04 Aug A brand is a mechanism by which to create value.
Influencers call themselves a ‘brand’. Startups with nothing but SquareSpace websites call themselves brands. Even contestants on TV shows call themselves brands. In reality, however, they’re just names, labels, logos, suites of services or individuals.
An authentic brand has to fulfill many criteria, but at the very least it must have the ability to generate profits and be of perceived value so that individuals are prepared to choose it and pay more for it than for a rival. By achieving this, a brand will have earned a position of trust in people’s lives as a result of being promoted in a relevant way that created the demand in the first place.
Clone brands are the status quo for most sectors. Nearly all competitive markets are full of brands that look, feel and tell much the same story as others. They are cookie-cutter copycats.
Brand owners, product developers and even marketing agencies often merely copy what the market leaders have done in a hope to emulate. All that actually produces is a slew of products that are all the same. And when consumers can’t tell the difference or aren’t shown or told the difference, they have their own shortcut: Price.
When price becomes a differentiator, this becomes a story of stripping-out cost and offering discounts. Which as we all know, is a race to the bottom .
A brand’s job is measured by the strength of the demand and ultimately profitable and sustainable sales. A successful brand should always seek to grow penetration and market share ahead of the competition. The simple laws of supply and demand, economic scarcity, pricing and, as a consequence of all of them, profitability, require brands and businesses to be dealing in something that is exceptional to the market.
The worst thing for any proposition is to try and appeal to everyone. In making choices around target and route to market, there should be acceptance that this product will not be for everyone. Which is perfectly fine – there are enough buyers in the world. That’s what strategy is all about – Standing for ‘something’, not ‘some things’.
When brands and all the associated experiences become interchangeable with each other, in a consumer’s mind, they only have one way of telling the difference: price. In the end, when little by way of originality or authenticity is promoted, price becomes a shortcut to a brand’s difference and distinction.
If the brand owner is too lazy to identify and show to consumers the differences they possess to a rival brand and, crucially, why it’s worth paying more for, then the consumer’s default will be to judge it on price alone. When brands are judged on price alone, it quickly becomes a race to the lowest published price. And ultimate oblivion.
In a cookie-cutter world where price is the only differentiator, we’re suddenly shoved headlong into a cost-out situation. Where innovation, promotion, distribution, basically everything has to be the cheapest it can be. And inevitably, there’s a massive danger in this: Consumers’ decisions, based solely on price are susceptible to switching.
The next ‘slightly-lower-cost-operator’ that appears in the market will then do what? Steal market share.
So what is the solution? It might seem complicated, but really it is quite simple.
- Know exactly what your single USP is and be prepared to invest sums of money in shouting about it.
- Be comfortable in doing something different to the market. Accepting it will polarise. Accepting it will create fans and detractors.
Most importantly, know that your sole objective is to drive profitability by creating something meaningful that people are prepared to pay more for. Everything else is just laziness and excuses.