The second most read and search engine traffic generated article on naijapreneur.com is about branding. What does this tell you?
Entrepreneurs care about branding and want to learn more about branding. As a matter of fact, the #1 question in their mind would be this; how are brands created?
So in this unusual article, I want to delve into the whole nitty gritty of creating a brand. I will go behind the scenes to lay out both the strategies and the order in which they are to be adopted.
This is certainly one unusual article you don’t ever want to miss out on!
How Are Brands Created?
Brands are created in the mind of the target customer. Brands don’t reside in products or services; they reside in the prospect’s mind. Brands are more than products or services, brands are not tangible things you hold. Brands are the feelings, emotions, perceptions, ideas, values and benefits associated with a particular product or service.
In other words, your brand is how your target customers perceive the products or services you offer. Brands are the intangible things that power the tangible things –products/services!
The Mind Of The Customer, The Battle Ground Of Brands
The greatest brands in the world exist inside the mind of the target customer. Every time you come in contact with a particular product/service, the brand is what’s going on in your mind regarding that particular product or service.
So when you hold a bottle of coke; the liquid content is the product you are consuming, but the brand is the whole feeling, the meaning, and the emotions you’ve attached to drinking coca-cola.
And when you hold an iPad, iPod, or iPhone; the physical hardware is the product you purchased, but the brand is the invisible things that resonate within you as you are using the product.
So if taking coke makes you feel refreshed, then refreshment is one of the elements that make coca-cola a brand in your mind.
And if using an iPhone, iPad or Mac makes you feel special, then exclusivity is one of the elements that make Apple products a brand in your mind.
This means, a brand is only created when a product/service represents something positive or negative in the mind of a customer. In other words, the mind of the customer is the battle ground of brands. It doesn’t matter what your product/service represents; good or bad, you are a brand once you find your way into the customer’s mind.
So if you represent something positive inside the prospect’s mind, then you are one step closer to making the sale. But if you represent something negative inside the prospect’s mind, then you can kiss the sale goodbye. The good part is that you get to decide what you want to be in the customer’s mind. Good or bad, positive or negative; the choice is ultimately yours!
Brand Positioning: How Much Space Do You Occupy In The Customer’s Mind?
To create a powerful brand, you must begin from the prospect’s mind. Your brand is only as powerful as the position you occupy in the customer’s mind.
According to Al Ries and Jack Trout, the pioneers of the positioning concept; to be able to make sense of all the competing products/services constantly being thrown at them, customers have subconsciously created an internal evaluation system that helps them decide which product/service to buy. This internal evaluation system is how brands are created.
You can call yourself whatever name you like, you can give yourself whatever title you want, you can make whatever claims you desire. To the target customers, you are only as good as the position you occupy in their mind, period.
And therein lies the greatest marketing challenge for entrepreneurs; it’s not what you say, it’s not what you claim, it’s ALL about what the prospect believes. The singular most important element that has the power to create brands in the mind of the customer is credibility. And words alone doesn’t build credibility, actions do.
I have always emphasized this; sales is not made in an instant. Why? Because you cannot force your way into the customer’s mind. The journey into the customer’s mind is a gradual one. You are what they feel or think you are; you are not what you say you are. If there’s nothing believable [credible] about you, then you’ve automatically occupied a negative position in their mind.
To create a brand, you need to OWN a positive position in the mind of the target customer. To OWN a positive position in the mind of the target customer means to create products/services that represent something specific. Your credibility lies in being specific; don’t try to be everything to everyone, and don’t try to be plenty things either.
The secret of brand positioning is focus!
Branding: How To CREDIBLY Get Into The Customer’s Mind
The keyword here is credibly, without it, you are just another product/service in the market. It’s the element of credibility that confers on your product/service the positive position it needs to become a brand in the customer’s mind.
So the big question is how do you create credibility for your products/services?
1. Be The First in a New Product/Service Category
In their book, ‘The origin of brands’ Al Ries and his daughter, Laura Ries stated that the best way to credibly create a brand in the mind of the customer is to establish a new category for your products/services.
But what does this mean?
In the mind of the customer, all products/services are grouped into different categories based on their functionality and similarities. For example; anything that has wheels and can be driven is an automobile. So in a customer’s mind; a car, bus, tractor, lorry, and all other forms belong to the automobile category. Meaning, fundamentally, they all have wheels and can be driven.
To create a brand credibly in the mind of the target customers, smart automobile manufacturers started diverging into other sub-categories under the broad automobile category.
Here’s an example;
- Volvo – the first automobile manufacturer to create the ‘safe automobile’ sub-category. So in the customer’s mind, Volvo is a brand because it occupies the ‘safe automobile’ position in comparison to other cars under the broad automobile category. When customers see any automobile made by Volvo, the brand element of safety is what resonates in their mind and that’s how Volvo achieved credibility in the market as the safest automobile money can buy.
