This is the second post in a series about branding. Find “The Basics of Powerful Personal Branding” here.
Crafting a strong brand can take some time and effort to achieve. So what’s the point? Why bother with all the fluff? Isn’t it more important to be making sales calls and doing other more tangible activities?
Well, no. A strong brand will be your most effective short-term and long-term marketing tool and having a weak or non-existent brand will be your biggest obstacle to success.
Why? A great brand provides three the following three things:
If you’re starting a business, chances are you’re entering a tough market. They all are, whether you’re selling soap or IT solutions. You may even have thousands of competitors that, somehow, you have to win out over.
Is your product or service really any different from everyone else’s? Your soap is still soap, right? It delivers the same benefit as all other soaps supposedly do.
Sure, it’s better than all the others … but isn’t that what everyone says about their own product?
Here’s where branding comes in. If you have a strong brand, you can penetrate any market you choose. Simply spot what you’re competitors are doing and use branding to differentiate yourself.
There may be a thousand soaps out there but if your soap had a gothic brand, you could almost instantly convert the entire goth population into users of your soap. Rather than attempting to appeal to everyone and consequently not appealing to anyone.
And branding isn’t just about reaching niche audiences.
On a larger mainstream scale, you can still position yourself differently to competition to win tremendous market share. In almost every market, all the major players are fighting over the same space.
When you come in at a different angle, you suddenly change the market from eight brand choices to just two, them and you.
Case study: Lurpak
Lurpack were struggling at around 3rd or 4th place in the butter market. Still a big player, but slowly slipping no matter how much money they were pumping into their advertising. So they repositioned their brand.
How? They stopped talking about butter.
Every single other butter brand talks about butter. Some are British butter brands, some are Irish, some with olive oil, others are butters that taste good but every single butter brand just talks about butter.
Lurpak decided to start talking about cooking.
They repositioned their product as an ingredient for glorious homemade food. They saw that butter has two uses. As butter, on toast or in sandwiches, and as an ingredient for a larger dish. Everyone was fighting over the first use so they shifted to the second, immediately differentiating themselves.
The results? Lurpak became the number one butter brand in the UK pretty much overnight. And they’ve stayed there ever since.
Maybe there is something inherent in your product that makes it the best in the market. It’s the cheapest or it lasts longer or it’s the best flavour or it has extra pockets or it’s made out of a lighter material or whatever else.
What’s stopping another company from coming along and copying you?
They might do it cheaper, theirs might last longer, they might have better flavours, they could have even more pockets, they might use the same light material.
If your product or service is any good, you can bet your ass they’ll be copycats popping up very soon.
And often it’s the big players (particularly in tech with the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook) who take new ideas and develop their own versions to offer at much lower costs.
Having a brand protects you from copycats. If your brand is strong enough, you can fend off anyone offering the same thing purely because people would rather buy from you.
In fact, with a great brand, people would rather buy from you even if your product/service is more expensive.
Case study: Innocent Smoothies
Innocent didn’t invent smoothies. Smoothies had been around for a very long time before Innocent emerged. But, due to their awesome branding, they did penetrate the market, instantly became the number one smoothie brand and grew the market from a niche to a mainstream product.
Many brands saw the explosion of the smoothie market and have jumped on the bandwagon. Some are huge players like the major supermarkets and Tropicana who have nearly unlimited marketing budgets to topple Innocent.
But they never could. Years later and Innocent are still number one. No other brand comes close.
It’s all because of powerful branding. The Innocent brand is adored by everyone. No copycat smoothies can recreate that.
Finally, branding lets you get away with stuff that your competitors can’t do.
For example, By building a socially conscious brand, you can take advantage of the public’s concern for the environment. But when others try to do that, they are seen as having an evil, profit-driven agenda.
A great brand gives you the permission and credibility to talk about the things you want to talk about, support the causes you want to support and pull the stunts you want to pull.
Case study: Heineken
When Sony and Ford sponsor James Bond, it’s always met with eye rolling. It’s shameless and pathetic and they’re obviously just trying to manipulate movie goers.
But when Heineken sponsors James Bond. It’s great. They’re a classy, adventurous brand that matches the personality of the famous spy. Bond doesn’t even drink beer but it feels natural that if he did, it would be Heineken.
He would certainly never be caught dead driving a Ford. And it’s pretty unlikely that an old time British spy would ever trust Japanese tech.
Furthermore, Heineken’s classy brand means it can get away with being huge and not receive the backlash that many other big beer brands get.
Budweiser, Fosters, Carlsberg and company are often attacked because they push their cheap trash and stomp all over small, better quality craft beers. But we never punish Heineken for being big.
Case study: BrewDog
On the opposite side of the beer spectrum is BrewDog. They’ve carefully cultivated an aggressive underdog brand that means they can constantly get away with doing things that are a little edgy.
For example, BrewDog created a beer just for Vladimir Putin to protest his anti-homosexuality law. The copy on it read:
“Hello, my name is Vladimir. I am 100 per cent hetero and will pass laws to prove it. Drinking me gives you energy, ignorance and dogmatism required to shoot a deer (with your top off) and pass internationally denounced, discriminatory legislation (top optional) before you’ve even had your caviar breakfast.”
The thing is, they’re no longer underdogs. You can buy BrewDog everywhere now. They are a giant global force. But their brand still gives them the opportunity to have fun.
They achieved this very simply. Every time they have an idea, they ask themselves if it’s something their competitors would be allowed to do. If they answer is yes, they toss it in the bin. The result is incredibly impactful.
The result is incredibly impactful.
This is why you need to have a strong brand. This is why investing your time, money and energy into creating one is going to be one of the best investments you’ve ever done.
Nothing pays off quite like branding does. Both in the respect of income and in product freedom. So, quit hesitating. Start building. It’s time for you to stand out in the market, let the other businesses fight for the scraps.
Have you used branding to position yourself uniquely? Got a success story to share? Branding nightmare to discuss? Let us know in the comments below.