"All the money [or marketing] in the world can't buy you love and trust.
You have to earn trust and love by how you behave over time."
A New Brand World, Scott Bedbury
I recently spent a couple of days at Walt Disney World in Orlando and was struck by the consistent manner in which the Disney organization portrayed its various images, marks, and characters over such wide-ranging events, venues, and displays.
When I returned from Florida, I devoured a biography of Walt Disney and discovered a couple of nuggets that helped explain Disney's fanatical focus on protecting its brand image.
Back in the early 1930s--long before the term "brand" or "branding" was even in the business lexicon--author Bob Thomas in Walt Disney, An American Original says, "Walt was the devoted guardian of Mickey's integrity. Many times in story conferences he said, 'Mickey wouldn't do that.' He had an unerring sense of when the gag men were going too far, when they were reaching for comedy business which would perhaps draw bellylaughs but would be at variance with the naturalness of Mickey's character. That is why Mickey Mouse captured the world's affection as had no other cartoon character: he remained himself, an enormously likeable figure."
Note that Thomas describes Walt as "the devoted guardian of Mickey's integrity." Who is the devoted guardian of your company's integrity--your organization's reputation?
The Disney brand mantra is "Fun Family Entertainment," therefore every decision they make on behalf of their brand--whom they will partner with, what products make sense for licensing, which movie scripts to produce--all stem from this position. And, like Disney, brand-builders must be ruthlessly consistent. To stand out from your competition, you must carve out a place in the marketplace, and that will be impossible if you're communicating with inconsistent messages. Your business will just get lost in the clutter. Once you've found your sweet spot in the marketplace, you must prove to your customers and prospects that you will deliver on your promise.
Was Walt Disney a visionary? I think so. Again, before businesses even knew the power of branding, Walt had this to say to a young employee who didn't understand why the names of various producers for Disney shouldn't be elevated above Disney's in the annual report:
"Look--Disney is a thing, an image in the public mind. Disney is something they think of as a kind of entertainment, a kind of family thing, and it's all wrapped up in the name Disney. You see, I'm not Disney anymore. I used to be Disney, but now Disney is something we've built up in the public mind over the years. It stands for something, and you don't have to explain what it is to the pubic. They know what Disney is when they hear about our films or go to Disneyland. They know they're going to get a certain quality, a certain kind of entertainment. And that's what Disney is."
If that's not the perfect definition of what branding is --and the power of a solid brand strategy--I don't know what is.