When you consider the brands Reebok, Converse and New Balance, you think about athletic shoes. But when you think about Nike, you think about runners, golfers and basketball players – even street dancers – pushing for their personal best.
When you think about Dell, HP, or Lenovo, you think about computers. But when you consider Apple, you think about designers, musicians and all the cool things your Mac, or iPhone or iPad lets you do.
Why the difference between brands like Nike or Apple and everybody else?
Effective branding isn’t about what you sell, but about what people buy and what motivates them deep inside.
If you’re a funeral home, for instance, what you may sell are things like funeral arrangements, transportation, cremation, memorial products, and assorted containers for the remains. But what the family wants to buy are things like getting past the pain as quickly as possible, remembering all the good stuff, having the support of loved ones and friends, and justifying the expense…or their thrift.
The connection between what you sell and what people want to buy might be called your brand “vision.”
When a company’s brand vision aligns with the customer’s vision – or better yet, triggers the customer’s vision – the cash register rings. Nike and Apple don’t so much outspend their competitors; they are much better at expressing their brand vision. It’s the vision that their customers buy, and the commodities they produce are simply the fulfillment of their visions.
A case example from outside the funeral industry to make the point: We had a client who makes batteries, chargers and cases for video cameras, still cameras, cell phones and other personal electronics. So naturally, they saw themselves in the accessories manufacturing business. And so did their customers, including their retailers. But once we saw how good their products were and how they really enhanced the gadgets they were meant to accessorize, we proposed for them a new brand vision. “You’re not in the accessories business,” we said. “You’re in the Higher-Performance business!” Their super-fast cell phone chargers weren’t just chargers, they actually extended the value and performance of the buyers’ cell phones. From that point on, we treated the brand as the “Performance Products” company that accelerated one’s pleasure in their cell phones, cameras, etc. It changed the game and created a brand vision customers could align themselves with, and the company sales proved it.
An example from within the funeral industry: An old and practically forgotten cemetery was losing business year after year to their newer competitors. But when we discovered the great number of historical figures buried there, including the town’s own namesake, we created a new brand vision for the cemetery as an exciting, “living” historical treasure, filled with the stories of trailblazing pioneers, cowboy shootouts, corrupt city marshals, and celebrated politicians. A new logo added the word “Historic” to their name, the ads read like storybooks, free historic tours were conducted, and the city named t
he property a “Historic Place.” The call-to-action for new memorial property was the invitation to “Be a Part of History.” The downward spiral of sales stopped and reversed within a year of the campaign launch. All because audiences buy into a vision more readily than into a sales message.
What is your brand vision? Can you articulate it clearly? Does everybody else on staff share that vision? And is it uniquely yours? If your brand vision is not clear, simple, unique and compelling, it’s time to re-think your brand.
Because if your customers don’t connect to your brand vision, you’re not much more to them than a commodity. And that’s a vision nobody wants.
Dan Katz is president, creative director of LA ads. To discuss your thoughts with Dan on this blog or any marketing matters, email via this link, or visit www.LAadsMarketing.com. You can also connect with Dan on LinkedIn. See agency work via this link.