'I'm With The Brand

The notion of “brand” is ubiquitous these days – for good and bad. Frankly, as a buzzword it’s been overexposed. And because of that, many distributors and decorators have chalked it up as corporate nonspeak and chosen to tune it out.

Which would be a major mistake. Because the idea of a brand stands for two things – reputation and image – that are timeless in business, and just as essential today as they’ve ever been. When experts talk about brand, it’s really about forging the reputation you want your company to be known for. It’s the reason customers buy from you. It does matter.

Actions can speak louder than words. Likewise, branding happens even if you don’t market your business at all (another mistake). So if you’re the company that constantly cuts its prices and takes orders no questions asked, you will be known as a transactional cheap provider. (Maybe that’s what you want.)

The point is that branding is something you can and want to control. You can determine your company image – whether you want to position yourself as, say, the creative geniuses or the service leaders. Good branding requires a concrete plan and thoughtful execution, just as with any endeavor to grow your business. To use another corporate term, it allows you to “control the message.”

It matters today because there are many more ways to reach the customer. Just a couple decades ago, those avenues were limited. Beyond face-to-face interactions, there were ads in the newspaper and phone book. Mailers. Perhaps sponsorships of local events. It was simply very difficult to interact with your customer on a daily basis.

With the internet, the dynamic has changed. Websites, e-mail and social media have granted constant access to customers. It’s powerful, almost too powerful given the way that some companies abuse the privilege and bombard customers with sales messages. But the bottom line remains: There are simply many more opportunities to portray the image you want to your customers.

The problem? While our industry has based its very existence on using apparel to craft the brands of clients, very few take the time to worry about their own companies. It’s that central conceit which propels our “Brand Commandments” cover story, written by Senior Staff Writer Theresa Hegel. We deliver 10 rock-solid rules for distributors and decorators to rehab their own image – everything from learning how to stand out to honoring your core audience.

Done right, you can find the customers you want and boost your sales. So even if you insist you’re sick of “branding,” it’s not really true, because you won’t get sick of success.