Every highly successful entrepreneur has methodically established a memorable brand. Well-conceived brands have a specific purpose and can have enormous value to a business. The purpose of this article is to introduce business builders to the nature and worth of this invaluable marketing tool.
Quite often, after I have invested in emerging growth companies, I note the lack of a concise brand strategy. To help the leaders of these firms with this critical assignment, I invite nationally known brand expert Mark Hurst, of Connect Partners, to facilitate a branding session. He consistently works his magic with amazing results. I have again called on his expertise for this column.
A company with a powerful brand can differentiate itself from competitors and establish itself in the hearts of customers. The process begins with defining the customer and the messages to communicate to this targeted audience. Please consider three constructs on this theme found in the book titled "What Makes Winning Brands Different," by Andreas Buchholz and Wolfram Wordemann. In short, brands involve an "agenda, a drawer and a bridge." Today, we will focus on an agenda or a product category.
All products and services can be thought of as being part of a category, or agenda, that has been established by sellers and buyers. As company founders, we must either be part of the existing agenda or we have to change it to our advantage.
Not too many years ago, we noticed advertising from Snapple, the fruit juice company. This tiny start-up firm from New England entered the juice category against Ocean Spray, Minute Maid and other beverage behemoths. At first, Snapple performed poorly against the billion-dollar brands. Unfortunately, the nascent firm was unable to secure distribution, shelving, and especially mindshare. Retailers and customers saw no need for the newcomer.
Recognizing its plight as a fruit juice company, leaders changed the essence of their brand and declared themselves a healthy soft drink provider. Instead of losing ground to fruit juice firms, they began marketing to consumers who were ready for something healthier.
Even though its drinks are not 100 percent fruit juice, in the world of sugary sodas, which have zero fruit juice, Snapple products became a delicious and healthy alternative to traditional soda pop. A new category was born, and the beverage industry has never been the same.
Subway sandwiches made virtually the same move. In the gigantic world of fast food burger chains, the agenda seems to be more about tons of bacon, more fat, more fries, all resulting in more calories.
That was the case until Subway discovered a new audience segment ready for something healthier. Despite the fact that there are now Subway stores on nearly every corner worldwide, there was a time when the category was dominated by McDonalds, Burger King and eventually, by Wendy's.
Subway had a hard time on that grand stage. Fast food meant burgers. That was the agenda. They couldn't get on the agenda so they changed it.
Subway invented the category of healthy fast food and it resonated with people. Promotional campaigns declared the use of fresh vegetables, delicious ingredients, oven-baked bread and fewer calories.
Not only did Subway change the agenda, but now all the other fast food players are trying to catch up and join the agenda that company created.
It's always that simple. No matter what we are selling, we should respond to the wishes of our customers and provide solutions they haven't even considered yet.
We should also understand the direction of our competition and find a way to dominate the current agenda. If we can't dominate, we should aggressively establish a new agenda that's in our favor and will be wildly embraced by consumers.
The topic next week will be creating a "drawer" in the consumer's mind. I look forward to your comments on branding. You can connect with me at www.AlanEHall.com or at @AskAlanEHall.