- Likewise, in the drink broad category; we have smart companies like Coca-Cola that pioneered the first Cola-drink sub-category and we have Pepsi Cola occupying the second position. We have 7Up that pioneered the first un-cola drink sub-category, closely followed by Mountain Dew. We have Red Bull that pioneered the first energy drink sub-category, closely followed by Power Horse in the second position.
- Also, coming to the computer industry, in the PC broad category; we have smart companies like Dell that pioneered the first custom-made PC sub-category. We have Apple that pioneered the All-in-one PC sub-category with the launch of their Macintosh brand.
I can go on and on with real life examples, but I’m sure you are beginning to get the whole idea of creating a new product/service category. The bottom-line is this; customers only remember the first or second brand in every category, so always strive to be the first or the second with your product/service.
You don’t have to necessarily invent something totally new, but if you can, it’s all better for you. But if you can’t, the main point is to find an angle, a differentiating idea that will position your product/service as the pioneer of a new category.
Take the case of Fedex for example in the Postal delivery category; they simply created a credible brand in the mind of the customer by pioneering the overnight delivery sub-category. To the target customers, Fedex is the brand that represents overnight delivery in comparison to all other postal delivery companies in that category.
They were able to secure a credible position in the mind of the target customers because they came up with something NEW that differentiated them from the rest of the pack.
The conclusion, don’t follow the market, create your own market!
2. Create A Powerful Brand Name
The second strategy for creating a brand credibly is your brand name. Your brand name is more than just a word. While the brand name is not the brand itself, it is a core signal that your target customers directly equate to the brand.
The name provides tangibility to an otherwise intangible concept by allowing your audience to identify and differentiate your brand from others by capturing and communicating your brand’s promise.
I have previously written an unusual article that covers this aspect in details; if you haven’t read it yet, click here to read it.
However, there’s one little fact I didn’t cover there that is worth mentioning; different brand names for different products/ service. Avoid brand name extensions such as using adding your company name to every new product/service name.
For example; imagine Apple creating a new music player and deciding to call it Apple music player rather than iTunes or their tablet and calling it Apple tab rather than iPad.
3. Don’t Launch Your Product/Service With Advertisement
The third strategy for credibly creating a brand in the mind of the customer is NOT launching your product/service with advertising.
Here’s the long and short reason why; no one believes an ad!
In their book, ‘The fall of advertisement and the rise of PR’, Al Ries and his daughter Laura Ries state that the quickest way for your product/service to lose credibility in the market is to launch with advertisement. Advertisement has lost its power to convey credibility. Advertisement is no longer credible.
The only function of advertisement is to maintain a brand that has already been credibly created through PR. In other words, advertisement shouldn’t be your first point of call when launching a new product/service, PR should come first.
Why is it so crucial to follow this order?
The advertisement model according to Seth Godin follows the interruption marketing strategy; whereby companies interrupt customers with ads they didn’t willingly solicit for. And in doing so, customers rather than accepting these ads have begun to resent them. In other words, customers are turning deaf ears to advertisement.
The opposite approach is the permission marketing strategy; whereby companies inform customers through third party media about the existence and benefits of their products/services. And in doing so, customers rather than resent them begin to embrace them because of the format in which the message came. This is what is known as PR –Public Relations or publicity for short.
The objective of PR is to tell stories that inform/empower the target customers about your products/services. People permit PR stories because they want to learn more about your company, product or service unlike advertisement which is perceived as a sales pitch. People permit stories but resent ads.
When you buy a newspaper or magazine, even though 70% of the contents are advertisement, that wouldn’t still make you read the ads. Why? Because you didn’t buy the newspaper or magazine to read ads, you bought it to read news and articles. So you avoid ads because they interrupt your reading and allow articles or news because they carry information you care about.
This singular difference is what makes advertisement such a losing strategy in building a new brand, because people are no longer paying attention to ads. Now imagine if your brand story is featured as one of the articles or news in the paper or magazine? Wouldn’t it receive more attention than if it were an ad?
PR as a brand building strategy works to create credibility for your products/services because of the power of third party endorsement. People are influenced by the stories they read in the media and the word-of-mouth references they get from family and friends. So if your product/service makes the press for something specific and positive, your credibility starts to build in the mind of your target customers.
If you are news worthy, then there must be something special about your product/service that they the customers mustn’t miss out on. Now you have their attention and can continue to build on that with more PR stories in the right media they trust and respect. As long as these media keep giving you press, the credibility they have for these media will start to rob off on your product/service.
Over to you
What’s been your own approach before now to brand creation?
How has reading this unusual article helped to shed more light on brand creation? What key ideas or lessons are you taking away as a result of reading this post?
This is a community, and as a community we learn from our collective experiences and knowledge, so please drop your feedback and reactions in the comments section below. I am looking forward to it and so are many others!