Donald Trump vs. Conan O’brien, Part IV: Re-Thinking Marketing and Branding

Last month, I was invited to give a short presentation at a Programmers Meeting that was attended by film festival leaders from across North America. Here is a reprise of the ideas I shared. I’ve partitioned what would have been a long essay into four parts for easier digestion and also, to allow for time for deeper contemplation. Here goes final entry, Part IV!

In closing out this battle between two of television’s titans, Donald Trump vs. Conan O’brien, let’s get back to basics and re-think some often misunderstood terminology. Specifically, Marketing and Branding. A lot of times, when people hear these words, their imaginations run off to pictures of mega-corporate marketing and branding: billboards, magazine ads, television spots, and I can’t tell you how many people overly concern themselves with having the perfect logo.

MARKETING: Make no mistake, if you have the budget for it, appearing in billboards, magazines, and television can be great publicity. However, it’s important to know that lots of commerce is happening right this moment, worldwide, without these novelties. Yes, novelties.

In this age of Internet, of social networks, of highly customizable buyer options, the aforementioned types of ad placement are simply outdated and they are what marketing leaders like Seth Godin refer to as “interruption marketing”. They’re designed to interfere with your viewing experience, they’re mostly annoying, and we as a consumer society have adapted to ignore them… ahem, TiVo. On the reverse side, there is “permission marketing” which consists of less talking and more listening – more real conversation.

BRANDING: And logos. Yes, logos are important. As are colors, typography and design. Certainly, definitely, and no doubt – just to be clear. However, these elements are parts, not the whole of branding. Honestly, do you think iPads are flying off the shelves because there’s a picture of fruit etched into the machine?

The true definition of branding is this: The feelings people get when they hear the name of your organization. Period. Are you associated with high quality products and services? Trust? Top-rate customer service? Or do people react otherwise, conjuring words like shoddy, unreliable, and inaccessible to describe your “brand”? Every time you succeed or fail to meet or exceed customer expectations is an opportunity for a major branding victory or disaster. The quality of sound at a concert, the craftsmanship of your wares, how you respond to a customer complaint. This is your brand, not the icon stamped on your letterhead.

Smaller-budget leaders, administrators, and service professionals can delight in this fact. That it’s the quality of our dialogues and relationships that drive any marketing and branding campaign. And therefore, we needn’t be billionaires to: speak our truths, deliver our message, promote our businesses, take care of our audiences, and ultimately, genuinely engage with the people that we aspire to serve.

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