Everyone wants to be happy, but not everyone defi nes happiness in the same way. Similarly, while most everyone wants a ‘brand,’ there is a lot of variance on what a ‘brand’ really means and, by extension, what it takes to have a successful brand strategy and superior profitability.
To some, a brand is simply a moniker or logo that identifies you. For these people, having a brand means having a name that people know and recognize: good “brand management” is having a big whack of advertising or PR or a hyperactive social network to create awareness.
The result? While these folks become known, they usually fi nd their brand remains vulnerable to price and feature wars. Indeed, their brand is only as good as their last marketing campaign, and that usually means they either need plenty of luck or deep pockets.
In contrast, others see brands as a set of associations between their fi rm and a set of features, or occasions of use, that are important to a target customer. The goal is to be top-of-mind to buyers when they’re considering these features.
These firms still need awareness beyond simple name or logo recognition. They need to build a set of associations and, most importantly, they need to develop a way of operating that can consistently deliver on the expectations those associations create. In short, the brand makes a promise that your fi rm must deliver.
By building the right associations, these businesses build loyalty and permanence, which translate into superior cost effi ciency. Repetition leads to buyer learning, which reduces the amount of advertising required. Greater customer loyalty means the advertising you do has more impact, and a strong brand reputation translates into smoother relations in dealings with suppliers and resellers. In short, when brands are an extension of business strategy instead of just a moniker, strong, long-term profi t performance follows.
Linking a brand with a business strategy occurs when both are focused on creating and communicating a distinctive and specifi c outcome known as “brand associations.” The business creates these outcomes and communications focus on eliciting three statements from customers: “I get it… I want it…I cannot get it anywhere else.”
The challenge is to create, and choose, the right brand associations. Here are some guidelines:
- What is the problem people have when they buy a product like yours? Are you a planner or are you THE go-to planner for a particular industry sector or type of event or meeting? As a rule, the more generic the problem you solve, the more generic your pricing tends to be. Generic brands are generalists that are a step away from commodities. By contrast, specialist brands tend to require specialized business systems that are hard to match: the result is a more differentiated offering.
- Who has that problem the most? Efficiency requires that we direct our marketing efforts around the buying behaviour of customers who are most likely to have that problem. Customers who face a different problem will not respond to those messages. As a result, generating awareness among those customers may generate name recognition, but they’ll never act upon it. In essence, they get “it;” they just don’t want “it.”
- Who do we compete against? Knowing the target customer tells us the criteria on which we’ll be evaluated. Knowing the competition tells us the standard of performance we need to exceed, in order to be seen as the “best solution.” Success here means the customer “cannot fi nd it anywhere else.”
Perhaps the best summary of the process was articulated by Gerry Garcia, of the Grateful Dead, when he said, “we didn’t want to be the best group playing our type of music, we wanted to be the only group.” Base your brand around the right associations and you’ll be the only meeting your clients will consider.