The logo. The signage. The packaging. These are usually the first items that people think are synonymous with a brand. They certainly are part of the brand but they are just the tip of the iceberg. While these elements may be just a small portion of the overall B + C + S Formula they are important pieces, as all brand conveyors are, as they are almost always the first impression.
Much like an actual iceberg, the tip alerts us that there is something there…something more that we should check out. Similarly, it’s that first impression that entices people to try a brand for that first time. Despite what your mom or first-grade teacher may have said, people do actually judge a book by its cover. That idea was certainly driven home for me on multiple levels a few years ago when I was exploring a strategic partnership.
That was around the time it became apparent to me that I needed to develop deeper expertise in social media. I attended a presentation held at the local chamber of commerce on the subject. The firm that led the session had a great approach that tied into a number of key branding concepts. I introduced myself to the owner and set up a meeting. Given their expertise in social media and my knowledge in branding, culture building, and strategy I felt there may be a valuable strategic partnership opportunity.
I sent the owner some materials as well as one of my strategic planning workbooks so they could learn a little more about my business. When I met with him and one of his associates the first thing he said was “Great stuff. It shows I shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” He was referring to one of my websites which I knew wasn’t that good. It motivated me to get a new site.
Later he showed me again why a book shouldn’t be judged by its cover when he went back on his word on an agreement we had. Originally it seemed his firm was both knowledgeable and one of integrity. In this case, the tip of the iceberg was attractive and enticed me to look deeper. Under the water it was just a filthy piece of cracked ice.
Conversely there have been a few clients and potential clients that have told me almost verbatim, “We’re the best kept secret.” The most recent time I heard that it was followed with “We have a great brand.” Sorry, a big part of having a great brand is that people actually know about it. If it’s a secret to potential customers then it isn’t a brand to them at all. It’s just an unknown.
Don’t confuse a great brand with quality. Don’t confuse a great operation and systems with a great brand. It’s terrific if a business has those critical pieces in place. What it means is that when a customer looks under the water at your iceberg that they will find something pleasant and of substance. It means that when the business does market the quality, the operation, the systems, etc., that the business can actually live up to the brand promise hyped in that marketing.
Unlike my experience with the aforementioned social media firm, you don’t want people to look deeper and find crap. You want people to see a quality business. However, in order to want to do so they have to not only be attracted by your tip of the iceberg but also actually know that your iceberg is even there!