Mike Goefft
Chief Marketing Officer

Great Brands (and Great Brand Experiences) Are Built From the Inside Out


I just picked up a copy of the new book BRAND is a four letter word written by my colleague and good friend Austin McGhie, head of brand strategy at the Sterling Group.  It’s a bit of a rant, but it’s a book written by one of the best marketing thinkers I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. 

In his book, Austin makes the argument that in order for any brand strategy to be effective an organization has to believe in it, be inspired by it, and aspire to its full potential.  He says “if you can’t get it right on the inside, you’ll never get it right on the outside.”

Another great sound bite: “Your brand position distills, focuses and bottles the essence of who and what you can be on your very best day.”

But even a really great brand strategy is nothing until you “operationalize” it.  Which means bringing the strategy to life across all the touch points your brand has with your audiences – your customers, employees, business partners, as a member of the local community, etc.

Two of the most powerful brand touch points in your marketing arsenal are trade show exhibits and retail displays, where your brand directly engages and makes lasting impressions with your business partners and the end-users of the products or services you are selling.

Bringing your brand strategy to life in those environments means way more than simply applying your logo, or graphics, or your corporate color scheme in a consistent way.

In the words of Edward Boches, Chief Innovation Officer at Mullen:

“Your brand is the essence of what it promises and delivers. It’s not a logo, or a trademark — and definitely not its advertising — despite the claims of brand identity companies and even some ad agencies. The perception of a brand may be informed by ads, along with recommendations from friends, or interactions with a company’s employees, but the only thing that truly matters is the real-life experience you actually have with the company or its products.”

When you stop to think about it, many of your favorite brands are ones that do very little advertising, like Amazon, Starbucks or Zappos.  It’s all about what you experience when you encounter these brands on their web site, or when you open a package delivered to your house, or in the case of Starbucks, when you walk into their store. These brands have thought through and carefully designed the experiences they want their customers to have at each contact point in their journey down the pathway from prospect to loyal customer.

And when it comes to your brand's presence at a trade show event, the quality of the experience you provide to your various target constituencies is ultimately what matters most.

So, ask yourself: What was the experience you delivered to your customers at your last trade show event?  Were your customers engaged with your brand in a way that was on strategy? Was the customer experience consistent with the values and behaviors that you want your brand to be known for?   

If the answers are in any way fuzzy or unclear, then perhaps it’s time to re-visit your your trade show event planning process and make sure that it's totally aligned with your brand strategy. 

Austin is right.  Great brands are built from the inside out. And the customer touch points your brand has at trade show events or at retail is ground zero.

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