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Audience is Everything.

I’m tired of talking about brand. And I cringe when I hear the term branding.

The communications industry is overflowing with people who are experts in brand (and, worse, branding). Everyone can talk about it, everyone can opine on it, everyone says they can make it happen. Everyone has a retainer they want to charge you for studying it – if you’re lucky they’ll use words like ideating and effectuating.

The dirty secret about branding: it is unique to the mind of each individual customer and so in one sense there is no such thing as a brand. Think of you and your friends. Are you the same to each, despite being the same person? Of course not. The best brand development strategy replicates the best characteristics of friendship. Produce quality products whose value is apparent and whose mission is trustworthy and identifiable. Just like people, the best brands are not in the presentation but in their essence. So you can make a whole big thing out of trying to intellectualize brand – and charge a lot of money for it – but there are better returns on investment in the communications area.

Online search tells you everything you need to know to convince yourself that audience overwhelms brand in importance. When your customers can find you with a few words transmitted to Google your business is transformed.

The longest conversations about marketing should be about where the customers are and how to reach them – not whether the typeface of the body copy for your ad should be in Arial or Times. It goes without saying that the personality of your enterprise has to be conveyed properly. It must reflect your values and your esthetics and it must appeal to your customers. Where real value is delivered, however, is in getting that message in front of the right audience as efficiently as possible.

The solution is not the same for every situation. It’s not as simple as turning a switch. Each part of the media mix from public relations to advertising to online search to social media, plays a different role. Within each discipline, there are variables. Budget, timing and objectives need to be considered.

Social media is the new nonsense – some day it may even be more of a time waster than branding. Why? Because social media rarely introduces you to new customers – the people who like you ALREADY like you. And very very rarely does a social media appearance lead directly to a transaction.

Of course, social media is essential to marketing today, just like brand is. But it has to be performed within a scale that allows it to provide benefits, and not just suck money out of the budget without increasing sales.

Confession: Axiom’s most notable successes and its highest margins are made in branding and social media. But our client base has been with us for an average of 10 years not for the words and music and pictures. Our clients might come here because they identify with our (ugh) branding. But they stay here because we efficiently bring them customers who buy something.

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