By Robert W. Bradford, President & CEO
This post is part of a series taken from Robert Bradford’s article Understanding the Competitive Value of your Brand published in Compass Points September 2005. In Part One, we introduced the series and discussed What makes a brand valuable? In Part Two, we discussed Why branding is important in the global marketplace. In Part Three, we discussed How to evaluate your brand. Finally, we will discuss So your brand isn’t that valuable – is there hope?
So your brand isn’t that valuable – is there hope?
In some cases, companies run into a “brick wall” when they objectively evaluate their own brand. This can be caused by a number of factors, but the outcome is the same: some brands just don’t mean anything to the customer, and so do not carry any premium in the marketplace. Naturally, such brands offer little defense against inexpensive foreign competition, and companies that rely too heavily on brand power that doesn’t really exist inevitably get into hot water as foreign competition uses its compelling power – the lower price – to erode the market share of domestic competitors.
Is there a “crash course” way to build brand? Yes – but it’s inherently risky and not for the faint of heart. This is because branding is driven by the brains of our customers, not our desires. In order to build a strong, positive awareness of your brand in a hurry, you will have to do something that stands out. By “stands out” we don’t mean “is a bit better” – we mean something that is truly remarkable, or, in other words “worthy of remark”. Customers don’t make remarks about brands that are a little better – they remark on differences that they find really interesting.
An excellent example of something remarkable is the Honda Element. This is a truly distinctive design in the overcrowded sport utility vehicle market. The design is, in fact, so unusual that it almost never made it into production. Marketing people at Honda were extremely uncomfortable that the design was so different from any other brand in the SUV market that they wanted to scrap it. The designers won the fight to manufacture a small number of Elements as a “niche” product, along with a more mainstream design. By the end of the first year of production, the Element was outselling the “safe” design by five to one!
The lesson here is clear: if you are behind some savvy competitors, you should be prepared to seriously consider strategic options that make you uncomfortable. We wouldn’t recommend betting the farm on outlandish new brands – in most cases – but we would suggest that having one or two every couple of years might just push your brand into the lead by giving you a reputation for having edgy, innovative products.
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