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To me, this is the biggest job of branding. Yet, most people who talk about branding, even those who really, really get it, hardly give managing expectations a thought. But think about it this way:

• Any effort you spend trying to sell somebody who is NOT going to buy is wasted effort…time you will NEVER get back
• Any effort you expend to draw prospects who are not qualified to buy or likely to buy is wasted marketing expense
• The most expensive part of any sale is the closure—the part that involves people’s valuable time, creativity, energy, and knowledge
• Anyone who is strong-armed into buying is not going to buy again
• Someone who shows up knowing what you’re selling, wanting what you’re selling, and ready to buy what you’re selling is going to be a low-friction, low-cost buyer…and is likely to be a repeat customer…and is likely to be a good cross-sell/up-sell prospect,

So, the biggest job of branding is to communicate, loud and clear, what the world can expect from your brand—your product, your service, your pricing, your commitment to future products, the whole nine yards. Of course, it needs to do this by consistently expressing the brand to all the senses, even as the customer experience is consistent with all the brand expressions. One of the biggest mistakes branding clients make is trying to use branding to become something they’re not.

So, say you’re a hundred-year-old company that has never changed. You know how to make people comfortable who don’t like change very much. You are not very hip—never have been. You’re sort of technologically backward. You still use cash boxes and an abacus. You still serve coffee in cups with saucers (some of which have become chipped over the years). You don’t move very fast. You get a new marketing director, and the first thing she does is declare that this company has to be branded…it has to be presented to a younger, hipper, faster-moving audience as a hip, fast, cutting-edge company…because “that’s what people are looking for today.” WRONG.

What you really need is to find a younger audience, and a broader audience, of people who are in the market for what you offer, who are intimidated by cutting-edge stuff, who aren’t terribly hip, who don’t move that fast, and who would be quite comfortable with the rate at which your 100-year-old company embraces change…AND BRAND YOUR COMPANY AUTHENTICALLY... to that market segment. Differentiate on what is in your DNA. Don’t try to look hip if you’re not. It will make you look like you’re wearing somebody else’s clothes. Instead, brand for what you are, to appeal to those who would like you if they knew you, and to set authentic expectations.

Some people like Starbucks. Some people like Dunkin’ Doughnuts. Some people want a bank that feels like coffee shop. And some people want a bank that will never be mistaken for anything but a bank. I love UMPQUA. And I think everyone can learn from UMPQUA. But not every bank customer is looking for UMPQUA.

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