Q&A With Bob London of London, Ink.: Navigating “Branding”

Meet Bob London (@londonink), President of London, Ink, a marketing and communications consulting firm for companies in the technology and professional services sectors.  Bob serves as a Virtual VP of Marketing for companies that need an injection of marketing leadership and expertise, but aren’t ready for the cost and commitment of a full-time executive. London spoke with WashingtonExec about basic branding principals as well as the biggest marketing mistakes companies make.

WashingtonExec: We hear the word “brand” a lot. What does it really mean?

Bob London: “Brand” is a very misused and misunderstood word.  A big misconception is that branding equals design and that rebranding means a new logo, tagline, campaign or home page design.  Not so! Unless you have the media budget of, say, Nike, Budweiser or Geico, for the vast majority of organizations, their brand is not how they look or what they say, but how they deliver.

So a brand is the sum of all of an organization’s customer touchpoints, starting, of course, with the value delivered by the core product or service and customer support and going all the way into the details of how easy it is to find the right info on the web site, how easy to read the invoices are and long it take to return a phone call.

WashingtonExec: What’s personal branding?

Bob London: “Personal branding” is a buzzword; one of those terms that have been coined to describe something that has existed forever: it really means how you develop and maintain your reputation as an executive or service provider.  This is not to be confused with a celebrity brand, such as Oprah or Trump where the name becomes synonymous with a particular theme or offering.

WashingtonExec: Is marketing is a cost center or an investment?

Bob London: This debate has been raging for over a century when a famous department store magnate said, “I know I’m wasting half my marketing budget…I just don’t know which half.”  Marketing should be an investment, but any investment has to be measurable.

The Internet, the crush of new forms of online marketing and innovative software tools have increased two things that will help marketing continue to become an investment: (a) the ability to microtarget the audience segment that is most relevant to your offering; and (b) the trackability of campaigns, from email to web analytics to pay-per-click.  So there will be fewer excuses for the marketer to say, “I don’t know how much revenue this campaign generated.”

WashingtonExec: What is the biggest marketing mistake companies make?

Bob London: Not knowing what I call their prospect’s “elevator rant.”  Companies realize they need a good elevator pitch, but in order to have one that really resonates, you need to understand what prospects are saying on the elevator when you’re not around: their elevator rant.  What problem do they have that you’re not aware of but that you might be able to help solve?  Without knowing this, the elevator pitch can sound forced and, even worse, irrelevant.

WashingtonExec: What is something most people don’t know about you?

Bob London: I write a business humor column called Bobservations, which just got picked up by SmartCEO magazine as a monthly feature.  Creative writing has always been a hobby, but now it has turned into a valuable marketing tool for London, Ink.  The truth is that most people would rather read something entertaining than another article on “how to align your sales and marketing departments.”  You can find Bobservations at www.bob-servations.com.

 

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