Developing a successful brand In Depth What is a brand? A brand is what people, and most importantly customers, think of your company. This means that a brand isn’t what you’re trying or not trying to get people to think of you unless you’re successful,. It is not the image you’ve carefully crafted for yourself, and it’s certainly not your logo or some other superficial thing. Your brand is ultimately up to the public to decide. Because your brand is determined by the public, you have a brand from the moment anyone finds out about your business, whether or not you want to. It’s important then for you to work to take control of your brand, to improve the way people think of your business. Ultimately what people think about your business can be its most valuable asset or its biggest detriment. This is where the idea of branding comes is. What is Branding? Branding are the methods you use to try to direct and alter what people think about your company. They are the things you do to let the world know what your company to stands for. As such there are two parts to branding; 1-Actions – In the long term what your company does is the most important part of its brand because people will likely figure out the truth about your company sooner or later. For example, a business can say it is focused on high quality, but if its owners are unwilling to throw out stale bread then it’s not a high quality brand, and the people who buy the stale bread or hear about it from friends of their friends will know it. A company can say that it is focused on customer service, but if it has a couple of sales clerks in each branch who aren’t then the company isn’t either, and again people will realize this. So what your business does, even if it’s unintentional, is the most important part of your brand in the long term. 2-Words – Ads, logo’s, brochures, etc can be thought of as how your brand dresses and what it says. While some may say that these things aren’t important, we all know that people are influenced by the way someone dresses and what they say, just as they are influenced by the way your company presents itself. The first thing people think of your company comes from its ads and image. So if you want people to give you a chance, you need good branding materials to convince them you’re their type of company. The purpose of your brand A good brand is potentially your most valuable asset. After all, there can be no real replacement for what people think of your company. If people think positively about your company then you’re more likely to do well. If they think negatively then you’ll do poorly. However, being successful requires more then just a positive image, it requires the right image. The purpose of your branding efforts should be to get people to think of your company in a way that makes them want to purchase your products. There is often a clear difference between the types of companies people like and the types of companies they’ll buy from. For example, many people might like a small corner grocer more
then a large chain, yet the large chains continue to grow while the small corner grocers struggle. There are a number of reasons for this, but in the end it all comes to down to how often customers think of your business and what it is they actually want in the products they buy.
Developing Your Brand Benefits are key to a brand. People do not buy products, they buy benefits,; so they’ll only buy from you if they believe that doing so is going to benefit them in some way. Its It’s important to keep in mind when developing a brand that who you are or what your company’s accomplishments are is only of secondary importance, and then only as evidence that you can use to prove you actually provide customers with the benefits you claim to. If you provide real benefits people have and will forgive just about anything so long as your brand continues to offer them real benefits. Think about Walmart. Even as millions of people came to despise their business practices, they still became the largest retailer based on their brand of saving money and helping people “live better.” The most innovative brands tend to move beyond the obvious benefits of high quality products and focus on some emotional appeal. Kashi, a maker of healthy snacks, isn’t just healthy, their fun. McDonalds makes you happy (their slogan is “I’m loving it”), and Apple computers became a fashionable, trendy brand. It is important to note that the primary feature that made these brands successful doesn’t necessarily have anything, or at least not very much, to do with the products they’re making. Overarching Benefits An overarching benefit is the primary emotional benefit your brand offers to people. The Overarching Benefit should be a single quick, simple gut reaction that people feel about your brand. For Obama it was hope, for Coke it’s happiness. It should be a very basic emotional idea that can be stated quickly and easily. often in just a few words. While there are many possible benefits your brand can provide, three of the most successful are providing happiness, making life better, and empowering people. When determining your overarching brand it might be a good idea to start by choosing one or a combination of these possible benefits and determine how you would build perceptions for each. Be creative, ; remember no matter what your you’re selling you can always come up with an emotional reason for people to buy it. Think about tires. At first glance few products could be more basic, more generic and boring. Michelin showed how emotionally important tires were by showing babies riding through stormy weather on them. Everything you love is dependent on your tires not blowing out slipping in the rain and snow. Even if you have no real natural benefit over your competitors, you can create this. There is nothing inherent in the mixture of corn syrup and carbonated water that makes people happier when they drink Coke that their marketing and message don’t created. Choosing the right overarching benefit then is about choosing what you can achieve and what will set you apart from and above your competitors. Three examples of successful over-arching benefits Happiness
