although it is still part of their name). What IBM guards the most, however, is its reputation for providing the most reliable and durable business products and services that a business can buy. There is a saying that goes something like this – “No one ever got fired for buying IBM.” The same is true of any top brand. They are the top brand because they have the best reputation in their respective industry. They have the best reputation for creating the best products, providing the best customer service and ongoing customer support. The logo is only a trigger device that gets you to remember their name and reputation.
Courtesy of  Flickr
Your Logo is not your Brand
When I say your logo is not your brand; I am pointing out the fact that your reputation makes up most of what a brand signifies. People don’t care about the letters “IBM” they care that IBM products and services are considered some of the best in the industry. The Logo is only a marker of ownership. But this is only true if it's registered.
Several years ago, I created a company called Computer Know How, Inc., I created a unique logo, but did not register the logo until I was in business for six years. I soon found myself battling other companies trying to use the name Computer Know How. I had to spend several years proving I was first. Getting my trade name and logo word marked was the biggest help. On top of that, it is very easy for a company to create a similar wordmark and logo that can infringe on your wordmark, and logo (your brand mark)! In these instances, you must have the wherewithal to fight them in court to protect your investment. If not, be prepared to change your logo and wordmarks to differentiate your symbol of ownership and brand.
Those of you who live in Jacksonville, Florida, may remember the logo battle between the Jaguar NFL football team and the Jaguar automobile company when the football team first got started. The football team chose a logo that looked similar to the Jaguar automobile logo, which triggered a logo infringement lawsuit battle between these two companies. It was settled by the NFL Jaguars changing their logo to a Cat head and getting Jaguar auto to be an advertising sponsor.
Courtesy of  Picserver.org
Branding over the years
When I think of the quintessential brand, I can close my eyes and see in my mind’s eye the symbols of Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Apple, IBM, Target, Walmart and a few others. More importantly, I identify a positive feeling about these companies! It is important to note that these companies have changed their logo’s over time. Some have re-branded many times. It’s important to remember that brands evolve.
Shared Brands
A Large well-developed brand can share the brand with other companies. This can be accomplished in a couple of ways. One way is that they allow you to use their brand mark on your advertising, digital and print media. Another is where the name brand company inks a deal where they allow another company to market themselves as the brand itself. This usually takes place when a national brand is trying to expand into other countries. They sell rights to use their branding elements in the new territory where they are trying to gain market share.
Branding in other countries
Just because you have a brand registered in the USA, doesn’t mean you own the branding right all over the world. In many countries, you must register your brand in that country as well. Obviously, this can lead to considerable expense for a small company. This is another reason why many successful startups often license their brand, to an established company in a new country versus just registering the brand by itself. The branding deal also usually comes with a set of behavior rules designed to protect the brand's reputation. This way they kill two birds with one stone. Establishing their brand and acquiring market share.
Courtesy of  Flickr
Negative Branding
Most successful brands usually find themselves defending their brand against fakes, often spoofed, or outright negative 3rd party pirate branding.  Check out the article on Logoblink.com called Starbucks Logo Mania by BILYANA GEORGIEVA. This article shows not only the evolution of Starbuck’s brand; it also lists shared brands and many 3rd party negative brands.
When is a Brand a Brand Name
For a brand to achieve “Brand Name status,” it needs to have reached and broad recognition. This usually means that the company, product or service is available at least regionally if not nationally. It can be recognized by a very large number of consumers and It normally have some longevity. Small companies only have local brands at best. This is not a bad thing per say. It means that your reputation does not reach outside of your local marketing territory. A local company with a top-notch reputation is still a valuable commodity. This is especially true if the company has put in place codified systems of operation, marketing, distribution, have assets and sales and that they have acquired a positive trusted image.
What makes a Logo and a Good Brand?
A good brand is built not bought. It is acquired by providing excellent customer service, providing a quality product, and providing top-notch customer support after the sale. It is also acquired by consistently producing and engaging in top-notch marketing that consistently emphasizes the brand marks effectively. Think Yeti Coolers. Yeti did not invent the cooler, nor build the longest lasting cooler. They do build great coolers, but more importantly they engage in better marketing. The logo of a well-branded company, product or service includes these elements.
Courtesy of Pixabay
  • Unique
  • Simple
  • Easy to Understand
  • Easy to Remember
  • Stands for Something
On top of that, the logo must be congruent with your businesses core values, positive message, public behaviors, quality of deliverable, customer service, and support.
