I can still remember reading “Positioning” by Al Ries and Jack Trout in 2000. It was the book that popularized the then unknown realm of branding. Up until then, my part of the marketing world called it image.

Because the book was a little hard to wade through, a friend of mine noted, “Ries and Trout didn’t define positioning, they positioned positioning.”

Before all the branding theories were theorized and the books were written, my boss (we were bankers) had this simple idea that we should be markedly different from our competitors (they were formidable) and once we found our voice and identity, we should be consistent. His notion was that our clients and prospects at the minimum wanted their bank to be consistent. Because he was a leader to be much admired, I dug in to help him make that happen.

Today it may seem quaint. Looking back, it was brilliant. I was the executor and as we grew, our image became very well known and understood. I suppose everything I profess to know about branding began then.

At one point I was beguiled by the notion that a brand is your promise to the marketplace. It is a seductive idea and can be presented with passion. However, it is still about you and because of the power of the Internet, it is fully now about them.

Today, I believe that a brand is the desirability of a product/service/company as perceived by clients and prospects (them). Your promise is how effectively you communicate and deliver the goods that tries to shape that perception.

The brand resides in the minds and hopefully hearts of the market.

The craft of marketing has become more data-driven and quantifiable with tools I would have never dreamed of as a young know-it-all marketing guy.

After all the campaigns, product launches, problem solving that I have been a part of, there are finally three things I believe, two of which I learned from the banking business.

-Being different and having the guts to communicate that difference will be a huge competitive advantage.

-Realizing that the brand is ultimately beyond your control will focus your efforts on shaping it and measuring the effect.

-A great creative product, particularly design is the forceful expression of your idea and has a multiplier effect beyond your media weight/mentions/posts/likes/visits, etc.

Oh, if you haven’t tried to understand what your client believes, values, wants, needs or may be passionate about and how your brand fits into their life, you may as well forget the three above.