Few things are more desirable then happiness, and despite the fact that one of our cultures favorite sayings is that “you can’t buy happiness,” everyone always tries to do just that. Because people seek to find and often times buy happiness, claiming to be able to help make people happy can be one of the best selling points you can have. Coke, for example is the third most valuable brand in the world, with an estimated value of 55.4 Billion dollars. Coke’s product is very basic and fairly easily replicated. Yet Coke remains dominant within its industry. It does this by being more then just a soda,; it does it by working to craft an emotional image so that people have feelings for it beyond its role as a tasty beverage. Coke’s slogan “Open Happiness,” says it all. To them and to many of their customers their product is more then just a mix of corn syrup and water; their product is a way to improve the day, an experience to share with friends. Coke is the most international beverage in the world, a beverage which they claim brings us all together. Make Life Better Although living a better life is an ambiguous statement it’s still emotionally powerful, in part because people can insert whatever they want into the statement. So no matter what it is that a person wants it can be possible for you to help fulfill that for them. WalMart’s slogan “Save Money, Live Better,” is a rallying cry not only to let their customers know their primary selling point but also to keep them on course. They work to establish themselves as the place where it’s possible for you to get more of the things you want, to save money so you can do the things you want. This in their statement can help you to live better, and because their goal ultimately revolves around helping people “live better,” they have been able to become not only the largest retailer (four times larger then their next biggest competitor), They have become the largest company in the world as of this writing. Empower People all have goals, they all have desires. If you understand the goals of a specific segment of consumers then you can gear your brand towards empowering them to reach their goals. As strange as it sounds this doesn’t have to be realistic. It’s unlikely for example that Mountain Dew, which sponsors the X-Games, actually makes athletes more athletic. But its message of empowerment still appeals to their fans. The idea of empowerment is perhaps best exemplified by Nike and their slogan “Just Do It”, which isn’t a suggestion so much as it’s a promise. It is the company promising that they’ll help consumers perform better in athletics activities. This promise appeals to a wide audience, from people who play a sport to the people who simply enjoy watching them, because everyone likes to feel empowered, even if they aren’t actively engaged in the task. Sub-Benefits Sub-benefits are a series of benefits which your brand claims to have, that cause a gut reaction in people. Sub-Benefits should be designed around supporting your overarching benefit. Axe Beauty products claim to help men live better by enabling them to attract women. Sub-benefits are where your brand comes to stand out from others, because while there may be a limited number of overarching benefits, there are an unlimited number of
combinations of sub-benefits. Wal-Mart, for example, claims to help people live better by being affordable, family oriented and having friendly customer service. De-Beers, on the other hand, claims to help people live better through nostalgia and exclusivity which is in part based on price as a way to support their brand.; letting you know through their commercials that you’ll treasure the moment of giving their products as a gift forever. McDonald’s creates a fun experience by providing an escape, a treat, a friendly environment. Disney does so through nostalgia, creativity, and child-like wonder, making them not just fun but magical. Keep Your Branding Efforts Simple You might want people to believe that your product can do a lot of things for them, and indeed your products might be able to do a lot of things. However, people will not believe nor will they remember complex brands. In his research Chernev, a Kellogg University professor “found that a product specializing in a single attribute is perceived to be superior in that attribute relative to an all-in-one product having multiple features. This happens even when the two alternatives are clearly described as being equivalent on that attribute. For instance, consumers expect whitening-only toothpaste to whiten teeth better than toothpaste that both whitens and prevents cavities.” So everyone who wants to get their teeth whiter will buy a whitening tooth paste, not an all in one tooth paste. This negative effect gets worse as a product claims to do more and more. Again Chernev states that; “individuals believe that the alternatives in a given choice set are balanced in their overall performance. Hence, consumers draw compensatory inferences and conclude that for each option, advantages in one attribute must be compensated for by disadvantages in another attribute.” So the more your product claims to do the worse people will think it is able to do them. This is why the greatest brands are simple. Harley Davidson Motorcycles are strong and masculine. Coke is the original Cola which makes you happy. Neither of these brands discuss all their features in their marketing. If you watch Coke ads for example and you’ll notice that Coke doesn’t say it has caffeine to keep you awake like Mountain Dew might, even though it does. Great branding means keeping your message simple. Brands based on your personality. For a very small business a brand has to be based on a personality which the owner can achieve, because they are the person which everyone sees in association with the business. However it’s important to keep in mind that a brand is not the entrepreneur, it is people’s perceptions of them and their business. So even if the business owner is normally shy, they can work to have a friendly brand. Keep in mind when developing a brand that it doesn’t always have to be like the people that the company is trying to sell to. A good brand, a good company is in many ways a
