Our daughter is learning the difference between nouns and verbs and it started me thinking that marketing is chock full of nouns but there's really only one verb: Branding.
Marketing is filled with "things." There are logos, taglines, colors, layouts, images, talking points and all the materials we print and publish using those things. Branding, on the other hand, is something we do. Using all those marketing pieces consistently, placing them in the right place at the right time in front of the right people.
Consider the most recognizable (valuable) brands in the world - Nike, Coke, Kleenex, Google, etc. They spend millions of dollars each year to make sure you know exactly who they are and what they do for you as a consumer. While we may not have their vast resources, we can take a page from their playbook and say to ourselves, "Do my marketing materials tell people what I do?" "Am I investing my marketing dollars in the right place so that I'm speaking to only my target market and not everyone else?"
Hopefully you're still reading, because this is the part that many business professionals forget: Branding isn't just positive, it also includes the negative. All of our actions - whether deliberate or accidental, positive or detrimental, that are noticed by our customers is considered branding. If we do one thing this week and something contrary the next, the two messages can negate each other and our audience might be left with the feeling that we don't know what we're doing.
Our audience is a fickle, judgmental lot. Knowing that, each of us needs to ask our self, "Is my behavior in public telling potential customers what they might expect from my business?" Not always, and although it's not fair to always judge one's business by one's personal actions, people do exactly that and we as business professionals must be aware of it.
Bottom line: Stay positive, consistent, and intentional in your branding and you'll build a brand that's really worth something.
P.S. For those of you who, like my husband, serve with the grammar police, I realize that "branding" is actually a gerund and beg your indulgence. "Branding is a Gerund" would have made for a crummy title.