What's happened to branding? In this era when non-experts are questioning the power of branding--just at the time when the buzz-word has finally reach critical mass, I keep hearing these familiar chants. "The Internet is eroding the opportunity to brand." " Branding is dead as we knew it." "With the Internet, there is no brand loyalty." "Positioning is impossible with the Internet."
You may even find yourself hearing--or even repeating-- that stream of conversation, but be careful how much you actually embrace it until we discuss a couple of things as a reality check for believability.
Branding has somehow been thrown to the wrong side of financial analysis when it comes to profitability--looked at as an expense, rather than an investment. Let me be the first to say I strongly believe that brand is a bottom-line issue. Brand definitely impacts profitability, but it is after all the "flag", supported --held high-- by everything else the company does to deliver the product, program or service.
The fact that Amazon.com has created an incredibly strong brand with customers, and yet finds itself unprofitable --still at this writing--is not an argument against the power of branding, but rather shows up glaringly in other costs the company incurs from an operational sense--the branding efforts notwithstanding.
Branding is the ability to create a relationship of meaningful value between the company and the customer--value that ultimately will result in preference for reasons beyond price at the critical time in the life of the company.
Back to Amazon.com. The relationship with consumers is solid, the service and customized delivery is amazing, but the costs of operation adversely affect the profitability. So if they are doing all of this right, is Amazon.com wrong to place so much emphasis on brand?
Amazon.com has concentrated all of their efforts on the customer experience and on creating extreme value in the "branded" relationship with those customers--perhaps to a fault. But they appear to understand one thing extremely well; the customer relationship is all they have to manage to build a strong brand. Turning customers from supporters into advocates will help Amazon move from non-profit to for-profit at some point. By then--if they can sustain themselves financially in the near term-- the strength of the brand will be firmly lodged within the customer base.
Here's the one secret that Amazon.com, FedEx, Monster.com, VW, Kodak, Gateway and others know as a core truth. This key can be applied to companies of any size from private practice to Fortune 100;
People continue to make decisions based purely upon selfish motivation and desire. Appeal to that desire successfully and you WILL win the branding game.
This amazing truth doesn't change just because consumers increasingly use the Internet--perhaps it is even more critical with new expectations for instant gratification and delivery.
Managing our use of the Internet to further deliver on our brand promises is the new focus. Allowing our presence on the Internet to enhance our company's value to the end user is the new mantra. Without this mantra, the Internet is yet another global database of who cares information about a company--yet another expensive technological toy, yet another ineffective media choice.
Branding is only effective because mankind is selfish by nature. Moving that selfishness to action by maximizing our efforts to satisfy it IS the secret behind all successful branding initiatives. Without this secret, every branding initiative is doomed to failure.
To capture new brand impact thinking in your organization, answer these questions:
· What selfish motives drive your customers to buy in your category?
· How is your company satisfying or gratifying those self-centered desires?
· How else could you capitalize on the customer's desire?
· How creative could you get to give the customer everything they want?
· How would creative delivery effect your desired market position and the strength of your brand?
These questions are designed to stimulate thought. It would be unusual to have the answers immediately, but if you find a continued lack of consensus, don't panic. Professional help in the form of executive brand coaching is available! Just call our offices and give us an opportunity to show you how to jump-start your branding initiatives.
About the author:
D. Wendal Attig -- America's Corporate Positioning Coach™ is an internationally recognized professional speaker, author and president of The Advisory Team - a Palm Harbor, Florida based executive coaching practice. He is Co-Founder of BrandFactorsä, a pre-branding feasibility process used to determine an organizations propensity for successfully branding, speaks for association and corporate audiences, and is available to address association and corporate audiences for special events or seminars. His direct office number is: 727/937-3322 or E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.