Brand Is Your Strategy

The story is your strategy.
— Ben Horowitz
If you haven't heard the story of Ritz-Carlton and Joshie, the lost stuffed animal, read about it below on Forbes. Talk about customer service!

If you haven't heard the story of Ritz-Carlton and Joshie, the lost stuffed animal, read about it below on Forbes. Talk about customer service!

When we think of a brand, the first thing that comes to mind is usually a logo. Or a color scheme. Or an ad. But brand isn't just the creative—though it's important—a brand is everything about the company.

Yes, everything. Every interaction an employee has with a customer. Every tweet. Every page of the website. Every time the CEO opens their mouth.

If you completely destroyed everything about a company—fired every employee, stole all their cash, destroyed every factory—what you'd have left is the brand. If that happened to Coca-Cola, or Ritz-Carlton, or Soulcycle, they'd bounce back. Why? Because their brand has real value.

Read this on Forbes: Why Customer Service Is Your Branding (A Ritz-Carlton Case Study)

Brand isn’t a stimulus, it’s a collective emotional response of the people you’re trying to reach.
— Mike Troiano

Real value. Cue finance and accounting folks scoffing.

Yes, brand value is real. In marketing, that's the "intangible asset" we deal with most. By its very nature, we can't quantify it (though like anything, there are metrics we can use as a proxy). Because a brand lives in the hearts and minds of everyone outside the company, it's not easy to put it into a neat little box.

Without brand, nobody would ever buy what you're selling.

Without brand, nobody would ever identify with your product.

Without brand, nobody would ever become part of your community.

This is true in B2B or B2C. It doesn't matter if it's the latest fitness craze or if it's an enterprise software platform. Human beings are emotional, irrational creatures. We may pretend that we make rational decisions, but in the end, it's the emotion that's going to tip us over the edge and get to yes.

Human truths = marketing truths

Your brand adds that emotional element. It's what causes me, when picking up two identical canned goods in a supermarket, to choose one over the other. There's no difference between the products except the brand. It might be something I need, something that I've never seen a single advertisement for. 

Think about peanut butter. You're either Skippy's or Jif (or maybe something else). They taste exactly the same. Really. So what are you buying?

Or more expensive: A computer. Yes, you can argue about a Mac's fancy features all you want. But you're not really buying a computer. You're buying the brand.

Brands live on the emotional plane of existence—so stop treating your brand like it's an afterthought. It's your entire strategy.

This blog post was inspired by all the talks I heard at Hypergrowth this past September. Take a look at my full recap here.