So How do I Create a Brand?

by James on June 29, 2009

Lots of people study and think about branding with way more intelligence and resources than is available to your humble servant. I try to stay abreast of the latest thinking, The Trouble with Brands for example, but I keep wondering if these writers have missed an important point. Well, actually, I think they miss several important points.

Heavy Category Users

In every category there is a small percentage of consumers who generate the majority of sales and profits. These are Heavy Category Users. Not very jargonny, I know, but the Ad Contrarian is a friend and he will yell at me if I start spouting jargon.

Heavy Users have a lot of need for what the category offers. With this need comes knowledge. They know all about your product and your competitors’ products. They know the relative strengths and weaknesses of all the players.

This isn’t a group that will be swayed by a lot of warm and fuzzy emotional ads. Ads like this might get their attention and certainly won’t do any harm but, if you want this group to value your product above others, if you want to be more than a product with a name, you need to add tangible value, you need to solve their problems more effectively.

Writers on branding gloss over this important fact. Perhaps this is because it isn’t very sexy. Or perhaps it’s too simplistic and won’t allow them to sell expensive consulting services. Do you know what Landor charges for a brand identity?

Brand Relationships are Dynamic

When a consumer is looking for a solution to their problem their interest is peaked and they become more aware of what the category is saying. If they don’t have any need then they aren’t aware. Sorry, but all the expensive marketing, advertising wand social media on’t change this. Not in market, not interested. This is another fact the brand writers dance around. They leave the impression that consumers are always receptive to a marketer’s message, to a conversation with the brand. They’re not.

When they are engaged, when they are ready to make a purchase, and immediately after they make the purchase, is when you can make progress toward creating a brand by delivering incrermental value. Show them how doing business with you is their best, smartest choice. Surprise them, delight them, show them just how much you care about their business.

Branding is a Commercial Relationship

We’ve talked about two areas brand writers avoid: Heavy Category Users and the dynamic relationship consumers have with the category. The third area is the nature of the relationship a consumer has with the products they need. It’s a commercial relationship.

If you take what the writers say literally, you would think that all your consumers are looking for a relationship, for a conversation with you. What crap. They want a solution to their problem and understand that they need to pay you something for it. Understanding and accepting that the “relationship” is a mutual exchange of value is key to understanding branding. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone talk about this other than here on Hipkin’s Hip Shots.

This mutual exchange of value idea has significant implications. I use the term Relationship Equity to describe value that’s created and required to elevate a product with a name to a brand. This is value that goes beyond the functional benefits delivered by the product. It’s that something extra that the consumer receives from the brand. It can be emotional value, it can be tangible, or it can be something in between but it is something extra.

Who will most appreciate this extra value? Heavy Category Users. When will they be most receptive to receiving the extra value? When they are engaged in the purchase process. How will you benefit from all this effort? There are five reasons why Best Customers are important to your profitability. They are: loyal, more willing to purchase other products, prepared to pay full price, less expensive to serve and are willing to be advocates.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Chris Shallow June 29, 2009 at 10:57 am

Interesting practical article on branding, James, but not, of course, anything like the full story as branding is a very complex subject (academically & practically)! e.g. trust is a very important part of what makes a brand. Nevertheless, I found it well-worth reading to gain a different view.

Matt Daniels July 7, 2009 at 4:50 am

Regarding the “Trouble with Brands article–yes, this is what occurs when academics, who have never done any tactical brand building, start making strategic recommendations.

I think that the relationship idea you discounted is just getting at the point that consumers are defining the brand more than the company (i.e., Rob Walker’s theory from Buying In). It’s not a simple “I need your solution” and “I’ll pay for it.” But I do agree that this relationship certainly does not exist for most products, from toothpaste to oatmeal.

Matt Daniels´s last blog; a personal project

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