Image by Alessio85 via Creative Commons

Madonna, Lady Gaga, Michael Jackson all understood the importance of branding to the success of their product.

They know talent isn’t enough. Madonna’s self-titled debut album was released in 1983. Do you remember it? You might better recognize the top songs, Holiday, Lucky Star, Everybody and Burning up, which set the standard for dance-pop and launching Madonna as a ‘disco diva’. Michael Jackson we all knew as the cute little kid of the Jackson 5, but like Madonna the mid-80s is where his brand really began to develop. Both artists took advantage of the emerging MTV channel to really develop their brand. Jackson might even be considered a critical component of the fame of MTV with his Thriller, Billie Jean and Beat It videos which transformed music videos to an art form. Lady Gaga who had the path paved for her by Madonna and Jackson is clearly influenced by their talents, but brings her own sense of individualism to her shows.

Michael Jackson Photo
Image by Nevada Tumbleweeds via Creative Commons

All 3 of these artists have had extreme success.

And by success, I mean profitability. Is this success because of their brand or their talent?  I’d argue it’s because of their brand strategy & execution first, and only then because of their talent.Some might even argue Madonna unlike the others has limited talent, but that’s not the point of this post. Madonna, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson have developed and executed that special something. That uniqueness that makes them stand out from other artists who may have similar talent…branding. Their branding has been well-thought out, strategic and executed year in and year out. Not to mention their brands have evolved over the years to accommodate the changing marketplace. In my opinion, definitely branding was and is the key to their successes. All you have to do is look at the popularity of shows such as American Idol, The X Factor and The Voice, there’s a ton of talent on those stages, but those shows really are an attempt to create a brand that will breed success (profits for their producers).

So, you think you have a great idea, product or service.

You have what you believe to be a terrific marketing plan, but you’re not seeing the sales. And, without sales, it’s difficult to achieve a profit or long term success. Most companies heavily depend on SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunities & Threats) analysis to develop product or service marketing plans. These plans look specifically at customer demographics like age, sex, where they live, etc. Perhaps that’s the true ‘weakness’ of these plans…customers don’t buy because they are female, black, 49 years old and live in Phoenix. And unless your product or service is the leader in the industry, they don’t buy because of the features or benefits of your service or product. All similar products or services offer the same promise. Instead, we know customers buy because of emotional connections or the way the product or service makes them feel…the brand. Brand strategies take SWOTs one step further by getting into the heads of your customer.

Lady Gaga Photo
Image by Will Folsom via Creative Commons

In my experience only emotionally mature companies really strategically think about their brand in relation to how a customer feels through the use of their product or service. Start-ups and small to medium business often have spent every last dime they had getting the product or service to market, and whatever remains they spend on advertising. To me, this is putting the band or chorus in front of the lead singer! Advertising without an overall brand strategy is a waste of your marketing dollars.

So, you say “Why do I need branding?” when I already dedicate a huge portion of my overall budget to marketing or advertising?

Branding sets the tone, foundation and personality for your advertising messaging. Branding defines the culture of your company. Branding gives your employees an understanding of who they represent and how to act accordingly. It’s the emotional connection you make with your customers and employees. That emotional connection is like Edison’s light bulb turning on in the deep dark irrational recesses of their brains. That emotional response in your customers’ brains is what finally gets them to notice your product or service in today’s cluttered marketplace. Once they notice your company’s product or service they’re more likely to want what you offer. Translation – Buy! And, that my friends, is how to make your marketing, or dare I say, your entire company functions more efficiently.

How do you present your product or service and ensure success? Just like Madonna, Lady Gaga and Michael Jackson your product or service requires a well thought out brand strategy. Your talent or what you offer to the world needs to be planned and creatively executed in a manner that sets you apart. Makes you different. Makes your target audience connect to your brand, emotionally. Creatively executing your brand strategy is how the connections are made and how products or services are sold.

Can you afford not to be noticed?

Is talent or having a good product or service enough? Not today, not yesterday! It takes a well developed brand strategy creatively executed with perfection to be successful (make a profit). Ask Madonna, that brand strategy can’t be the same brand strategy used 20 years ago. Your Branding needs to move…not just emotionally, but through time to stay relevant. After all “this isn’t your fathers Oldsmobile”, this is a “new generation”!

Get moving today…it takes time to develop and execute a brand strategy!