Brand. The hip, catch-all word of the New Economy. It suggested all a company needed to succeed was awareness. Image, as they say, was everything.
Pat Harpell saw it up close as the CEO of Harpell Inc., an integrated marketing firm in Maynard, Massachusetts. Over the past few years, many entrepreneurs have called on her to create branding programs, and she could see that old-fashioned branding strategies had gone astray. "That's not a branding program; that's a logo," she says. "Basic business principles fell apart."
Branding turned into a game of being seen for the sake of being seen, without giving consumers a reason to buy.
What ultimately fell apart was the connection between companies and consumers. Branding turned into a game of being seen for the sake of being seen, without giving consumers a reason to buy. "There's been a tremendous abuse of branding," says Jeff Dufresne, managing director of BrandStorm, a brand consulting group in Cincinnati. "I think people got confused and thought branding was just throwing some ill-conceived advertising out there to gain awareness."
With the dotcom fallout, companies are relearning the basic lessons of what makes a successful brand-mainly, that you can't live on image alone. Eyeballs don't equal sales, and logos don't create loyalty. Consumers want to know what you're all about and why they should trust you enough to purchase your product. This will never change, no matter how much technology alters our lives.
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.