I cringed the other day when I saw a post claiming that brands were dead. The writer tried to make the case that social media has destroyed branding, so what’s the point?

Why Bother with Branding?

While it’s true that social media has had a dramatic impact on branding, the assumption that it’s just not worth it to worry about branding these days is dangerous. In fact, the opposite is true. All the noise generated in the social sphere makes branding more important than ever.

Here’s are four reasons why:

Brands Build Loyalty

When customers understand what your company brand represents, it’s much easier for them to be advocates. Loyal brand ambassadors will be the first to step in when someone slams your company, coming to your defense on Twitter and other social media sites.

The current dust-up about remarks by Dan Cathy, the president of fast food chain Chik-fil-A is a perfect example. After Cathy’s comments about marriage offended the gay rights community, supporters including former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee stepped up to back the company, proclaiming a national “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” in response to planned protests.

Brands Make Marketing Easier

In marketing, it’s critical to know your customer…and for your customer to know you. A brand that clearly expresses your value proposition to the right target market helps you build community and foster customer relationships.

When your company and your customers can pick each other out of a crowd, the cacophony of social media fades away. Your message rises above the din, appealing to the people you most want to hear it. All those others, the ones who aren’t in your target market, don’t matter nearly as much as the people you really need to speak to.

Harnessing social media tools like Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn to create a connection with your company helps your brand message will come through loud and clear.

Brands Streamline Sales

Simply put, shorter sales cycles allow sales reps to book more revenue. It’s a matter of sales efficiency with immediate impact on the bottom line. Having a well-known, highly regarded brand (two different things, by the way) opens doors for sales reps who don’t have to explain quite so much to prospects.

It’s hard to convince a buyer, “We’ve got the best computers available today,” when they’ve never heard of Acme PC. On the other hand, if it’s Apple or Google calling, the story is quite different. Sales challenges will still exist, but your team can focus details like pricing, service agreements and delivery terms instead of wasting months trying to get that first meeting.

Social media gives everyone the opportunity to create brand awareness. It takes work, but creative approaches make is possible for small companies as well as larger businesses to generate a following and win sales.

Brands Attract Great Employees

Face it, people like to bet on a winning horse. They also like to work for companies that make them proud. When you have an outstanding brand reputation, even if it is known only to industry insiders, you have an advantage in attracting top talent.

While  the days of  a life-long career at a companies like IBM have passed, there are still lots of benefits for candidates to seek out positions with leading firms. When you hear a developer has worked at Amazon or a writer did a stint at the Wall Street Journal, there’s almost instant credibility by association.

Hopefully those star employees will come to stay but even if their tenure is just a few years, companies with great brands will always have a ready talent pool at hand.

Social Media has Transformed Branding

Branding has changed in the social media era, there’s no doubt about it. You can’t just print up cards and letterhead with a logo your brother designed and call it a day. Building a brand takes consistent effort, dedication and focus.

Customers are integral to the branding process and social media has given them an active voice. You’re not branding in a vacuum anymore, thinking up ideas and throwing them out to a marketplace that doesn’t talk back. This is a huge advantage.

Instead of spending thousands of dollars hunting down customers for  focus groups and surveys, you’ve got an engaged audience ready, willing and able to provide feedback. Ask, and they will tell you what they think. (Sometimes, they’ll tell you even when you don’t ask!)

Embrace It

Active customer engagement can be scary for businesses that assume they are in total control of their brands. They hide from social media thinking avoidance is the best strategy. Other companies try to force themselves on the social landscape, trying to retain control at all costs. Neither of these approaches is effective.

Brands that will succeed in the new era of marketing are the ones that leverage the golden opportunity presented by social media, taking advantage of the ready availability and easy access to customers that has never existed before.

Embrace the change, and social media can be a valuable tool for growing your business, too.

Is Social Media the Death of Branding? is a post from: Fresh Sprouts - Marketing Insights for a Social World. Copyright 2011.