little like a person’s friend. People are not necessarily only friends with the people who are exactly like them. In fact they will often find people who are too much like them annoying or boring after a while. Further they often befriend the people they wish they were a little more like. I use the word friends because great brands are based on a relationship with their customers. Harley Motorcycles, Tiffeny’s, Disney are all examples of brands that people have built a relationship with. Provide support for your brand The support for your brand are the reasons you can claim to provide the benefits to people that you do. Axe beauty products claim they help men attract women because they help to make them smell the way women want and by helping help to make them look attractive, etc. Wal-Mart is family oriented because they refuse to sell certain movies and music, and they also provide affordable family products, etc. Your brand support can include your certifications, the awards you’ve won, that your products are all natural, etc. Its important to understand that your brand is not the awards you’ve won, or that you’re all natural or organic. A natural food store isn’t selling organic food. It is instead selling high quality healthy food; food that’s high quality and healthy because its it’s organic and natural. If you’ve won an award for your cupcakes you’re not selling cupcakes, you’re selling super tasty high quality treats that will make people happy, which have won major awards for doing so. The goal of the brand supports then aren’t to act as a benefit, but to help prod people towards thinking about your benefit, while also helping to support your claims. As an example, while Kashi, an all-natural food company which makes energy bars and cookies from whole grains does state that they are “Seven whole grains on a mission,” they do so in support of activities that are fun, and or that show that they taste great. Kashi’s ads show people having adventures in exotic locations, little kids sneaking cookies out of cookie jars etc. People eat Kashi because it helps make them healthier and gives them energy to do the things they want to do and it tastes great. It does all these things because it’s made of whole grains. Cheerio’s has a similar approach, except rather then young people on adventures they show older people having fun with their grandkids, painting pictures, etc. The message being that Cheerio’s helps its customers do what they love to do for longer because its good for their heart. In both these cases the message is that the food helps to empower the person who eats it and helps them live better. It does this because it’s healthy. Social Responsibility in Your Brand People don’t necessarily shop at the most socially responsible companies unless doing so offers them a benefit. People often times don’t even donate to non-profits unless they perceive a benefit to them. However, negative behaviors by brands can lead to a bad reputation for the company which in turn leads people to perceiving a social benefit to not purchasing from the company in question. No one wants to be seen or to see themselves as supporting something that goes against their values. The benefit to a business in being socially responsible then rarely comes from gaining customers, but rather as a way to avoid losing them. An example of two successful socially responsible choices comes from the competing companies, Target and Wal-Mart.
Target chose to stop selling guns in its stores, though doing this wouldn’t appreciably attract anti-gun shoppers. By not selling guns Target avoids the negative press other gun sellers have gotten as they took turns being the largest seller of guns or getting in the paper for selling a gun used in a crime. This helps them avoid the boycotts that can come with selling guns. Wal-Mart is leading the way on green packaging and a number of other environmentally responsible initiatives, so much so that the World Wild Life Foundation featured them on their website. Wal-mart didn’t begin doing this until it had already become the largest retailer however. Again the benefit to them isn’t that they gain new customers so much as that they avoid having environmental groups protest their practices. In addition to avoiding negative press, social responsibility can act as a support for a brand. Organic foods can claim to be higher quality and healthier. A company which uses part of the proceeds to cure a child in need provides a reason for customers to feel good about themselves, which is ultimately why people do these things. Yes I admit I’m being a little cynical, after all the people in the US are some of the most generous in the world, donating over 2% of their incomes to charity. Still you don’t want to risk the success of your company based on just 1/50th of people’s disposable incomes, because there are a lot of good causes they could give that 2% to without having to buy from your company. Target is going a similar route, offering people high-quality and trendy goods at more affordable rates then competitors. A brand needs to be achievable The ability to achieve a brand is key to its success,; you can’t be low priced if you can’t achieve low prices. So before choosing a brand, look at who your competition is for that brand. In the case of low prices the competition is Wal-mart and McDonald’s. Before you choose this as your brand you need to ask yourself if you can get the economies of scale needed to undercut the prices offered by these two companies. And even if you can, how would you do it and still make enough to earn a living? The same question needs to be asked about high quality, as this brand position costs a lot of money and requires you to toss out perfectly good products which don’t meet quality standards, something many small businesses can’t afford. Its It’s important to bear in mind that companies don’t necessarily fail because they had a bad idea, indeed it would be unusual for anyone to go into business who had a horrible idea. They fail because they couldn’t achieve their vision, because they couldn’t do the things they said they would. So any brand you select needs to be achievable and it needs to be achievable in comparison to your competition. Brands need to be clear You can’t have a brand that’s mediocre. Have you ever seen a successful company that claimed that their quality and prices were somewhere in the middle and their customer service was okay but not great? You can of course have middle market prices and middle market quality if you choose something else as your brand, but whatever you choose as your brand has to be clearly defined and important enough to people that they’ll purchase from you.