Do I really need a brand?

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Do I really need a brand?

Prospective B2B clients often ask us this question—and sometimes, executives tend to think that brands are really only relevant when selling products to consumers.

Whether you care about it or not, if you are in business, you have a brand.

Not that long ago, trapped in another too-usual airline delay on the tarmac, I had a fascinating conversation with my fellow suffering seat mate, the manager of a steel company in Dubai. With steel being a commodity, I wondered if he thought brand was relevant to his business.

According to my new friend, brand does matter. He often sold his locally manufactured steel over cheaper foreign-produced competitors because it looked “fresher” by not appearing rusty. Even though the superficial coat of rust that shipped steel develops has no impact on its quality, it turns out some builders want people passing their construction site to think the materials are new so as not to misjudge quality. So even though my seat mate’s steel was essentially the same as that of bigger and cheaper competitors, he emphasized his as fresher and newer looking.

So the question—even for a commodity business—is not “Do you need a brand?” The questions are “How do you want to leverage your brand?” and “What is the cost to reward ratio of actively managing the brand rather than ignoring it?” As Lucas Conley claimed in his book OBD=Obsessive Branding Disorder, some companies might have spent too much on promoting brands rather than improving products and businesses. However, one should not confuse promotion and advertising with brand management. Presenting your business in a true, compelling and consistent manner to external and internal stakeholders delivers obvious benefits. These include enhancing employee commitment, advocacy of the business and making customers more likely to consider and choose you.

When effectively expressed, a brand is a key tool for CEOs and senior executives to contextualize, communicate and execute on their business strategy. So you may not think you need a brand but, since you have one, what are you going to do with yours?

Brian Rafferty is the global director, customer insights, for the Siegel+Gale New York office.

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