It may be a cliche statement in the Marketing world, but the term “Brand Power” is a solid truth. The concept has existed since the 1880’s in brands such as Quaker, Heinz and Campbells. It has gone through several evolutionary phases adapting to changing consumer dynamics and marketing platforms (IE Social Media is the new “Town Crier”).
It safe keeps the business and creates a relationship and a faith in consumers. It is essentially, that which bonds consumers with businesses and develops product and service recognition. Simply put Branding is what creates a recognition for a businesses and carries them past their competitors.
Companies like Apple, Coca-cola, Nike, Adobe, Old Navy and more, all started out small. No more than concepts, ideas and passions. They often began as garage run businesses or chemistry experiments in rented building. Regardless of their humble beginnings, regardless of their industry background, their services and their products, each of these companies has one key and crucial element in common.
Brilliant, innovative, thoughtful Branding.
…and Branding is what?
In past posts we have dug into the concept of Branding. What it is, what it does. Suffice to say Branding is all about determining a core philosophy and image for your company. It must start from the foundation of your business and resonate outwards through out your sales divisions, manufacturing facilities and employees, service teams, marketing campaigns and promotional materials.
Branding is the means with which you begin to identify your business to consumers. It is the image you cultivate for your cliental. It is the association that people naturally develop with specific products and services. It is more than just your logo and colour scheme: it includes and relies on your employees, your customer communications day to day, your end products, and your after sales service. Successful companies provide quality products and excellent service. They treat after sales with as much importance as making the sale, because successful companies understand the need for repeat business and customer relationships. This consistency in service from start to finish builds their reputation and establishes them as a brand.
Successful branding is all about determining your core values, strengths and weaknesses as a business and then comparing those to what matters to your Target Market. Play your strengths into what matters to your Market through consistent and engaging communication.
Marketing To Your Targets.
Remember, Branding needs to keep the consumers priorities in mind at all times.
Put another way, “do not try to sell steaks to vegans”.
This painfully obvious right?
Nope, not always. Take a look at Coca-Colas flop with “New Coke”.
Coca-Cola is a brand story for the ages. They have a multitude of successful brand campaigns under their belt, and currently lead the pack when it comes to Social Media Marketing. However even giants trip on their shoelaces.
The Cola-Wars: In a galaxy not so far away…
It was 1985, Coke had long been the forerunner and number one cola drink in North America, in fact shortly after WW2 Time Magazine praised Coke’s “Peaceful near-conquest of the world’. However there was a new kid on the block and Pepsi-Cola’s successful re-branding as a “drink of the youth” was beginning to narrow the gap in market shares. More pressure was placed on Coke when Pepsi began a slew of celebrity endorsements, including Don Johnson and Michael Jackson.
Added to that was the increase in performance by other of Coke’s products, including Diet Coke, which had further reduced “The Real Thing’s” market share.
Then, Pepsi released the “Pepsi Challenge”. Consumers were blindfolded and tasted tested both products – the bulk of them preferring Pepsi’s sweeter recipe.
The writing was on the wall, the gap was narrowing and Coca-Cola had to act and act fast. Their answer? “New Coke”
Based on the results of the “Pepsi Challenge”, they misplaced their priorities and Target Market research by assuming that all that mattered to their consumer base was taste. When they implemented the “New Coke” they effectively alienated one key thing they still had going for them in the Cola-Wars – dedicated customers. So many of their previously faithful consumers boycotted the product that Coke was forced to step back from the campaign, announce the return of the Classic Coke and admit failure.
This is a classic example of good intent, but misplaced priority. It cost Coke in dollars, reputation and landed them a disenchanted consumer base. They recovered of course and continue to implement terrific Marketing campaigns.
It is not enough to Brand yourself by image only. Branding is more than a logo or a ad campaign. Branding needs to be embedded into your business on all levels and then followed through on. It requires buy-in from employees as much as consumers.
The best Branding incorporates a consistent message across your entire business platform. Everyone involved in the company needs to be preaching the same thing – EVERYONE. Nothing will kill a brand quicker than multiple message contradicting themselves.
While Branding seldom happens quickly – most elevated brands have been working at it for decades – the advent of Web 2.0 and Social Media has begun to move everything more quickly.
Still long term consistency is the key. Product lines that have a proven track record still dominate the marketplace.
Branding creates in consumers, a natural association between your name and a specific product or service. Whether that association is good or bad is determined by all aspects of your business. A brand can be soured by any negative experience, whether it is a defective product, poor service, or bad communication. Likewise a Brand can be built up and thrive based on all of these things.
Consumers who relate good services, products and after sales work with a brand are going to be faithful to that brand. If you give a consumer a stand-alone experience or product you will have them for life. That is Brand Power, the power to create faith and relationship with consumers, thus securing their business for the future.
A happy customer will always refer others to a brand. Providing good service and products will always cause ripples and your brand name will spread very quickly through word of mouth.
What is more, Brand Power is what creates the “Badge-effect”. It creates within consumers a natural association with a brand as a status symbol. Right or wrong, good or bad, consumers will pursue brands for the status it gives them.
Their is a common joke that Apple user’s pay the extra money for the status it gives them. One meme even re-named the Ipad the “Ipaid”.
Apple is an amazing brand, a stand-alone success story with great products and even better service. Their brand power lies in more than just the “status” given to their consumers, however there is a definite truth behind the status and the Badge-effect behind Apple, inc. It is the same story for many brands.
Branding Is A Badge.
Let’s face it we have all purchased clothing, accessories and swag based on the brand and the logo. What we use, what we purchase, what we wear… these things project an image outwards of who we want people to believe we are.
Grade Ten, (1997 for me) an era of tear away track pants, angst ridden music and bleach blonde hair. It may not have been the same everywhere, but at my High School, if you were cool you wore Nike or you wore Adidas. Those were the brands in writ and those were the brands that publicized you as street savvy.
Ugh, glad those days are well behind us right? Wrong! we have simply traded in those brands for new ones. I went through my skater phase, my “gonna-be-a-rockstar” phase and several others since then, and with each on, different brands came into play.
Branding is a badge, we ascribe to specific brands for our own individual reasons, and we stick to certain brands based on the image we wish to cultivate. Brands will establish a specific customer base, a target market that associates the brand with the image desired.
Clever brands exploit this. Brilliant brands surpass this. Let’s consider Apple again. Do they have a specific customer based founded on image? Yes. Do they rely on this specific customer base? No. Apple has created a product line, a service infrastructure, an image and an experience that transcends “almost” all cliques.
Poll iPhone users, you will find people from every possible demographic within the user base.
Many brands seek this by attempting to gain relevance in areas outside of their current image. The equivalent of Nike pursuing the skateboarding demographic or LaSenza pursuing the denim market.
They re-position themselves in order to breech other markets. Some, like 80’s era Pepsi and their campaign for the “next generation”, are successful. Others, such as Harley Davidson’s bid to enter the perfume market, fail.
Beginner branding is all about knowing your target and staying true to both your commitment and your promise to said target. Build faith, build reliability, build relationships and you will build a business.