Strategy & Marketing

Branding is Action. It’s about Doing.

In his new book “Culture Making,” Andy Crouch makes the premise that Christians talk a lot about changing culture, but ultimately, to change the culture, we have to make better culture.  In other words, stop talking about it and start making better stuff – movies, TV programs, online projects, books, music, art, etc…  I thought about that recently in the context of branding.   Since I wrote the book “Branding Faith,” a lot of potential clients come to me asking our team to “brand them.”  They want to discover what their brand identity should be and want an answer right now.  I understand their concern, but
the process doesn’t work that way.

First, branding isn’t what we say it is – it’s what they say it is.  In other words, while we try our best to shape the message and story that surrounds a person, project, or organization, it’s ultimately what happens in the mind of the audience or consumer that matters.  The big question is:  “What do they think of when they think of you?”

So at Cooke Media Group, although we often do a brand evaluation – the evaluation is most effective at discovering what’s wrong with the existing brand – if there is one.

Then – we create a new story by creating stuff – a new logo design, a new website, television spot or program, digital media, and more.  Obviously, we shape the story as we go, but the truth is having a “brand” doesn’t matter if you don’t have a presence in the marketplace.   Sometimes, developing that brand story takes a long time and happens as a process.

Branding being a “strategy” is a limited way of thinking.  Today, branding is action.  It happens in the process of creating new projects.  It’s the residue of innovation.  One non-profit organization spent $250,000 developing a “brand strategy” and ended up with a 400 page report they had absolutely no idea what to do with.  Branding is not a religion – it’s a tool.

Which would you rather have?  A compelling presence in the marketplace, or a 400 page report?

Branding is about doing.  It’s organic, and can only be discovered through creating new products, ideas, and projects.


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  1. I love and hate branding and I love and hate the science it has become. I love how google and on-demand infinitely available data allows you to measure the effectiveness of your brand equity every waking second; and I hate the insatiable animal it has become. I love Seth Godin’s idea of "drip, drip, drip…you win." And I hate the idea of leading a tribe and how responsible it makes me. I love that facebook brings me scads of traffic and doesn’t cost a dime, and I hate that now I am compelled to be transparent and live the brand after 5pm when the office closes. I love that changing one word in one line of Google Adword text increases my sales by .02%, and I hate that I cannot blindly buy magazine ads because they become less and less effective every day.

    I couldn’t agree with Phil’s branding axiom more: Branding IS action. The way I would and have explained branding is that it is a story; you have a story to tell and your true brand is the story your customers, clients, followers tell after they have encountered you.

    My favorite "brand" in the last 100 years? Mother Theresa, who can’t tell her story?

    BTW my answer to your question at the end: Give me a compelling presence and I will write you that report.

  2. Yes and branding is about telling people who you are and what makes you stand out. Step one is to take a hard look inside the organization and agree on what makes you unique. Know your strengths and find your voice. Your "brand" is that voice to the public.

  3. I think branding is the process of seperating the wheat from the chaff. It’s not about  slapping a tiger on a cereal box or put a "cool" cat on the front of a bag of chips It’s no longer just about recognizing the product it’s about relating to the product. I think that character will count in a way it hasn’t in the past. You can’t tell your story — you have to live your story so if you tell someone you are an expert in this area or have accomplished this or that then it had better be the truth–In this age of the information highway it is to easy to expose boasting or exaggerations. I think today more and more people are hyper sensitive to hypocrisy real or perceived, just check out the blogs of those that are no longer interested in the church because of the hypocrites or all the websites out there where in an instant you can see reviews on any product imaginable. I think God has gifted and positioned you Phil to sort through all of these issues and to help build a better product human or not.

  4. Phil:

    Great insights. Your story IS what they say it is, not what I declare it to be.

    Love the statement "branding… is the residue of innovation." It’s the emotional footprint left in the consumer’s heart. And that is what glues the relationship, isn’t it?

    Keep the thoughts coming. Love the dialogue here.

    Dawn Carter


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