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Really, how important is Brand?

Everyone is enthralled by Nike and Apple marketing and have the same dream of pulling customers to them via “aura”. Thus, there is often an inordinate amount of effort spent on look and feel of the web site, logo and other ethereal elements that often don’t contribute that much to demand/revenue creation.

Reality (especially for B2B focused companies) is that many industries have a limited number of customers and their industry is so small that everyone knows everyone and their relative market position. And in some mature industries there is little place for brand differentiation.

In these cases, it is smarter to put resources into and drive Unique Selling Propositions (USP’s), development of defendable product/service capabilities, promotion/loyalty programs and other tangible programs where the ROI is more direct and clearly seen.

We have seen clients pour thousands of dollars into brand studies and campaigns and, yet, maintain an inadequate call center or product delivery process that denigrates their brand on a daily basis. It simply doesn’t make sense unless your go-to-market capabilities are firing on all cylinders.

Be realistic about your capabilities and needs to participate in the marketplace from all angles before concentrating on brand investment.

The Role of Brands

There are really two roles and reasons for strong brands:

  Umbrella Attributes – If there are additional product lines to be rolled out under the brand, then it is possible to immediately transfer those core brand attributes to those lines, but care has to be taken to see if it will transfer in the minds of the consumers (with Sara Lee we made the transfer with deli meats and bread, but fresh entrees did not make it).

  Margin Preservation – If the brand is strong enough, then sometimes margin can be preserved, however, be aware that it often takes up to 10 years of perseverance and planned execution to develop a consumer brand and even then it doesn’t always work (i.e., Alticor finally gave up the work and reverted to Amway after 10 years of trying to establish the new brand).

If these aren’t immediate strong needs in your company, then re-evaluate your investment in the brand. Perhaps investments in operational excellence, expanded sales thrust or improved customer experience will serve the new company better and address your brand later.

As always, these are only guidelines and each situation should be well examined and vetted. The key is to look at brand in a rational way, give it the time and respect it deserves and consider it a component in a holistic plan that moves the whole company forward.

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Keeping Brand in Perspective