Does Your Brand Convert?

I received a question recently from a marketer; he asked his hook question:

Does your brand convert?

What a question! 

It made me laugh to myself. 

This question implies that your brand is part of your larger marketing funnel. This question suggests that ‘brand’ falls roughly into the kinds of boxes labeled pay-per-click ads, SEO strategies, or outdoor ad buy. Here’s the problem: branding doesn’t work that way.

Asking whether a brand ‘converts’ is rather like asking how ‘useful’ your father is. It’s the wrong question. Your dad may actually be rather useful, but we don’t typically think in such terms. ‘Useful’ feels cold, clinical, and transactional rather than relational, authentic, and human. Make no mistake, brand work will win – it will ‘convert’ in time and in likely unforeseen, unengineered ways. But you will likely never know it. 

Let me explain.

Our creative agency regularly conducts BRAND DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOPS. This is one of our primary services. We do many other things, of course, but our next workshop will be our 76th workshop. You should also know that those workshop days aren’t just productive – they’re fun! Meeting with executive teams to discover or revamp core mission, key brand-led activities, and concepting communication systems help brands look right and sound great so that, ultimately, the brand can… drive revenue.

Simple enough.

Slide 28 of our workshop reads: 


This is a fundamental belief of every properly developed brand. Revenue and profitability cannot be the core motivator of a brand that wins. Naked profit motive never convinces anyone to buy anything – we don’t place things into an Amazon cart because we consider how much money Jeff Bezos will rake into his annual coffers. Rather, we believe that Amazon has our best interest in mind – affordable, expedited convenience. Thank you, Jeff! Moments later a sweaty guy sprints out of a van and he slings a packet of swingline staples onto your front porch. What a world!

Now, there are many reasons to start a business simply because it makes money. Sure there is. Every kid who starts a business cutting grass with his high school buddy knows this. Vending machine businesses simply produce revenue. Car wash facilities churn out nice returns. But those kinds of businesses are highly transactional and don’t require allegiance, fondness, or nurturing. They are merely transactional. A guy puts a dollar in the machine -a soda drops into a tray. Done. I don’t need to have big affection or allegiance to the lawn company. There are 8 other options in my neighborhood – just cut the grass well and put me on autopay for a reasonable monthly charge. Bada-bing, bada-boom!

You cannot run a professional services firm, a construction company, a manufacturing/product based brand, or retail location with a transactional mindset. Your customers are fickle. They are courted by the rest of the marketplace, by your direct and indirect competitors, every day. They must be ‘wooed’ and you must actively work to be what they need you to be if there is any chance of keeping long term, repeat customers. This is the very opposite of transactional thought. This is romance – as silly as it seems to think in these terms, brands need to think in terms of romance. Considering the other, eliminating hassle and negative interactions, taking thoughtful measures to be the very best version of yourself to keep the attention of others. It’s all romance. It’s all human. It’s never just transactional.

Marketing is the strategy and tactics of asking the girl out, but branding is why she says yes.  To emphasize one aspect at the expense of the other is foolish, but it is also rather common. Few people understand how ‘brand’ and ‘marketing’ work together; they reinforce and support one another, certainly, but they have different roles. This is why asking if a ‘brand’ converts to sales is a misguided question – brand development activates something deep inside that causes a prospective customer to want your product or service. Brand hits in the guts. It’s visceral. It’s the result of woo; it can be developed the same way you can get a great haircut, straighten your front teeth, develop conversational charm, and learn to flirt. Brand is why marketing converts – the distinction matters.

You cannot ask brand initiatives to ‘convert’ a sale. You cannot ask pay-per-click to woo a customer into a 30 year brand allegiance. These are separate objectives that dance a beautiful dance together. I hope that answers the question – but then, the question was likely just posed by a ‘bot’ who hit my inbox to get a ‘click’! Hate that. I do not feel wooed in the least!

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