Branding: A Brand Is More Than a Logo

What is Branding?

Let’s face it, brands are everywhere. A brand is how we identify products, services, people, places and religions. Everything can be “branded,” however, a brand is more than just a logo or identity; it represents a symbolic construct created within the minds of people that consists of all the information, expectations and personality associated with a company, product or service. It can symbolize confidence, passion, belonging, or a set of unique values. A brand is an experience.

Branding has been around for more than 5,000 years. Historically, branding was used as a way for farmers to stamp their livestock, a way of saying, “that’s mine.” By the 20th century, it had evolved into more than just a way for farmers to mark their property; the industrial revolution introduced mass-produced goods and the need for companies to sell their products to a wider market. By applying branding to packaged goods, the manufacturers could increase the consumer’s familiarity with their products in an effort to build trust and loyalty. Campbell Soup, Juicy Fruit Gum and Quaker Oats were among the first products to be ‘branded.’

In the 1900′s, companies adopted slogans, mascots and jingles that began to appear on radio and television. Marketers soon began to recognize the way in which consumers were developing relationships with brands in a social and psychological sense, and over time learned to develop their brand’s identity and personality traits; such as youthfulness, luxury or fun. Branding became more personal. This evolved into the practice we now know as “branding” today, where the consumers buy “the brand” instead of the product. This trend continued to the 1980s, and is often quantified in concepts such as brand value and brand equity.

In today’s modern digital age, the Internet and social media have had major impacts on branding in a very short time. Brands are now more connected to consumers than ever before across numerous “touch points”-websites, blogs, social media, videos, television, magazines, mobile phones, applications, games, events and even art installations are all common channels where brands are engaging consumers. Unlike 20th century practices where consumers were passive receivers of messages, today’s successful branding campaigns involve multidimensional, two-way communication where consumers participate, share, and interact with a brand. Branding has become a physical, social and psychological experience.

The “brand experience” is the concept that a company’s identity and design evoke certain sensations, feelings and cognitions for the consumer. Several dimensions can distinguish the brand experience: sensory, affective, intellectual, and behavioral. Such stimuli appear as part of a brand’s design and identity, packaging, communications, and environments. Prime examples of some of the most experiential brands are Victoria’s Secret, Apple and Starbucks. Not only is branding about the individual’s awareness of the brand, but the experience the brand brings to the individual; the prospect that the individual moves from awareness of the product to consideration, to loyalty, to advocate. Hewlett Packard CEO, Meg Whitman, says, “When people use your brand as a verb, that’s remarkable.” For example, “Google it,” “Skype date?” or “Photoshop that picture!”

A strong brand is a critical marketing asset, as important to your business as the product itself. In our rapidly changing and increasingly complex world, technology and human interaction are intersecting in new ways, creating an experience economy where trust, conversation and brand portability are crucial to remaining relevant. Big will no longer beat the small. It will be the fast beating the slow.

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Growth of Security Education in the Medical Industry

I recently had an opportunity to address a group of Security Managers from several large Medical Facilities on the growth of education for security professionals in the health care industry, evaluation of resumes of prospective applicants, and the growth of education in the larger society. The result if that meeting is well worth repeating here.

The group consisted of security directors from several of the largest medical facilities in Western Washington. They ranged in age from their early thirties too well into the baby boomer retirement generation. These were all season professionals with an impressive string of credentials. Yet, they were as perplexed and confused about the future of education and their industry as the general public is about education in general. Our discussion started with a brief overview of how the security professional in the healthcare industry had evolved over the last 100 years. Starting in the 1890s we looked at medical facilities and healthcare professionals. The medical facility of the 1890 east and the early 1900s was largely a nonprofit institution, set up by local or regional political forces to serve the needs of growing population. They consisted of a group of doctors and nurses providing generalized healthcare. The buildings and surrounding structures were largely the result of donations, or tax levies from local towns and counties to create health districts and facilities. The security professional used to protect these facilities was likewise an uncomplicated individual. They were largely young to middle age people who had little more than a high school diploma and primarily used as a night watchman to watch the facilities during low usage times to prevent damage and fire. I then moved the discussion forward to the year 2011 and the modern medical facilities today. Those facilities are generally very complex and sophisticated facilities involving research from areas of nanotechnology and genetics, to the study of many different diseases. They often involved very sophisticated equipment and Computer Systems with millions of dollars being invested in the personnel that will operate these facilities. They are multibillion dollar complexes, profit driven, with huge amounts of physical resources to be protected. Looking at the security professional that is employed in that industry today, we see very little change between the modern individual and the one that existed in the 1800s. They’re still primarily young, with little more than a high school diploma for education and are used primarily to monitor facilities and to prevent fire damage. As I explained to this group of factional managers, we need to move the discussion for security professionals away from the eighteen hundreds model and into the modern age.

