Brands Are Much More Than Their Products

When you think of a product’s brand, what comes to mind? Prod­uct-ori­ent­ed mar­keters might tell you it’s about how the prod­uct looks or feels or fits or per­forms or any­thing tied to the prod­uct itself. But for organ­i­sa­tions that want to tru­ly estab­lish a strong brand, they’ve got to think beyond the product.

Why Brand­ing Beyond Prod­ucts Matters

Brand­ing is about iden­ti­ty, image, per­son­al­i­ty, and much more; it’s root­ed in estab­lish­ing trust with your cus­tomers through a promise. (Trust should be the gold­en goose us mar­keters seek to find; it’s an impor­tant fac­tor in the suc­cess of any brand­ing ini­tia­tive.) This promise extends well beyond a product’s struc­ture, pack­ag­ing, and promise of results. Trust is also built by pro­vid­ing con­ve­nient pay­ment and ship­ping options, rapid response to prod­uct issues, and reward­ing loy­al­ty programs.

Some experts believe it’s more impor­tant to have a bet­ter brand than have a bet­ter prod­uct. As adver­tis­ing leg­end Al Ries puts it, “Every­thing in life is ‘per­cep­tions’. There are no supe­ri­or prod­ucts. There are only supe­ri­or per­cep­tions in con­sumers’ minds.” What does that tell you about the impor­tance of branding?

20th Cen­tu­ry Branding

The ear­ly school of thought was to focus brand­ing efforts pri­mar­i­ly on prod­uct devel­op­ment and dis­tri­b­u­tion. Build a great prod­uct, put it in the customer’s hands, and the brand will build itself, right? Com­pa­ny brand then meant some­thing tan­gi­ble tied to prod­uct access and per­for­mance. Brand­ing research was done with field test­ing, focus groups, and the like.

That was before cus­tomers could find you through a search query and vis­it your web­site or YouTube channel.

Brand­ing has evolved to require a promise of a great dig­i­tal expe­ri­ence when cus­tomers engage dig­i­tal­ly and phys­i­cal­ly with your mes­sag­ing and prod­ucts. In fact, one 2013 study sug­gests that “B2B buy­ers will pay, on aver­age, 30% more for a supe­ri­or cus­tomer experience”.

Brand­ing Today: Dig­i­tal & Physical

Now brand mar­keters are focused on ease of access to solu­tions as well as prod­ucts. Con­sumer-dri­ven engage­ment cycles require us to devel­op brand­ing that meets them on their turf. Buy­ers are web savvy. A 2014 For­rester Research study showed that over 50 per­cent of B2B buy­ers had been mak­ing work-relat­ed pur­chas­es for six years or more.

Much of branding’s best prac­tices today are fueled by devel­op­ments in tech­nol­o­gy and the Inter­net. For exam­ple, search engine opti­miza­tion has dri­ven a move­ment to cre­ate wild­ly unique brand names. Look at Google, Trav­e­loc­i­ty, eCon­sul­tan­cy, and Twit­ter. I could go on for days nam­ing brands that estab­lished their iden­ti­ties with unusu­al brand names for SEO objectives.

There­fore, brand­ing now fus­es togeth­er the dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal worlds. To brand right these days, you’ve got to invest in ways to bring those two worlds togeth­er in a seam­less and sim­ple way. As ad guru Lois Geller writes, “It takes a lot of time, mon­ey and very hard work to build and main­tain great brands…brands that can speak vol­umes in just a few syl­la­bles.” I would add that brands can speak vol­umes with fan­tas­tic cus­tomer experiences.

Now, brands focus on CX in many ways:

Evolv­ing Brand­ing Opportunities

New con­nec­tiv­i­ty with con­sumers such as Inter­net of Things, vir­tu­al real­i­ty, and arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence will dri­ve fur­ther brand­ing efforts. Where do we go from here? In many ways, prod­uct brand will still remain a crit­i­cal attribute, but the entire expe­ri­ence mar­keters cre­ate will like­ly rule in the customer’s mind.

Brands are more than the prod­ucts and solu­tions an organ­i­sa­tion deliv­ers, because cus­tomers need to rec­og­nize a trust­ed, knowl­edge­able brand before they’ll try your prod­ucts. This recog­ni­tion takes place typ­i­cal­ly online from here for­ward. There­fore, brand­ing beyond prod­ucts has to be focused on the dig­i­tal con­sumer. Don’t stop brand­ing for prod­uct devel­op­ment pur­pos­es, but lead with a strong dig­i­tal brand and you’ll like­ly find success.