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The 5 Inviolable Rules of Branding

I've interviewed HUNDREDS of marketing executives. Many of them were smart. Some were actually helping their firm become more successful. Even so, when it comes to branding, I kept seeing the same old BS surface over and over. However, rather than just criticize, I thought I'd provide some useful rules to drive better marketing behavior. I call them the five inviolable rules of branding:
  • RULE #1: Brand is meaningless without product. If you don't have a product that's worth selling, then brand marketing is a complete and total waste of time and money.
  • RULE #2: Good products create good brands. Yes, you can use advertising to call attention to a product, but it will only generate sales if the product is good to start with.
  • RULE #3: Bad products create bad brands. If this case, branding will just spread the word faster that the product stinks, because the brand will promise what isn't delivered.
  • RULE #4: Degrade the product, degrade the brand. If a product goes from good to bad, then the brand remains good for a while and then turns bad.
  • RULE #5: Improve the product, improve the brand...maybe. If a product goes from bad to good, then the brand might recover after a decade or so. If you're lucky.
Once you understand these rules, you realize that a lot of the tried-and-true maxims of marketing (e.g. "people buy brands") don't make any sense. The rules can also be used to gauge whether a particular branding exercise makes any sense.

For example, suppose sales are down. If the marketing response is "let's change our corporate logo so that our brand is more attractive to customers," you can pretty much assume that those marketers are clueless.

The only way to fix a bad brand is to fix the product... and even then its very difficult. For this reason, the PRODUCT and the PRODUCT QUALITY (including sales, service and support, which are product issues) must always, always, always trump ALL marketing activities.

If you don't have the basics right, it's insane to spend money on branding.

READERS: Do you agree?

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