By Wayne Marks, President, Hansa GCR
In a prior Thoughticle™, Refreshing the Brand: Focusing on Key Brand Elements,” we described Hansa’s proprietary Brand RJVNTR™ process and the brand elements that need to be addressed to create your brand promise. These elements are summarized in the following exhibit.
The brand personality captures who you are. The brand values reflect what you believe is the right thing to do, and the benefits articulate what the customer gets. The essence represents the core of what you stand for. All together constitute the brand promise.
This Thoughticle™ adds additional tips for rejuvenating your brand and addresses the key tests for ensuring a successful brand. In short, we need to answer three threshold questions before we rush to market with a refreshed brand.
First, the brand promise has to be valuable. This means the target customers must see the brand as relevant to their lives and serving a useful purpose. It fulfills a need. They would pay money for it.
What some customers see as valuable and as fulfilling a need may not be what others see. For example, I could not ever see any value in spending time in a gift shop. Not that I don’t like gifts or like to give them. I just look at the usual merchandise in brick-and-mortar gift shops and think, “Why would I buy this stuff?” Others I know, however, can think of no better Saturday afternoon then leisurely browsing gift shops on the Oregon Coast. Value truly is in the eyes of the beholder. As for me, I will jump on line to do my gift giving.
So, when we think about value we also need to consider value to whom? Who is the target market? How big is the market? What would prospects and customers be willing to pay? For example, there is no point in taking a brand into an upscale position if the target market is a price-conscious buyer with a certain income profile in the respective category.
Here’s where things get tricky. If one defined the target market for laptops as price-conscious buyers, then we might shy away from marketing a premium-priced laptop. But, if we define the category differently, as consumers valuing a sleek easy-to-use laptop that has cool design features, then the category and target market, and price customers are willing to pay for value, are dramatically re-defined. Remind you of any particular brand? The target market is not just a customer demographic, but also a customer with a certain set of needs or predilections.
Second, we need to ensure the value target customers perceive is distinctive relative to competitive offerings. “Why buy me?” “How am I different?” “What makes me unique?” Five Guys® Burgers and Fries competes in the crowded quick-service burger market. But, it has a clear point of difference: fresh ingredients, a broad assortment of toppings (all of which can be added for no additional cost), peanuts that can be shelled and tossed on the floor, and fries that magically double in quantity when the server places the order in your bag (and loads an extra spoonful of fries into the bag at no cost).
Things get really hard when one is trying to sell something the same as everyone else. Markets and customers evolve toward commoditization if suppliers permit them. This happens because customers will ask for what they are familiar with, and if competitors have matched the value proposition of a one-time leader, then customers will ask for a lower price. Unless the leader or others have continuously innovated and developed a point of difference, a supplier has no choice but to reduce price to get the business. The challenge for suppliers is to develop something new and different and to educate the market on that differential value.
So what makes for differentiation? It could be a product feature, like “stainproof,” a service aspect like “ships free – both ways”, or an emotional attribute like “being cool.” Or many other things – anyone remember the Pet Rocks of decades ago? Unbelievable, really – put a small rock in a box and call it a pet and sell millions. Novelty and fad. But people have a fundamental need to be a part of a group and of the right group (fellow pet rock collectors), and no one else was doing it. A point of difference in the novelty category.
Third, the brand must be executable. Yugo of days gone by tried to implement a low cost, entry-level car brand. To disastrous results. They could not execute. The cars became the brunt of late night talk shows for their poor quality. They had a fleeting point of difference on cost, but only to have it undermined and overshadowed by their inability to deliver on the table-stakes feature of reliability.
These three key tests are summarized in the following chart. When refreshing your brand, make sure to put your new brand promise to these threshold tests.
Hansa GCR is a full-service market research and consulting firm. Looking through the lens of the customer experience and applying psychological principles of human motivation, it offers best-in-class research in areas relating to Customer Relationship Equity, Brand Solutions, Market Assessment, Green and Sustainability, and Product/Service Innovation. Hansa GCR is part of R K SWAMY HANSA, an emerging global group with 1,100+ professionals offering Creative Communication, Market Research, Data Analytics, Brand Consulting, Interactive and Healthcare Communication Services.