Believe it or not but we’re back at London Business School for Module 2.
Today we talked about branding. Nader Tavasolli talked about branding. A brand is a promise to the customer. It’s meant to differentiate products and services from those of other competitors. Branding is not only about how customers perceive the company. It’s about an integrated approach. If it’s well done, a brand can change how associations are made in our minds.
The Volvo Brand is highly associated with Safety. However, Safety is no longer a differentiating factor. Most cars are safe nowadays. We do not link French cars to safety. And even when Renault got a lot of safety certificates, using them in a branding campaign did not work. People did not change their perception
The thing is that features can be easily copied, a brand cannot. If you want to try some associations that brands generate go to brandtags.com.
If a brand is to differentiate from other brands, there are three (it seems to be the magical number in this programme) questions we need to answer:
- What is the brand differentiator? What do you do that other brands cannot?
- Why would you brand your product/service/company like that? What are the benefits?
- How will you make it happen?
The Power of the Brand
Brands can be really powerful. Strong brands lead to higher engagement, higher productivity, lower staff attrition, lower training cost. And this has value. Of course it’s not easy to assess the value of a brand. One model is the Aaker model on Brand Equity.
The most interesting is when a brand becomes a symbol. That’s the case for Apple, one of the most powerful brands in the world. You can check an article on how the Apple brand motivates people to think differently here.
I was at the Apple flagship store in Regent Street today. It was amazing. A lot of people, lots of staff, the buzz and the vibe. I talked to one of the people there who advised me to buy headphones that were not on sale in the store if I really wanted to have the earphones for classical music. So I’ve asked him if he could say that just like this. His answer was simple: “I can. The only think I cannot do is talk negatively about other products. I’m not here to sell. I just have to talk to you. People come in here to buy anyway, so I don’t need to sell.”
Selling without selling. What a great concept. And how easy it must be for someone in the Apple store to just be him or herself and talk about the things he or she is passionate about.
So it’s about People and Culture.
The “How” is a matter of culture
And culture is related to the attitudes and values of people. If your people are not convinced that the brand matters, you’re in trouble. The question “how” challenges us on our commitment to execute any plan. It requires a consistent alignment of the various elements that make a brand come true.
And it starts with how we think and speak of customers. Do we talk about them in board meetings? Are they invited to product development workshops? What about value creation? Do we create value for the customer or on the customer?
Do not extract value out of customers
Some companies “discover” how important their customer is. Well, if you get your branding right, it’s not just about the appearance or about the ROI. It’s about getting it right.
And the problem seems to be that we are too generic.
Building a consumer oriented culture
What’s the culture in your company? Is it generic or is it specific? How does the culture support your brand? Is the behaviour of the staff in line with what the brand promises?
Adding technology to the equation is easy. Changing behaviour is difficult. If we create connection through technology without any content or emotion, we only have traffic. We need to do more.
What is the dominant language in your company? The 3 E’s
There are (again) 3 ways of looking at a company and its performance. You can work on efficiency (doing the things with less means, cutting costs and avoiding waste), effectiveness (creating more value with the things you have) or customer experience.
And then the big question pops up? Where is value created? Most companies think they create value. But maybe value is created during consumption. And therefore the value is created by the customer who experiences your product or service in a certain way.
Focusing on the experience of the customer or consumer can make your brand successful. But do we really know how to design experience. Apple does. But Apple might have a problem as they become too big and not exclusive enough. We need to know why people are choosing our brand instead of any other brand. And we need to find ways to add value to the equation.
But are we working enough on that. A PWC report on disruption shows that 70% of CEO’s focus on cost-cutting. We know that we cannot grow through cost-cutting. And we know that cost-cutting has its limits. So let’s look at the customer experience and we might be able to grow by binding our customer to ourselves, based on a symbolic brand that makes it unthinkable to consider any other product or service.
Like it is shown in this video