Is Branding a Silver Bullet for Business?

June 28th, 2011   •   no comments   •   Author: Walter Lim   

Courtesy of fvza.org

“Brand it like Beckham” so we’ve been taught, and untold fame and fortune may just follow you.

Learn to emulate Nike’s brand success story, and be inspired by how cleverly it came up with its world famous “Swoosh” logo and its unforgettable “Just Do It” tagline.

What about Apple – the world’s most valuable company? Well, some has claimed that Apple became such a global powerhouse largely because of its distinct brand personality and immaculately executed brand architecture.


Which came first, the Apple brand or its fantastic products? (source)

Build your brand and the rest – publicity, sales, profits, reputation – will follow.

Really?

Branding Will Not Save Poor Quality

Well, truth be told, it ain’t that simple friends.

While having a strong brand is important, it will not save your organisation if the other components of your business – for example, product quality, operational efficiency, organisational culture, and customer orientation – are in disarray.

Derrick Daye of Branding Strategy Insider shared the story of how Johnson and Johnson’s obsession with brand marketing alone was destroying its business. Spending a huge US$19.8 billion annually on marketing, selling and admin expenses, J and J has leveraged and stretched its brand equity over 92 consumer brands.

By neglecting its product quality in favour of brand marketing, the company downgraded its brand value – the very thing that it leveraged on previously.


Johnson n Johnson’s brand strength won’t save it (courtesy of Medcity News)

The Four Parts of Your Brand

At a more fundamental level, your company’s product brand is actually a sum of four factors, as cited by Geoffrey James here, namely:

  1. The quality of your products and services (50%)
  2. The way you treat your customers (40%)
  3. The way that you treat your employees (5%)
  4. How well you manage your corporate finances (5%)

Without getting these elements of your business right, no amount of clever logo design, creative sloganeering or brilliantly conceived advertising is enough to save you.

In Geoffrey’s view…

“It wasn’t Neil Diamond’s name that made him; it was his talent. Same thing with Bacall and Johnson.”

“Lipstick On a Bulldog”

In citing the futility of how Nigeria was trying to brand itself into a tourist paradise, Rosabeth Moss Kanter shared with us that it could be akin to putting “lipstick on a bulldog.”
After all, the destination had a lot more to resolve than just slapping on a cleverly conceived moniker.

To cross the psychological barrier of consumers, brands must start with an authenticity test, and not ignore the elephant in the room.


Courtesy of Venture Beat

Should you then fire your creative team or eliminate your brand consultant?

Not at all.

Rather, when faced with slipping customer interest at the cash register, focus on fixing your product/service quality, customer service processes, or your delivery channels FIRST.

Find out what went wrong (or what didn’t go right) and get to the root of your problem before trying to bring your brand on metaphorical flights of fancy.

For those who are entrusted with launching a new product brand, focus on creating a remarkable product (aka a “Purple Cow” borrowing from Seth Godin) rather than worry about logos, taglines, templates and elevator pitches from the onset.

There is a time and place for branding, and I like how Moss Kanter cites it here:

“Brands are wonderful assets when they capture the essence of a product, service, or event succinctly, meaningfully, and with endurance over time.”

Use branding wisely as a strategy to augment your business, rather than a flavour of the month to save it.

What are your thoughts on branding? Do you agree with the points raised here.

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