about transactional branding


I use this term ‘transactional branding’ a lot when I am talking about business and defending why we shouldn’t talk about branding (or at least stop until everyone can turn off the bullshit meters and maybe all agree on terms of usage).

The premise behind the phrase is that excellent marketing/communications/branding activity/whatever you want to call it and business results – transactions – can and should be inextricably linked.

I do believe a truly inspiring insight or idea will inspire positive brand value and inspire consumer action and I call it Transactional Branding.


Let me be clear.

I wasn’t the genius who came up with the phrase and idea (although the concept behind it has always resided in my pea like brain).

Some guy at an agency I worked at articulated this idea (probably scribbled on a napkin over cocktails) and came up with the phrase and wording in maybe the late 90’s.

I loved it.

My boss loved it (who was actually the president).

Pretty much everyone else hated it.

It’s that damn word transactions.

Marketing and advertising agencies feel like it diminishes their abilities (and their art) to suggest that they do anything transactional

(but … to come to their defense .. while this is a visceral response I have not run into one great marketing/advertising creative mind … EVER … who didn’t understand that ultimately whatever they created needed to generate a business result or their ‘creative idea’ just wasn’t worth a shit).

Anyway. All that said.

Recognizing a brand cannot exist without ongoing sales, revenue or retail traffic seems to be an overlooked topic in the branding world.

Okay. Someone is going to suggest that it is simply ‘understood.’


It’s not.

In fact there is an entire generation of young marketers entering into the ‘branding world’ thinking it is all about building value (or adding value).

Well geez … adding value on ‘what.’ Not a logo. Or not on some culture. The value has to be added to … well … some ‘thing.’

And, oh by the way, that ‘thing’ needs some sales, revenue or traffic or your ‘thing’ will become ‘no-thing.’ (let alone a brand).

So this transactional branding concept means building the ‘encourage consumer action’ into the branding effort. In other words, create business outcomes today so the brand lives tomorrow.

It’s kind of a simple concept.

Some people may call it ‘holistic’ or something (maybe not).


How it works:

One brand idea. One brand voice. One brand strategy. An integrated communications plan with multiple tactics (which can be changed constantly because the strategy remains the same).

–          note: see my glocal article on my point of view on flexibility in execution.

It begins by identifying ‘the’ inspiring insight  (typically the marriage between consumer and brand insight).

Of course you identify the desired business results.

You identify the best communications/marketing ideas to generate the best results.

You develop smart insightful creative messaging (within the organization as well as externally to insure some alignment).

Then you measure results and adjust tactics as appropriate.


Sounds simple.

Bottom line.

Here is the tricky part (t least to me)

Everything emanates from the inner truth (the essence, the company value insight, the cultural & functional core of the organization, whatever you want to call it) of the company. THAT my friends is really the brand.

All you are doing with transactional branding is sharing your ‘brand’ with people and let them fall in love with you (hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm … and really the only way they can fall in love with you is if they go out on an actual date … uh .. a transaction.)

So from that ‘inner thing’ you get to create some inspiring brand idea and incorporate it into tactics that create transactions.

THAT is Transactional Branding.


And if you buy this thought/philosophy. It isn’t just about advertising or marketing.

Transactional Branding is about working on all aspects of a business – from traditional and non-traditional tactics to in-store to organizational attitudes and behaviors and … well … whatever. Because brand and transactions are so inextricably linked that it is about internal organization equal to, if not more important, than what is done externally wit customers.


One last great thing about attaching transactional and brand.

It’s all about “selling ‘more’ of what they want to sell at a higher price.”


Doesn’t get much better than that if you are running a business, does it?

Written by Bruce