What makes a great BRAND?
Despite what marketing people passionately believe most people don’t think about brands, they just get on with their lives. The coffee they buy, the supermarket they go to and petrol station they visit happen almost by accident. In Britain today we are too busy to think through these everyday inconsequential purchases, focused on saving time, not forgetting something or rushing from place to place on a tight deadline. So do brands matter as much as they used to and if so why and how? Brands matter where consumers can value them. In today’s wealthy world every product or service perceives itself as a brand, even if it is just a label. So what makes a great brand?
Let’s start with the basics, the consumer has choices, endless choices if they choose to use them, but in many everyday cases as in my examples above, the consumer sacrifices those choices for simple expedience. The inability to see (or value) brand differentiation, between Starbucks and Costa, between Tesco and Morrisons between BP and Shell, and yet they each fight for space in consumers minds through tiny differences which if we stop and think about do actually exist and we the consumer do actively value.
So much more than First Impressions
So in today’s Britain, what is important about a brand? Is it the halo effect, the first impression, like the smile on the front of a car or is it something more, something deeper and more tangible? Ask the owners of Sunny D (the 90’s orange juice lookalike) and you will find that the halo effect does not last if your brand is not true to itself and to its consumers. Customers have to believe in a brand, it must tell the truth, be transparent and honest if it is to be successful. Gerald Ratner (former MD of Ratners the jewellers who said about his products “because it’s total crap”) also found out that in today’s world everyone must truly believe in the brand, not just the marketing department but the whole company has to believe it and most importantly practice the brands beliefs.
Being clear and precise is also important in the company’s messages for a brand to succeed, a strong undiluted brand message must enthuse internally but must also consistently connect with customers through touch points, look at Innocent, Dorset Cereals or Apple as classic examples of touch point. They also demonstrate a clear story delivered with passion about who they are what they do and why they matter. This focused and consistent message is not just a marketing message but an ingrained set of values which consumers buy into with passion. These brands not only position themselves as premium players in their fields and earn more but they also continuously find new ways to spread their key messages to customers, they have a clear brand strategy to achieve it.
Everyone Lives the Brand
Another vital aspect of any brand success is that the people within that brand demonstrate what they preach, they live that lifestyle, support that brand and contribute to its success. It is their lifestyle, it is a part of the way they and their brand do business.
Great brands go beyond the brand to understand its real value to existing customers but also to tomorrow’s customers. Whether it is a family run local shop or a global supermarket chain great brands position themselves so they develop and hold a market position to develop long-term success.
Great brands create, sustain and evangelise a culture which supports and drives their brand. Creating a culture which underpins an organisations vision and purpose is a key prerequisite for ensuring sustainability of a great brand. Sustainability of a vision can only be achieved if the organisation is supported by an underlying culture which fits with the brands ethos.
Great brands can only transpose from the innovative visionary founder if they create a supportive culture to sustain the brand. An effective and appropriate culture is one which supports the brand and ensures it is can sustain its market position over time. Great brands sustain themselves through a great culture. The culture of a brand, the handwriting of the organisation, enables sustainment through acquisition of appropriate talent. The right people are drawn to a brand they aspire to be apart of that brand, business partners circle to be part of a great brand and customers aspire to be associated with a great brand.
Great Brands are not Labels
Great brands drive markets, by challenging them through innovation and changing perceptions. Labels on the other hand feed off brands by picking of successful innovations for downstream ‘me too’ market following customers. Great brands invest high proportions of their resources in driving markets forward, through innovative products and services. Great brands are seen to out invest other players more double the the market average.
Creating innovative pipeline cultures thinking long-term make positions rather than short-term tactical single product successes. Labels focus on creating market winning season products, while great brands focus on the longterm innovation which shift the paradigm of the customer through the brand.
Great brands also develop their own uniqueness, not just the product or service but the whole package is how we do it around here. There needs to be not only consistency but the brand hand writing and value on how they do it. The best brands always develop singular simple signals for customers, cutting through jargon to create clarity without patronisation.
For brands to succeed in today’s global markets these golden rules have never been more important as consumers have never had so much information, but if you follow these simple rules of brand success you can develop and maintain a great brand.
If you want to develop your company’s brand and are looking for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting to see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.
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Posted 1st December 2011 by Richard Gourlay