Friday, November 2, 2012

Branding is all about one thing

Another post from the archives slightly updated. Enjoy

You see it everyday on store shelves, over the air waves and on the world wide interweb. Companies are struggling to differentiate; to offer products and communicate in a way that sets them apart from their competitors. There's a rash of mass commoditization going on in every industry. We've let our brands become homogeneous so all that customers have to go on is price. The fact that we're in a tough economy isn't making things any easier. If you listen to consumers all they'll tell you is they want more of the same for less money. If you look at competitors, you'll follow them over the cliff. So how do you break out of this rut? Ask yourself one simple question.

"What do you want to be famous for?"

Great brands are famous for something. Apple is famous for ease of use, while others like Dell, Vostro, and Toshiba battle over functional territory like speed, memory and price. Toyota is famous for quality, while others like Chevrolet, Nissan, and Dodge clash over style, features and price. Walmart is famous for low prices, while Sears, JC Penney and Kmart struggle to compete on service, style and selection.

The key is to be famous for one thing. Find something that's important to your customers, makes you different from your competitors and then own it completely. Your fame factor should drive everything about your business, not just your marketing. Everything about Apple from its product design, operating systems, ecosystems, retail stores and communication is about being easy to use. Does that mean their computers aren't fast? That iTunes doesn't have an extensive catalog of songs? No. It just means that "easy to use" is the filter through which every other feature is viewed.

Once you figure out what you want to be famous for, you have to be true to it every step along the way. Volvo stumbled in the 80s when they produced a commercial that faked a demonstration of safety and has yet to recover. Tiger Woods decimated his brand because his actions are so at odds with the in-control, family man image he projected. Ben & Jerry's struggles to maintain its quirky, hippy, counter-culture image now that it's owned by the corporate giant, Unilever.

Successful strategy is knowing what to excel at, what to be just good at, and what to ignore. Defining what you want to be famous for is the first step in this process.

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