Branding: The One Big Thing

A developing brand inherently has its challenges.  Two in particular come to mind.  The first is that one must develop brand awareness and the second is that it must differentiate itself in a substantial way from its competition.

The first challenge is far more straightforward, a company must advertise, scream from the rooftops, and bring attention to itself in every way it can think of.  Not that this is easy, all of this takes design work for the ad copy, money to pay for ad placement to simply get the work in front of consumers, and in all likelihood an offer built into the equation that means the customer is getting more value for their first purchase than they otherwise would (often referred to as the cost of acquisition).  And even if all of this effort is taken on there is no promise the right people are seeing the ads, or that anyone will choose to believe in your product in what is likely a very saturated market place.

Here the goal is likely to spend marketing dollars effectively, so ensuring that the right audience receives the message or advertisement is paramount.  This relies on a couple of key components.  The first is knowing what your brand’s mission and values are.  Before a company can hope to engage with its communities it has to know what it is and what it represents.  The second is for it to do research into exactly who its customers (or soon to be customers) are.  This means looking at competitors markets and determining which segments are either not targeted, or easier to take away from other’s market share.

This brings us to challenge two, differentiation.  In any given market there are key benefits that the consumer needs.  These often include price, quality, customer service, style, etc. So it is then the marketer’s job to hone in on the one area in which their company’s product outdoes their competitors and put that as the selling point to gain entry into the market.  Applying this back to the understanding of the company and its customers makes this all the more effective.

An interesting example might be that of Pepsi.  Though a well established brand, Pepsi was looking to expand its market share with the Pepsi Refresh Project, an initiative to micro-finance thousands of community products in hopes of increasing brand presence, awareness and image.  However, the project failed miserably.  One key reason? Pepsi Refresh didn’t latch onto what makes Pepsi special, if the goal of the campaign was to redefine that then the marketers at Pepsi were in for one heck of an uphill battle.  The key takeaway though? In the process Pepsi realized what makes them different is their relevance to today’s world.  Where Coke is classic, Pepsi is for the now.  Ever since they’ve started connecting to pop stars, athletes and the like and seen sales resume an upward trend.

An all too common trend for marketers to take is to slash price to get the first customers through the door to try their products.  I think this is a flawed strategy.  Choosing to cut price means that the expectation over the life of the brand and relationship with the consumer is that the differentiator is price, not quality or some other value added characteristic of the product.  Instead, offering overwhelming value elsewhere has the potential to create greater conversation and relationships to the brand.

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