There are several reasons for developing a brand: greater ROI, build equity in the business, create new opportunities, competitive advantage, and survival to name a few. The most important compelling reason for most owners and CEO’s is better ROI. “If you are not a brand you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low cost producer is the only winner” per Philip Kotler, professor at the Kellogg School of Management.
Most people understand that brands have more value and that brands do not compete on price. They expect to pay more and they do. So why don’t businesses pursue building a brand?
Because brand development is hard work, it takes times, it requires an investment, it’s difficult to craft and they don’t know how. It’s always much easier to cut the price to get the sale! You may be familiar with the phrase “There are those who let it happen, those who make it happen, and those who wonder what happened.” This is how brands are made.
Those that let it happen
These are businesses that could have been. They are businesses that did not seek to find something to differentiate. Years ago in a small town in South Carolina there was a business called De Sto. I loved the name but never went in because I just didn’t have enough incentive. I didn’t know what they sold and there was no advertising to inform or to entice my curiosity. De Sto was a great name but I am sure the name just happened… “ ’m goin’ to de sto.”
Just up the road from De Sto there was an all night diner in Great Falls that advertised the world’s worst coffee—yep, I stopped initially to check it out. Liked the owner and kept stopping there for years to get a meal and get an update on the news in Great Falls. Could it have been a franchise? With some imagination and some investment it might have been like Dunkin’ Donuts or Waffle House at every interchange on the Interstate.
Those who make it happen
You might have a service or product that can be copied by anyone and your only difference is your outrageous marketing. West Port Flea Market Bar and Grill feels they have the best hamburgers in Kansas City but many restaurants and food trucks can make that claim. Claiming to be the best at anything is difficult to prove—it’s better to let the customer decide what makes you the best (if they can). The owner of West Port Flea Market and Grill said he was always looking for more awareness and ways to call attention to their claim of being KC’s best. So what did they do? They created the Burger-Mobile. What is their brand? It’s fun and tasty food.
J. Heinz: "To Do a Common Thing Uncommonly Well Brings Success."
A barbershop used to be a common thing. But not in 1999 when Jim Valenzuela “V” opened the first V’s Barbershop & Shoeshine. He simply wanted an old fashioned barbershop to take his son for a haircut and to enjoy the barbershop tradition as he had with his father. He made a discovery. There were other people who also wanted an upscale, stylish yet traditional men’s grooming establishment. Using word of mouth advertising (word of mouth advertising works when the service is differentiated) and good design he found he could scale his business and franchise it. Today there are over 40 V’s Barbershop franchises.
And those who wonder what happened
This category can be bad or good. At the age of 11 Frank Epperson put a mixing stick in a glass filled with soda-water powder and water and left it on his back porch overnight. That night the temperature in San Francisco dropped below freezing. The next morning he found a cup shaped icicle with a stick as a handle.
Years later Mr. Epperson had a day job in real estate and was doing promotions on the side. He introduced the ‘frozen lollipop’ at a fireman's ball. It was a sensation. He patented it, sold the rights and took a royalty. In 1983 Unilever paid $155 million for the Popsicle brand.
What’s the tried and tested way to build a brand?
Differentiation. The product or service has to be different. The difference has to be meaningful. The bigger the difference the bigger the resulting brand, such as an Apple iPod. The Apple brand is innovation and design. Design may be the ultimate differentiator because “we buy with our eyes.” Think Louboutain Shoes and their red soles. This red sole ‘difference’ makes a huge difference to the consumer who is willing to pay 150 times the cost of a commodity shoe.
Advertising can create a difference too. Good advertising and design can differentiate any commodity. We have differentiated sand. Others have differentiated water. All vodka tastes the same except Absolut Vodka. Absolut Vodka was a wild success because of the advertising and the unique shape of the bottle. Consumers paid more because it was different. But advertising that is different just to be different can do more harm than good. It screams ‘look at me!” and more often than not it fails because it doesn’t differentiate in a meaningful way. I am sure the agency that created the Burger King spots featuring an oversized head on the King thought it was funny and entertaining but it was just creepy.
What’s needed to create a brand?
You need a mixture of elements in varying degrees to create a brand: a meaningful difference, appropriate design, imagination, tenacity, willingness to take a risk, passion and a good understanding of what the market wants.
The magic of marketing is the art of brand building. “If you are not a brand you are a commodity. Then price is everything and the low cost producer is the only winner.”
About Ken Gasque
Ken Gasque is a brand developer—a professional marketer with a design background. Ken works with small companies and Fortune 500 companies who recognize the need to differentiate their products and services in a cluttered market. Ken is a highly visual, outside-the-box-thinker on advertising, branding and marketing. Ken writes a blog and lectures on brand and brand development. To learn more, visit www.Gasque.com