Monday-Morning-Memo-Logo1By Roy H. Williams

How tall is your brand?

Memo-040912 Measuring-the-Height-of-a-BrandAs long as we’re on the subject of brand identity and reputation, how are brands created in the first place? Is a brand merely the sum total of all the things a company says about itself?

Of course not.

Ads do, of course, play a big part in branding. Brand personality is communicated by:

1. what you say,

2. how you say it, and

3. what you leave out.

That’s right. What you leave out says as much as what you shout. This is because our minds read between the lines. Consider boxing legend Mike Tyson’s rebuttal to a statement made by sportswriter Wallace Matthews: “He called me a rapist and a recluse. I’m not a recluse.”

What you leave out says as much as what you shout.

Now back to the idea that a brand is the sum total of all its ads. The simple truth is this:

1. Some ads have more relevance than others.

2. Some ads have more credibility than others.

3. Our opinion of a brand is not just a reflection of that brand’s current ad.

4. Our opinion of a brand is not just a reflection of that brand’s advertising during the past 30, 60, or 180 days.

5. A two-year rolling window seems to be the interval of primary influence. (Notice that we said primary influence, not total.)

6. Thus, it can be loosely said – to the degree that ads communicate a brand – brand identity is largely a composite of the previous 24 months’ advertising. Ads older than 24 months fade into the mist of yesterday’s truth. You might remember an ad from 30 years ago but it’s not likely to greatly influence your opinion of that brand today.

7. Sleep erases advertising. The less relevant the message, the more quickly it is erased.

8. “Save 30 Percent, This Week Only,” becomes utterly irrelevant next week except for one little tidbit that sticks in the mind of the customer: “Wait, and they’ll put it on sale.” Our minds read between the lines.

There are two factors beyond advertising that greatly inform our opinion about a brand:

1. Our own experience. “What you are doing shouts so loud I cannot hear what you are saying.”

2. The opinions of others. News stories (the result of a good P.R. campaign) and word-of-mouth (the result of the experiences of others) influence brand reputation and thus, brand identity.

News stories are tricky to get. Word-of-mouth is not. The problem with word-of-mouth is that it’s much more likely to be negative than positive. This is because:

1. Rage is a stronger motivator than joy. (Not a stronger emotion; a stronger motivator. Rage demands action. Joy does not.)

2. Most people “play it safe” when it comes to word-of-mouth. If they tell you, “It was a great movie,” you’ll think less of them if you see the movie and don’t like it. But if they say, “It was horrible. Don’t go,” you’ll be grateful they saved you from making a mistake. Positive word-of-mouth is risky to the recommender. Negative word-of-mouth is not.

Do you want to know the secret to generating positive word-of-mouth? Never promise everything you intend to deliver. Keep an ace up your sleeve. The bigger the happy surprise you deliver when your customer comes into contact with you, the stronger the positive word-of-mouth that will follow. And this “happy surprise” can’t simply be great service. You’re going to have to come up with something far more eye-opening than that.

Did you learn something in today’s memo you can use?

Good. Now go tell two other people about

Do it for them. Do it for me.