Five Things Branding is NOT

Also known as “Nope. That is not a good idea.”

My focus over the last several years has been specifically on place branding. I have had the great pleasure of working with communities, economic development agencies, downtown associations, and others to build brands. With every project, I take away valuable lessons or nuggets of truths.

Throughout most of these projects, there are usually about five things that we need to spend time working through with various audiences. They are usually five things that relate to “what not to do in branding.” So, I thought I would assemble the top five things we and our clients routinely battle.

  1. “We have logo already. We’re good.” Branding is not just a logo. Yes, the logo is the visual identity, but branding envelops the experience of the place, how it appeals to your senses or makes you feel. It is the personality and culture of your community. When a community has a strong brand, you don’t just see it, you feel it too!
  2. “Why don’t we just hold a contest and give the winner a gift card?” Branding is not an opportunity to crowd source. The fact of the matter is when you crowd source a brand, there is no context, strategy, or engagement. Successful branding engages different audiences in different ways so that there is context and the ability to have conversations. This engagement allows you to drill down into the hearts and minds of your residents to find something that is authentic…which leads into the next topic.
  3. “I really like XYZ City brand. We should be like that.” Branding is not aspirational. Branding is the best of who you are, right now. Authenticity is critical. Your residents must identify with your brand as they truly are your unofficial spokespeople. And, let’s not forget that branding is a differentiator. You need to find what is special about you. Then capitalize on it.
  4. “My (insert relative here) is artsy. We can just have her/him create something.” Branding is not all about being creative.There is science behind a good brand. There are data points that you glean from engagement, focus groups, and message testing. I am not trying to take romance out of branding. Rather, branding is the intersection of science and creative. It is a beautiful thing.
  5. “We didn’t budget for brand management for next year since we are done with the branding project.” Branding is not the end. It’s just the beginning. Building brand is like building muscle, you have to work at it on a routine basis. You need to rollout the brand, then “roll it out” over and over again. But just like a muscle, once you have it, you can flex it!

What do you think? Have you encountered these issues in your branding project? Drop me a line and let me know how you approached these “what not to dos”. Or if you’re thinking about it or starting the process, let me know if I can help.

See some of our team’s branding projects at