Your brand is really the relationship between your marketable asset and its market. “A brand is a promise kept” is the succinct definition we use. As a brand manager, your job is to shape and influence that relationship so that it stays healthy and happy and pumps money into your business. The market wants to keep the relationship strong to ensure continued access to your product and the emotional benefit it gains from it. It’s like a good marriage. Both parties get what they need from it but neither party actually owns it. Traditionally, the brand manager had sole discretion for the direction the brand would take. How would it grow? What should it do next? Etc. After decades of doing business that way, it’s natural for business leaders to feel like they own their brand. But they never really did.
Last week we talked about Brand Purpose. That is, the purpose your market has for your brand. The role that people have for you and expect you to play to perfection. Today, let’s dig a little deeper and examine what your brand means to your market. One true test of a great brand is the level of sorrow people feel if it goes away. The great American airlines, PanAm and TWA are still missed. Harley Davidson devotees were in agony when it seemed to be close to closing its doors. Sears and Kodak are two more great brands that meant a great deal to people. Now they’re zombie brands that won’t quite die. Owners and managers of brands that are lucky enough to still be alive in this pandemic need to think about what their market would lose if they suddenly closed up shop. It’s easy to say, “Nothing. My customers would just go to my competitors.” But, as we discussed last week, there’s a reason your customers are buying from you and not them in the first place. What is that reason? And what does it mean to your market?
What is its purpose? Every business, every product and every service was brought about to fill some sort of market need. But as the old saying goes, people don’t buy drills because they need drills. They buy drills because they need holes. Every business is selling something (drills) but the customers are buying something altogether different (holes). The business that can figure out what their customers get out of buying from them has the single most important insight it will need to build a successful brand. Think of it another way. There’s something you want to buy so you go out and buy it and you’re happy. But why? Theoretically, it’s an exchange of equal values. The joy you get out of what you bought should be exactly equal to the loss you feel out of giving away your money. You should feel absolutely neutral about it. But you’re happy. That’s because you also get an emotional benefit out of making that purchase. It makes you feel smart, cool, good-looking, whatever. Every business needs to answer this question: What purpose do our customers have for us? What emotional benefit do they get from “using” us as opposed to our competition?
When I started promoting my workshops on Branding Essentials for Startups, one of the benefits promised was, “You’ll learn why a brand is like an elephant”. Soon thereafter, I started getting emails from around the world like this one, “I live in Buenos Aires. I can’t get to your workshop but please tell me … I have to know … why is a brand like an elephant?” It’s a good parable to keep in mind as you think about your brand asset(s). It will help you concentrate on a single message that will resonate with multiple audiences. Our story begins in India …
A version of this post first appeared in Brandtalk on March 1, 2016.
This year, and last, at the Oscars, every single major acting nomination went to white people. Seems suspicious, to say the least. I live in Los Angeles but don’t really have anything to do with the Hollywood machine. So, to me, the issue of diversity at the Oscars seemed like a localized, industry squabble. Being neither black nor an Oscar member nor even in the biz, I felt that this was someone else’s war to fight. It was an example of a brand struggling with an internal values issue. But, after watching last Sunday’s celebration, I feel that an average white movie goer like me really does have a stake in making Oscar more diverse. Why? Because Hollywood is a brand.
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