I then moved the discussion into the area of the modern security professional and resumes. The first thing I emphasized was that in trying to find people suited for the complex and challenging job of security professionals today, is to not look at the resume as the only item in your selection process. If we are to find the individuals to be able to handle the complexity of modern medical facilities, you need to evaluate the total person in all aspects of their lives. The security professional in the Health Care industry needs to understand not only the complex and very sophisticated computer systems, and research equipment being used, but understand the dynamic and often very challenging personalities that utilize the systems. They need to be part counselor, part psychologist, part financial analyst, part technologist, a physical security expert, and diplomat to handle the egos that they will encounter as they interface with boards of directors and important research personnel, and VIP patients within the facility. The person who will hold these jobs in the future will be the ultimate utility individual. They will have a broad range of skills, and be comfortable in almost any environment. Their background and education must likewise be as diverse as the demands of their job. But this is not the only issue. The healthcare industry must embrace the need to adjust salaries to be commensurate with the changing needs of the industry. This can only be accomplished by making the security professional an integral part of the overall structure of medical facilities. They all agreed that this is something that is vitally necessary, and that they emphasized with their Boards of Directors at every opportunity. Several directors pointed out that they go so far as to try to integrate medical personnel from various departments into the security force of their organizations. This makes security a functional part of the medical facility and not a stand- alone and isolated unit.

The final item we discussed was the overall development of educational systems in criminal justice over the last few years. At a time when the job of the criminal justice professional/ security specialist is changing very dramatically, educational institutions, because of pressure from the Federal Government are moving away from advanced degrees in many areas for these professions. We discussed the changes in Federal Education policy which are now moving for profit institutions away from educating the large sectors of the population and to becoming more selective in the students that they admit in order to meet Federal statistical needs for success rates. This change is closing one of the last doors for large segments of the population to receive an education. In the 1960s, the large research universities moved away from educating high-risk populations under the legal principle of, “educational necessity”, which allowed them to structure their student bodies with complete indifference to the needs of the communities in which they reside. This legal principle eventually trickled down two other colleges and universities a big novel research nature as they too became more dependent on federal loans for their student populations. By the time frame of the 1980s many high-risk students had been directed toward the community colleges which were growing at a rapid rate to meet the demands of baby boomers seeking higher education for job promotion. These institutions were ideally suited for this purpose since most of them had open enrollment policies. Students needed only apply to be accepted. However over the last several decades under pressure for accountability, community colleges began to put in place screening examinations that would identify entry students at been funneled them into remedial courses so that they would be eight to survive in the community college environment. Although this seems innocuous, the reason for doing this was that the students funneled into the remedial courses were not officially on the college’s books, and could not have an impact on their success statistics for Federal Accounting and success. This meant that it became beneficial for the community colleges too not only funnel high risk students into these remedial programs, but to keep them there as long as possible. The result was that many students from the lower economic groups, minorities, and other high risk students often spend years languishing in remedial courses, before they can’t even get into the mainstream courses of their chosen profession. The overall result was very high dropout rates, but rates which did not adversely impact the community colleges because the students were not officially students. The final door left open to the students was the for profit institutions which began to blossom to fill this need.

Today in the Health Care Security Industry, and many other industries, you will find most of their employee provided from for profit institutions. As the government has changed regulation requirements to put pressure of these institutions to hold them more accountable for their expenditure of federal dollars, we’re seeing the institutions shift away from an open door policy, to one of selective exclusion followed by traditional research universities, universities, and community colleges in the past. Large sectors of the American population will be excluded from education as the systems go into place. This means, that the security professionals in the future will be fewer in number, and less diverse. It will become more difficult for managers of security organizations to find those diverse personalities and populations that they need to fill the demanding and sophisticated jobs in their industry. It also means that in this country we will have a population that is divided into two large camps; those that can receive an education, and those that are forever excluded.

As this discussion with the security professionals indicated, changes in education do not occur in a vacuum. They impact all segments of American Society in life. As the changes occur imposed by the Federal Government, they must become aware of how significant the minor changes in rules and regulation impact the overall structure of many professions and the society as a whole. Just as we’re beginning to get the security industry to understand the need for higher level degrees for their security professionals, the Federal government is moving us back to the stone age of education.