I saw the juxtaposition of the words “brand” and “stand” the other day and my mind took a detour about how corporate action can speak louder than brand identities.
To me the word “brand” connotes the brand identity created and nurtured by corporate marketers. For example the distinctive logo and curved bottles associated with Coca Cola or the slogan “We try harder” associated with Avis Rent-A-Car. The branding concept is a cornerstone of marketing practice today thanks to the lifetime of work and writing of Al Ries. His long-term research on brands and profitability and short-term analysis of questionable brand marketing decisions are persuasive and valuable.
The word “stand,” as in “take a stand and defend it” seems to be a powerful evolution of the branding concept. In particular, I’m thinking about the purposeful actions and positive outcomes associated with taking a stand. The positive sides of taking a stand is that you are authentic, principled and an agent of change. On the negative side, you are uncompromising, polarizing and “at risk.” Interestingly, the iconic Malcolm X said this about stands, “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”
In terms of business brands, Apple takes a stand on human experience innovation as evidenced by their rabidly loyal fans and large R&D budgets. Federal Express takes a stand on honoring its on-time delivery service level agreement by investing in large delivery fleets and tracking technology. Both these companies tie their brand identities to their stands. In other words, they put their money where their mouth is. These are two simple and successful examples. Clearly there are others, including failures.
It seems that taking a stand is frequently riskier than relying on the more static concept of brand. As with many things in life, the path one chooses for themselves and their businesses is highly correlated with one’s inner calculator with regard to risk and reward.
When I started writing this, I wasn’t sure I was on to something. Perhaps I’m just wallowing in the semantics and simple rhyme. At this point I’ve persuaded myself to dig deeper and run a few experiments to test these hypotheses.