When To Start Branding

By E. Brown

A friend recently acquired a business. The new venture will be successful because the brand is changing for the better. This particular situation will take a software company and change it from a product-centric business to a people-centric business.

Wrong Thinking
A lot of the small and mid-size companies I work with have many of the same pressure points. As a result prioritizing can become a daily juggling act. What should the business do next? Marketing? Advertising? R&D? Resource development? Infrastructure? What’s next?

I usually drive the discussion back toward the brand.
– Who are you?
– What is your vision?
– What do you uniquely do?
– Above all, what do others say about you?
Often, the excuse from leadership is that they are too busy to work on this. “Branding will come later,” they say. The fallacy is that branding is often equated with marketing or public relations.

Five Sensing
Marty Neumeier offers an illustrative definition of branding is his book, ZAG!.
– Marketing is what you say about yourself to customers
– Telemarketing is what you call customers to say about yourself
– Public Relations is what friends say about you to customers
– Advertising is what you say about yourself over, and over, and over again
– Graphic design is the look you establish for yourself
– Branding is what customers tell you about yourself

This creates a great word picture for communicating the impact of branding. Part of getting to this point is going through an exercise called Five Sensing. Based on our senses, here is what this can look like:

The Five Senses
– Look
– Hear
– Touch
– Smell
– Taste

Application Examples


  • What do you look like?
  • How do you present yourself to the customer?
  • What does your material look like? Your products?
  • What does your office(s) look like? Your building/store?
  • What does your Web site look like?
  • And the list can go on…


  • How do you sound over the phone?
  • What do customer hear when placed on Hold? Waiting for the operator?
  • How do you sound in person?
  • What vocabulary do you use?
  • What sounds do clients hear in your building/store? Your office?
  • And the list goes on…


  • How do our products feel?
  • How easy/difficult are they to use?
  • How are they packaged?
  • How does your building/store feel?
  • What materials and fabrics do you use in your office?
  • And the list goes on…


  • How does your product smell?
  • How does your building/store smell?
  • How does your office smell?
  • How do you smell?
  • And the list goes on…


  • How does your product taste?
  • How do your event meals taste?
  • Does your office provide mints or other treats for waiting guests?
  • If you provide beverages for customers, how do they taste?
  • Do you have working lunches? How do they taste?
  • And the list goes on…

Obviously, some of these questions may not apply to you, but all the areas of Five Sensing do. Do not neglect any of them. These are part of you — your brand. The first impression clients and customers get of you will be a lasting one.

This article is by no means exhaustive and was not meant to be. This is written in order to get the “wheels turning” and to get you thinking as a owner, leader, or company about your brand.

So, when should you start working on your brand?


Other Articles
Control Your Name On The Web
Your Brand Ecosystem
What’s Your Brand Worth?

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