How to Get Customers to Spread Your Brand
If you want to get consumers to spread your brand, you need to do a great job of taking care of the customer. You need to provide them not only a great product but a great buying experience, a great service experience, and a great support experience. If you’re doing this right, you then need to make sure you are asking them to spread your good name!
Tools and tips for viral marketing
Courtesy of  Pixabay
Today, we live in a very friendly consumer age. Consumers can share their brand experiences easily. In fact, social media drives consumer confidence. Few people buy anything today without looking up product and company rating. Most social networks have built-in rating systems for fan pages. The internet is riddled with rating sites like Yelp, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, AngiesList, HomeAdvisor and the like.
If you’re not encouraging your customer to say positive things about your company, your product or services, you’re missing the boat. To make matters worse, if you’re not actively encouraging your clients to provide positive testimonials and ratings, you will only end up with bad reviews. I don’t care how good a company, product or service is, you will one day make someone mad.  On top of that, unethical competitors can post negative reviews, ratings and slanderous remarks with impunity.  So, if you don’t want to end up with only a bad reputation, you must put in place a process that is designed to build a positive reputation (which is the main part of your brand).
When should you Re-Brand your company?
When we are talking about re-branding a company, we are talking about all aspects of the company. A re-branding is a type of rebirth if you will. The logo, the corporate culture, the target market, and marketing emphasis. Yes, you can have a partial re-brand. However, most of these are just a change of marketing logos. A company should consider changing its brand if it has undergone new management to repair negative behavior; it engaged in in the past and now wants to create a new image. Its brand is old, and it is trying to garner a new market share. Examples could include; attracting a younger clientele or entering a different country where the culture is very different. A negative event has taken place (like the BP oil spill), and the company is if full image repair mode. And finally, your brand is undifferentiated, similar or is infringing on someone’s else brand. Here is my short list. 
Courtesy of  Wikipedia
  • You have a negative reputation
  • Your brand is Old and Stale
  • You have changed Market Focus
  • You have Changed Region with a Different Culture
  • Your brand is undifferentiated or too similar
  • Your brand is infringing on someone else’s brand.
What effects do changing your Logo have?
In many cases, if you’re a small company, changing your logo has little effect unless you have had that logo for a long time. Even then, this change will only affect the current clientele you have now. Unless you spend resources, marketing and reinforcing your new brand mark (i.e. Logo), little notice will take place. If you are re-branding your company, you will need to engage in some aggressive marketing to spread the word about your new found corporate culture, product quality, new found customer service and support, or no one will notice. Let's look at some examples.
The Good
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
Coca-Cola has been around for over a century. It has changed its logo many times. It has even changed Coke, its flagship product ingredients, several times. Each time Coca-Cola made a change, they did it with great fanfare (and marketing expenditures). Sometimes they hit a home run, other times the change was a big failure that caused the company to backtrack and re-release the older product.  However, they always produce a high-quality product based on consumer research. When their customer base voted with their pocketbooks and disapproval letters, Coca-Cola listened and made this right. Coca-Cola has remained the number one brand in the world for as long as I can remember. I attribute this to the fact that Coca-Cola listens to the consumer, spends the money needed to re-brand, has a great marketing team and always makes things right for the consumers.
The Bad
Courtesy of  Wikimedia Commons
Microsoft is another good example. They launched Windows 8 with great fanfare and a huge capital marketing campaign. No matter how much Microsoft spent and tried to convince people to use Windows 8, the marketplace rejected it. This happened for many reasons, including it was very different than Windows 7 (a well-liked and proven product), it was filled with bugs, and quite frankly, it was poorly designed. As many of my friends said, no amount of lipstick would make that pig kissable. You can read more about this when you read about Microsoft latest upgrade to Windows 10.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
BP Oil always had a good reputation for a high-quality petroleum product. This was true until April 20, 2010, when the Deep Horizon disaster created what is now known as the BP oil spill.  This oil spill caused a tremendous ecological disaster that not only damaged the environment, it devastated the fishing and tourist industries of the Golf Coast and ruined hundreds of thousands of people's economic lives. BP ended up changing all its top management in the region, paid out billions of dollars in fines and restitution from multiple lawsuits and was stuck with a terrible image of a company that does not care for the environment or the people of the Golf Coast. A place where they have thousands of employees.
