“How, exactly, do you do that?”
The questioner was my lunch companion, a very successful wealth management advisor whose clients have an average investment portfolio worth $20 million. And she wanted to know how we determine a brand’s true competitive advantage as opposed to the default one. Every owner/manager of a brand asset has a default view of it. They believe their brands to be the best, the fastest, the most useful, the hottest, the most educational, whatever it is, compared to the competition. Unfortunately, this opinion was usually developed back in the dorm room where the brand was first conceived. It was formed on a hunch, without benefit of real research. Years later, it’s not likely the market will share the opinion of the brand’s progenitor. Any commercial success that takes place is often inconsequential to what the owner thinks and, perhaps, even happens in spite of the owner’s opinion. As a result, the brand loses any buzz it might have once had. Sales begin to flatten out. New competitors have too easy a time stealing customers. And management feels lost. That’s when you know it’s time to sleuth out the brand’s true competitive advantage.
“How, exactly, do you do that?”
I wrote a movie script. It goes like this:
Hello. I’m Kevin Walker from Boardwalk. I’m standing in the dark because I want to illustrate a point about the value of having a well-considered brand strategy. Any business, product, service, campaign or event needs to be marketed. And if you have something that needs to be marketed then you need a clear brand strategy to light your way. Otherwise, your marketing team, like so many these days, will be operating in the dark. Now, even when a marketing team is lost in the dark, they still have tactical options. They can do the things most marketing teams do. They can improve their website, run some ads or print a brochure. But they will be feeling their way, lacking a clear direction, and always in fear of falling off a cliff or running into a wall or some other obstacle because … well, they’re in the dark. They have no vision. They can’t even be clear about where they want to go.
Word is out that my beloved Los Angeles Dodgers are seriously thinking of selling off their naming rights. For those of you who aren’t fans, the Dodgers pro baseball team, after decades as perennial front-runners, have weathered some recent years (also decades!) of painful underperformance. When new management took over four years ago, fans were promised the team would rise again to its former glory. But who knew it would happen so fast? This year’s team is dominating its division and its league. If you love baseball, it’s a great year to be a Dodger fan. But keeping any team at championship level year after year takes money. Dodger management would be remiss if they failed to sleuth out every possible revenue stream. And that means they’ll have to finally do what every other sport has been doing for years – let somebody else pay to slap their name on stuff around eponymous Dodger Stadium.
“We’ve been in business for more than 30 years. Our customers all know us and we know them. It’s not like we’re a consumer company. We can see why B2C companies have to spend money on slick graphics, packaging, etc. But our business is very basic. Our customers don’t want to pay for needless bells and whistles. In B2B, price and performance are the ultimate determinants of who gets the business. Marketing messaging doesn’t matter a whit. So why should we spend money on this thing called “branding”? It’s just a waste of resources for a firm like ours. No conceivable ROI and besides, if our stuff looks too fancy, our customers will question our pricing.”
This is an all too common argument – but one that is never seems to be made by market leaders. Why not? Because even in the B2B world, you’ll find it’s those competitors who have made a reasonable effort to build a brand for themselves who eventually lead the market. There are so many advantages to be gained by launching a B2B brand strategy, we can’t do much more than list them here. But, first, let’s look at the one huge disadvantage that burdens an unbranded B2B business.
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Best Branding Reads
Week of August 14, 2017
Dunkin’ Donuts’s Name Change Is a Good Idea—If It Were 2006
I get the author’s point but I still think a name change might be a good idea.
Changing Your Brand Name
Here’s another take on the Dunkin’ Donuts Dilemma of 2017
AT&T To Sunset 'Time Warner' Brand, Bests It In Consumer Credibility
With all the expertise at their disposal, one has to wonder how Time Warner came to be so hated.
Confusing Brand Strategy With Creative Strategy
As usual, I completely agree with the author and share the concern he expresses in the last paragraph.
How Brands Can Adapt To Media’s Decline
What to do when there’s no one left to distinguish the signal from the noise.