What's In a Brand?
While a rose by any other name would smell as sweet in the world of Shakespeare, that’s not necessarily the case in the world of marketing. As a friend profoundly stated recently “standing in a garage doesn’t make me a car.”
Whether you’re a multi-national firm or a one-man band, B2C or B2B, your brand is your calling card and in a world where we are inundated with choice, brand becomes increasingly important. Why? When a customer makes a purchasing decision, once the objective decisions of specifications, price, and quality are made, what’s left is the subjective confidence that a reputable brand name brings with it.
While consumer marketers focus heavily on branding B2B marketers still have a way to go. A 2007 study by James Gregory and Donald Sexton* showed just how much wealth is locked up – both in terms of revenue and market capitalization – in B2B brand equity and failing to build on that can be costly. Eccles et al* also state that 70% - 80% of market value comes from “hard-to-assess intangible assets such as brand equity, intellectual capital, and goodwill” so it is important that companies nurture both their reputations and their brand.
So how do you build a brand?
Quality – The foundation and starting point of a reputable brand is a product or service that is consistent in quality and delivery. However, given the number and frequency of imitators that inundate the market, a quality product alone will barely allow you to sustain a business long term, let alone build a brand! Ideally, you should also build in superior performance and barriers to competitive entry.
Differentation – The personality of your product line(s) and business that incorporates the essential marketing elements (marketing communications, packaging, brand names and logos) and they should all work in concert to support the performance of your products as well as ensuring that facilitate brand awareness.
Added Value – Also known as the “augmented brand”, you add value by meeting expectations beyond what is required: outstanding customer service, guarantees, terms or credit, consulting knowledge are some of the ways that businesses offer added value. These are benefits to the customer that have the additional advantage of being harder to imitate by existing or potential competitors.
Potential Brand – The hardest to achieve, a brand reaches its full potential when “it’s added values are so great that the customers will not willingly accept substitutes even when the alternatives are substantially cheaper or more readily available.” (Doyle & Stern). Ferraris and Rolexes aside, a potential brand is often based on intangibles – why is Coca-Cola really the leading brand over Pepsi despite the fact that Pepsi wins the taste test? Patrick Barwise and Seán Meehan identified four basics: a clear customer promise, building trust by delivering on it, continually improving on the promise, innovating beyond the familiar. I would add Simon Mainwaring’s intangibles of self-definition, transparency, authenticity and accountability.
A Final Word
Don’t focus so much on the brand that you forget about your customer. The goal of marketing is to get – and keep – customers. So while you are creating brand awareness, make sure you are connecting with your customers in the way they want you to. Listen to both current and potential customers for insight and to tap into their creativity for new product development. Remember that ultimately you are selling to them, not to yourself.
“Transforming a brand into a socially responsible leader doesn’t happen overnight by simply writing new marketing and advertising strategies. It takes effort to identify a vision that your customers will find credible and aligned with their values.” Simon Mainwaring