You will never create anything big unless you make it a brand- whether a bank, musician, university, toilet paper, politician, search engine, fast food restaurant, Computer, soft drink, charitable organization, media house, clinic, law firm, athlete, church, etc.
If this is a fact why do so many entrepreneurs and SME Business owners work so hard to grow their business without trying to make them brands? They invest time, money and effort to develop innovative and quality products, systems, hiring the best sales people, selecting the hottest business names, tag lines, company colours and creating logos.
But is this not what brand building is all about? Yes and No.
Yes because this is the first half of building a brand and a big NO because this is the smaller half. In a three step brand development continuum where the lowest level is a commodity, second step a label and the highest a brand when you have the best you can achieve with all these efforts is a label.
A commodity is an undifferentiated product, service or company. A label is one has identity that is differentiates it from others businesses or product offerings of same kind. But a brand has emotional and psychological connection with a sizable market segment. There is a form of love relationship between the brand and its target customers.
Every human being by the mare fact that he has unique finger prints, name, DNA, mannerisms and behaviour is a label. He has an identity. He is different from other men. But Nelson Mandela, Barrack Obama, Billy Graham, Michael Jordan are brands. As long as you define your uniqueness using the physical and biological characteristics you will always be a label. You may be a brand but only to a few. That also applies to businesses.
Many entrepreneurs and business owners are working very hard to build labels. They want to bake the sweetest cake, sell the highest quality of furniture, be the consultant with the most tools, be the best doctor in town etc. They talk in terms of lowest price, best quality, good location, fast service etc. They wonder why their business doesn’t grow and hope that by working harder things will be different. The sad truth is that unless and until they are able to make their business brands they will remain small.
They need to come to the realization that the vehicle that will carry their businesses to growth is making brands of their products and businesses.
Building brands has many advantages to a business but I want to focus only the ones that play the biggest role in driving revenue and profit growth.
1. Help Create a Monopoly for your Business:
Everyday there are many businesses started and products rolled out in the market with the aim of offering the customer variety of choice. In essence the market is out there for everyone to fight it out to for. Fighting out to be seen, considered and be bought. With a label you have to keep on trying many things to achieve one or more of these objectives.
The market forces are always seeking to push any product or company to the lowest level of a brand continuum – a commodity. They push brands to labels and labels to commodities. That is why some brands of yesterday are just labels.
Whatever business you are in, you should know it is easier to multiply your profits and revenues if you are a brand rather than a commodity or label. You should therefore look for a way to deal with the market forces that want to push you down. You could either ask the government to declare you as a monopoly or you use the only other alternative of creating a form of monopoly power – create a brand.
A brand becomes a tool that aids you in creating and owning your market segment. It helps you become friends with this market. You develop an emotional connection with it. When you own this market then you can unleash the business multiplier machine on it. This multiplier machine operates on the logic that you can only grow your business profits and revenues by getting more people buy more of your products, more often.
Labels and commodities have to spend so much to win a new customer, spend even more to keep them and get them to buy more. It is harder and more expensive to unleash the multiplier machine on labels and almost impossible on commodities.
2. Growth through new products
It is very difficult to grow any business beyond a certain point just on one product offering or product line. At some point, even for those who own a particular market for a certain category of products, you will need to add something new in your fold. The reason being that the market tastes, preferences and circumstances are always changing hence they will require new products. Competitors will pursue your customers with a better value propositions. To respond you will need to create new products and services.
Majority of SME Owners are innovators who have brought into the market something new. They appreciate the effort, resources and time required to make a new product succeed. Even for large organizations with massive resources it is never easier and there are no guarantees. That is why they build brands which are better equipped to launch a new product. Brand offer some level of success assurance.
Without a brand they will have to go through the pains and overcome the countless challenges of new product launch whenever they need to introduce a new flavor, launch a new product, complementing service, open a new store, and add a new feature etcetera. Every time you do this the customer sees you as new. You don’t have a point to leverage on your business experience, market knowledge, capacity, supplier networks etc which you have invested in over time. This heavily limits you chances of success. A brand ensures you the benefits of being an old friend.
‘NEW ‘as a selling proposition works only for trusted brands. For them NEW is considered innovative and progressive. For labels and commodities ‘NEW’ is viewed as risky and inexperienced. Anything new has to be sold, and as a sales expert I understand selling is tough work worthy doing only when you have to do it.
If you are in the technology business you appreciate how fast you have to generate and deliver new products to the market. Without a brand as a vehicle through which you have to deliver your new innovations you are doomed from the start.
3. Build Business for the Long Term
Commodities experience high rate of ‘child’ mortality. Labels usually a have a life expectancy of their creators. Brands have a life of their own.
Every entrepreneur I know starting or running a business has a desire to see his business outlive him. To do this lawyers recommend you register your businesses as limited liability companies and management consultants tell you to create business dependent on systems. This is wise counsel but only to some extent because they help separate your business from your body and mind but you still share the soul.
When you give up your soul the body and mind of your business will not live too long after.
A brand is the soul of business. It makes it alive. It stops being a robot supported by a legal document. It becomes an organism that can have relationships of its own; it can love and be loved. It has connections with its market, employees, suppliers etc.
Many of the big brands today are growing strong without the entrepreneurs who founded them because they are brands not because they are limited liability companies or they have great systems. A branded business is the only form of business that can grow on its own. Any other form will require the passion and genius of the founder to grow it.
If you really want to leave an inheritance to your children then need to make your business a brand.
These three points are not exhaustive but, if they would push you to be more determined to build brands or even to add a little knowledge on the subject then am happy.
Wait for Part 2 where we will discuss how SMEs try to build brands the wrong way and how they can do it right.