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When truth is told, it is exactly that – the truth. No amount of slamming against it will make it go away, nor would it be less of a truth. Conversely, a lie told in a hundred different “beautiful” ways will remain just a lie, and even if you can con a hundred people, your lie will eventually be exposed. Word-of-mouth advertising is a powerful medium, and in the age of the instant Internet, word-of-mouth advertising through email or online forums can damage your brand reputation instantly, IF you lie.

Some consultants and authors advocate a guerilla mentality, which implies bursty (non-consistent), tactical (non-strategic) and results-driven (non-lasting) technique to selling. However, some executives and entrepreneurs may extrapolate guerilla selling to include all other functional activity, including branding.

Selling can be either guerilla-like, or process-like (which means consistent, strategic, long-term). But branding is very different from selling because it targets mindset changes and seeks to create a lasting impression in prospects and customers, thereby guaranteeing long-term revenue and in turn, profits. Therefore, branding should not be guerrilla-like.

If the mindset for branding is short-term, some businessmen and executives may take the high road, and neglect ethical practices. In such cases, walking the fine line between legality and ethics may prove tricky, and unintentional (or eventually intentional) traverses to the dark side may occur. If nobody is the wiser, then the brand and the organization may continue on its journey unscathed. But in the age of the Internet where information leaks can be prevalent and pervasive, it takes just minutes for an inquisitive journalist to rattle the truth out. The publicity disaster may wreck havoc on the brand, and ruins the foundation you took blood and sweat to build up.

The key question to ask yourself is therefore, if branding is such a long-term journey, is it worth risking its demise by cutting corners or thinking short-term?

It is also conversely important to recognize that branding, though important, is but one facet of an entire organization or business. No amount of proper branding can work if the people within the organization are not driven or properly trained. Neither can branding work against the tide of an organization led by lackluster leaders. The core and spirit of the business is found in its leaders and its people. Without a good bunch of people behind a brand, no amount of superficial or artificial branding will work. It is akin to having fancy logos, business cards and stationery, but your business is but a hollow shell without substance. You won’t go very far.

So the core of branding, beyond telling the truth, is to be true to yourself.

These are some writings we did in 2003 (published as “DotZen”, a paperback book that was widely publicized), and we extracted some which are still relevant today, in the areas of branding, marketing, sales, publicity, and business improvement. If we find some time outside that of helping our clients grow and taking a rest, we will try to write some more.

Copyright©2003 Seamus Phan & Ter Hui Peng. All rights reserved.