I was in Paris once and ran into a family of American tourists. They had just arrived that very day and were tired, stressed and hungry from their travels. They asked me if I knew anywhere good to eat. First of all, this was Paris. There’s good food everywhere. Serving a bad meal in France is practically a capital offense. But this family was really in luck because I knew just the place. “Yes!” I was happy to help, “I happen to know a fantastic little bistro right around the corner from here. Ask for Marcel. He speaks English. He’ll take good care of you.” But all I got from them were blank stares. Then the mom explained they were hoping for a restaurant more like from home – something like McDonalds. Such is the power of branding that Micky-D’s was their top choice in a city world famous for its spectacular gastronomy. After parting, I felt sorry for this family. I kept thinking of them as missing out on a wonderful life experience, sampling Parisian cuisine. And I started wondering how McDonalds does it. How does their brand wield such power so far from home? But of course I knew the answer because for one week of my life McDonalds held that kind of sway over me, and it was when I was traveling.
The stock market has been a little volatile over the last week. Hopefully, it will settle into a healthy market correction. Two years ago, I wrote about the importance of investing in your brand before the next market crash. I’m not predicting anything dire is about to happen this month or anything. And I don’t want to contribute to a self-fulfilling prophecy. But, traditionally, we experience an economic turndown every ten years of so. By that reckoning, we’re about due. It’s not a subject I dwell on but I was reminded about it when I read this recent Forbes article. Readers should rely on professional financial advisors to make their business and investment decisions. But we have had ten years of robust economic growth. Now the Fed is starting to tap the brakes, which is probably a good thing. But who know what effect our new trade wars will have once those dominoes begin to fall? Just sayin’. So now’s the time for small and middle-market businesses to ask, “What, beside price, will bond our customers to us once everyone starts to feel the pinch?”
Every business has a brand. Every business has relationships with customers, employees, vendors, etc. Every business has its reputation. It is perceived by the market in a certain way, for better or for worse. Unfortunately, that perception is usually left unexamined. Management just decides that their brand “is what it is” and leaves it at that. Typically, the brand is given a brief moment of consideration at the birth of the company. Someone designs a logo and prints up stationery. And the brand is never given a moment’s thought for rest of the company’s life. It’s a sad state of affairs because these neglected brands could be leaving a lot of money on the table. Tending to your brand is tending to your relationship with the market. And tending to that relationship is always a profitable endeavor. A marketing consultant friend once told me he had a client who claimed “Branding won’t increase my sales.” While that may be true (it isn’t), there are eight economic benefits to branding – and increased sales is just one of them. And, because these are eight economic benefits, they all lead, one way or another, to more business success. Which, of course, means more sales. But a neglected brand will never be able to leverage these benefits. To reap the rewards, management teams have to become active stewards of their brands. Let’s take a look at the good things that happen when you give your brand a little care and nurturing.
This post originally appeared in Brandtalk on April 2, 2018. – People like doing business with people they like. That’s why people join clubs or networking organizations. To some degree, that’s even why they join churches, civic organizations and the boards of nonprofits. The point is to meet people who share similar views and values. So, when an opportunity to do some business comes up, they know just who to call upon. They already know the lawyer, dentist, banker or tree surgeon they want to hire. People will even pay a little more if it means getting to collaborate with someone they like. Or they’ll go out of their way to support a friend’s struggling business. People also refer business to people they like. So, in joining these social groups, people try to make themselves as likable as possible. It’s all very civilized. As they say, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. We’re living, now, in the Information Age which means everybody knows everything about everybody. Everybody knows everything about businesses too and, more and more, they’ll only do business with businesses they like. So how does a company, or any organization for that matter, make itself likable? How does it demonstrate to its market, “Hey, yes! We’re just like you. We share your values.”?
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