Courtesy of  Flickr
So, what did BP do? They changed their logo to one that looks more environmentally friendly and created programs (beyond the lawsuit money) to rebuild the communities that were destroyed by the disaster. They embarked on a massive marketing campaign to prove they cared about the Golf Coast. They wanted to show that they could be environmentally friendly. Some of the ads showed off their community rebuilding programs. The ads showed people cleaning and protecting wildlife and cleaning the environment. Some ads showed off the billions they were spending to make things right! These commercials didn’t try to sell any of their products. They were selling themselves as a caring company. Seven years have passed, and BP is slowly making a comeback on the Golf Coast.
The Ugly
JC Penny has been a staple of Americana shopping for over a hundred years. At one time the JC stood for James Cash Penny, the founder of the company in 1875. The company became known as J.C. Penny in 1902 when it was incorporated and began its growth era. Like many old companies, it has had many logos. Fast forward to the 21st century and in 2012 J.C. Penny
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
updated its logo to just the letter JCP, based on the directive of their CEO Ron Johnson. This new logo was considered a rebranding of the company.   However, J.C. Penny did not change its corporate culture, target market, upgrade its customer service or anything like that. In essence, they did not re-brand themselves as something new or changed. They just changed the brand mark (the logo on the marketing materials). Because they did not rebrand themselves as something new, the re-brand campaign fell flat on its face. Not only did the re-brand fail, it prompted a revert to the previous brand logo, followed by several more logo changes over the next few years. This is what happens when a company confuses re-branding (which must include some new change, direction or target market) and changing the logo.
Our Story
Working the Web to Win - My company's name is actually WSquared Media Group, LLC. When we
Courtesy of WTWTW
founded our company, our intent was to create WebTV shows for businesses along with all the promoting and marketing need to make those shows successful. After about a year in business, we were only producing a few WebTV shows a year, and we had branched out into more than two dozen digital marketing products. Our target market had widened into several market segments, and we were now catering to different size businesses to go with the few bigger ones who wanted us to create their WebTV show. We had also embarked into doing our own BlogTalkRadio show called Working the Web to Win. This show was tied to our blog (the fodder for the show) and was produced and broadcast live every week since January 2012. By 2014 the show had become very popular, generating as many as 30,000 downloads for one show and the blog was producing enough monthly traffic (about 20,000+ page views a month) that we could monetize it. In 2014, we decided to rebrand ourselves with an emphasis on the WWW in the Working the Web to Win name. Our re-branding 
was prompted by the fact that people knew us by the show name. We had reached not only regional recognition but international recognition as well. We changed all our marketing to emphasize the new logo and created a set of core principles (our six guarantees) to go with it. I even changed my BNI 60 second presentation to reflect the re-brand. My catch phrase goes; This is Hector the connector with Working the Web to Win, creating Internet Marketing that delivers in the 21st Century Guaranteed.
Courtesy of http://www.workingthewebtowin.com
If you want to create a brand that stands the test of time, make sure your focus is on delivering great products, excellent customer service, and support after the sale. Be ready to spend time creating your core values, your unique selling propositions, understanding your target market and customer base. Once, these elements are in place; you are then ready to engage in the creative process of developing your brand mark (aka logo).  Having a logo is not branding. Using your logo on everything is only part of the branding process. Make sure you build a positive reputation and then protect that reputation with all the resources you can afford. After all, the bulk of your brand is your reputation; your logo is merely the mnemonic trigger stamped on your marketing materials.
That’s my opinion; I look forward to reading yours.
In this article, I have discussed what a Brand is, and what it is not. I have included many examples of different kinds of branding and discussed re-brand issues, including when should a company Re-brand and what’s involved in that process. I have also included several links to other articles that provide further detail on this subject.
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Understanding the Difference Between Branding, Marketing and Advertising for starters.

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Hector Cisneros is a partner, COO and Social Media Director for the award-winning, Internet-based marketing firm, 
Working the Web to Win, in Jacksonville, FL. You can connect with him on TwitterFacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn, and YouTube. He’s also the co-host of BlogTalkRadio’s “Working the Web to Win,” where he Carl Weiss, make working the web to win simple for every business. He's a published author of two books, "60 Seconds to Success"(available at Amazon and B&N), and "Internet Marketing for the 21st Century," which you can get by filling out the form above.  He’s also the co-author of the book, “Working the Web to Win,” which is now available on Amazon.com.

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2 comments:

  1. I never realized how involved branding could be until Hector explained it to me.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What's in a name? Branding, among other things. This was an interesting read.

    ReplyDelete