Addition by subtraction can be one way to build brand meaning

Tom Dougherty, CEO – Stealing Share

19 June 2012

Brand meaning can get too cluttered

There are many signs that a company doesn’t know what it is doing with its brand, but one is a lack of willingness to let things go that are not working. While this might seem like simply an operational decision, predicated by a steadily declining financial sheet, it is actually one connected to brand meaning. Often, what often performs poorly financially is also not correctly aligned with a brand strategy. They work hand in hand, which means by living to your brand promise, you can make the right decision on what products to keep and which ones to lose.

If you consider brands that are struggling lately (Sony, Best Buy), it is part and parcel to the fact that they lose sight of the brand meaning. For instance, consider Sony, which has a hand in about every possible tech pot it can. From TVs to MP3 players, to Ereaders to tablets, to alarm clocks to cameras to laptops, Sony has just about everything. There might be some products that ring resoundingly clear to its themeline of “Make. Believe,” but the ones that are not ringing true take with it some of the clout that other products might deserve.  The Walkman might have still be bringing in dollars to Sony, but why did it take so long for it to pull old technology that detracted from the power and meaning of its brand?

“Clarity of message is not simply dependent upon the message itself, but how it is made real to the customer.”

Or take Best Buy, which has created a store that offers product solutions to satisfy an oven customer and a CD customer (whoever that is, anymore), providing less meaning to the whole group rather than more intensive meaning to a smaller group. What you sell and your willingness to scrap what is not in synch is an important part of staying relevant and resonant.

brand meaningClarity of message is not simply dependent upon the message itself, but how it is made real to the customer. Sony’s “Make. Believe” could have a real profound effect on the market if it meant a culture shift within Sony. Imagine the impact drawing a line in the sand and saying “from this point forward, absolutely nothing we do will be ordinary” might have. No more AM/FM alarm clocks, no more set-top boxes, no more DVD players, Only products that were true to “Make. Believe.”

There is a reason Ping is set to vanish from Apple’s repertoire. Its social network-angle was never about “Think Different” and has become more of a hindrance to its brand then a help. A brand is constantly being examined critically by potential customers looking for a meaningful connection to their purchase. Make it easy for them and get rid of the clutter. That can help your brand meaning.

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