When it comes to strategic brands, Steve Smith is passionate about branding, identity and image. Steve has spent over 30 years in marketing communications having worked with companies like AT&T, Subaru and Uniroyal to name a few. In 1997, he started Steven A. Smith and Associates, a marketing communications company that lead to Consonant Custom Media in 2010 which is a content marketing and custom publishing company. Steve has received ADDY Awards in recognition of creative excellence as well as the Advertising Federation's Ad Man of the Year Award. Steve, again, welcome to Been There, Done That.

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How do you define branding?

Well, you know, many people think of a brand as a logo but it, of course, is much more than that. The logo is your graphic identity. It's really just the visual representation of your brand. I've heard a brand defined as a promise and I think that's very, very appropriate because your brand sets up a series of expectations in the consumer's mind and it's up to you to be sure your brand either meets or exceeds those expectations. There's a great quote from Walter Landor, the founder of Landor Associates, the firm that created brand marks for companies like Levi's and FedEx and others. He said, "Products are built in the factory but brands are created in the mind."

How do you make your brand clear, credible and connecting?​

Well, a lot of it is about the user experience. Regardless of what you are, a restaurant, retailer, manufacturer, professional services provider, the user experience is more important especially now it's more important than ever. Keep your brand simple and keep it clear. Keep your graphic identity clear, keep the business model simple and easy to explain. That, of course, the credibility comes from having a business model that's simple and is very easy for the consumer to understand. That 30 second elevator speech? It should even be less than that because the elevators in my building are pretty fast, I got to tell you.

How would a company go about selecting a name for their company, their product or their service?

Well, having done that for my own companies and for several others, I think it's important to have a clear understanding among your team why you're in business in the first place, what is the essence of the company. What Leo Burnett referred to as the inherent drama within your product so what is it that you're trying to accomplish and what's the consumer benefit because at the end of the day, it's really all about the benefit to the consumer. If you come up with a name, come up with a theme that is repeatable and that is very easy for the consumer to understand, that's where you start. It has to be something that goes to the essence of what your brand really is. If you look at the name of my company Consonant Custom Media, Consonant means in harmony with and what we mean by that is that the work that we do, the content that we create is in harmony with our client's brand values.

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