Top 3 Brand Killers

03.15.2007

Are You Killing Your Brand? We hope not, because your brand IS your business. Think of Coca Cola: every bodies favorite brand, or Kleenex, Dom Perinion, or Sunkist. No one who does not own stock in these companies cares who owns and manages them. They care about their tissues and champagne. Translation, if your brand dies your company dies. Its proven fact. Think about companies that you know that have failed in their market? If you look close, in every case their brand began to weaken in the minds of their customers. Granted there are many cases of good brands dying calm, natural deaths when the market moves on. A good example is Poloroid a powerful brand in the instant photography business. But instant photography is being eclipsed by digital. Poloroid, as a result, owns far less of their market. In most cases however the strength or weakness of your brand is governed not by what the market is doing, but by how you are managing your brand. Your brand is intellectual property, a strange term that implies intelligence and yet delivers none. For years marketers who have become distracted from their audience by theory and beliefs based not on experience or insight but random case studies and market theory have suffered as a result. Intellectual property needs to be handled on the intellectual level of customers not marketers (as good marketers know well). In a nutshell if one allows the destiny of ones brand to be decided in the boardroom instead of on the street and one will only reap mediocre results. You are at the reins, choose the path that will make your brand strong. In an effort to eliminate some of the work involved in making and keeping a brand strong we have assembled some of the top reasons that brands are weakened and, more importantly, how to avoid them. THREE BRAND KILLERS Bad Targeting: It is amazing how many companies, even after vast sums of money have been spent on research of the marketplace, choose the wrong target for their product or service. When you get that ream of paper translated for you into what it says your market is and why, sit back and think about it for a minute. Is what is represented by this research based on a broad analysis or specified to your business? Do you know that the people you are being told are your market are really buying your product? Large companies are especially susceptible to the “Macroview” of their audience. Back to front is not the way to build a brand. The strongest brands decide beforehand who will buy the most of their product and they precisely position their brand to tap that market. You may think, “ Well everyone knows that already”. And on some level most owners probably do. Yet the question, “Who is our market?” is still asked far more often then “Who should our market be?.” What is the difference? For example, when one furniture company in Texas U.S.A. stopped asking how they could tap their market more, took a step back, and began asking who their market should be they reaped the rewards. After a facelift and some redirection of their marketing to target architects and interior designers rather than the general Walmart shopping public their sales increased 300% in just one year. Brand strength? Definitely. Bad Placement: You can only own one, in some rare cases two, words in the minds of the consumer. If you have a slogan, the thought it invokes in combination with your visible presence will be that word. If your marketing focuses around a logotype then it must be associated to a concept to gain effectiveness. The “never fails” word correlation test everyone has done at least once; Say a word and have someone say the first word that comes to their mind. When you say “Xerox” people will say “copier”, when you say “Kleenex” they will say “tissue”, IBM- "computers" even though this in no longer really their product, Century21- “house”, Volvo- “safety”, Marlboro- “cigarets”. And this is the way you discern if you are communicating what you hope to communicate to your market. At the same time if you go the other direction, from general to specific, you can discern how well that communication is accomplishing your goals: tissue- Kleenex, cigarets- Marlboro, cola- Coke, safe cars- Volvo. If your Brand is synonymous with your market in your customers mind you have arrived, otherwise there is room for improvement. The key to being a Kleenex or a Coke is to own a word, an idea in the customers mind. If you don’t either you are targeting the wrong audience or you are using the wrong methods. Some mistakenly insist that by competing with someone who already owns a word in the consumers mind you will somehow take over that word, it doesn’t happen. Scott tissue will never be Kleenex(even though they have the same parent company). The only exception to this rule is when you focus your brand while your competitor weakens theirs to the point that they lose the identification of their word in the market, and even then it is not always wise to assume that identity. In review; after making sure that you are targeting the right people, make sure that you are telling them the right thing. Brand Extension: If you want to own the concept of “the original beer” in your customers minds it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to recognize that you don’t put that brand on water. Yet that is exactly what Coors did when they released their Coors water label. “The original Beer/Water” carries how much force? Water is a great market, and as we pollute more of our tap water it becomes an even larger market, but not for a beer brand. Why because Coors already owns a concept, and it ties in directly to beer. They have no credibility in the water market. So what happened, Coors water label died quickly. The idea of diversity is excellent but not under one brand umbrella. No matter what you do your brand will only own one concept. So if you want to branch out create another brand with another concept as its domain. Sara Lee and Hanes are a good example. Who wants a food company to make their underwear, nobody. Who wants their underwear company to make their cheesecake, nobody. But the company built both brands into separate identities so that they ended up with two strong concentrated brands rather than one watered down brand. Brands need to be built or they will die. As the head of a company many look to you to set the pace for brand growth in a competitive market. Make certain both 1)who you want your audience to be and 2)what concept you are working to own in their minds. Remember that extending your brand weakens it. If you want to diversify, do it right. If you as the owner think like a customer your marketers and company will follow you to ever greater success.
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