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Harvard Business Review and One Trend Designers Knew About

For too long, advertising firms and marketing groups have misbranded branding. In an effort to make it sound mysterious, they’ve added “TM” symbols and acted like they had some incredible process that the rest of the world missed. Too often, they overcharged and under delivered, and even more often, a lot of smart business leaders fell for it. At face value, branding promises control and cash, both of which are openly worshipped by said business leaders, many of whom continue to pay top dollar for access to this “mysterious” formula for measuring a company’s worth.

The simple truth is that branding an organization isn’t really much different from building a reputation for an individual. You build a great brand by doing the right things, authentically, over and over again. It takes time. There are no short cuts, no secret ingredients. And there never were.

In the July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review, there’s an interesting article identifying “The 10 Trends You Have To Watch.” Honestly, I love the HBR, but these “trends” do make me smile a bit.

Like the final words of the intro:

“We also see signs of new forces emerging… The overall picture is of an altered business landscape. It does seem there will be no going back to the pre-crisis world.”

You don’t say.

Honestly, I’ll be quoting that line often. Seems a lot of smart, successful business leaders think they can continue to compete like they have for the past 20 years. It shouldn’t shock anyone that our world is changing by the minute, but I’m continually surprised by how many people think the old way will continue to serve their needs.

Maybe they’ll listen to the HBR. Maybe not. But, if they want to compete and innovation is fundamental to their ability to do so, well, they have a lot of changing ahead of them.

And with change on the menu, HBR provides evidence of another trend you might have heard about: Trust in business is running out. And here I found these revolutionary words:

“Regaining trust also means dispensing with the view that the only objective of management is to increase shareholder value.”

They note that 62 percent of adults in 20 countries trusted corporations less in December 2008 than they had the year before. This should concern strategists because “a low-trust environment makes everything about doing business more difficult… Loss of trust leads to higher transaction cost, lower brand value, and greater difficulty attracting, retaining and managing talent.”

News flash: this is not a trend.

This is how it has always been. Marketing gurus and their business cohorts may have confused matters over the past several decades. While their pockets are full, they’ve played a huge part in today’s business crisis environment.

Once and for all, branding is NOT marketing. Marketing is a brand tactic. It’s past time for all of us to get back to the fundamentals of branding. Authenticity. Value. Reputation. Credibility. Trust.

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