By Tom Dougherty
Keep Moving Forward
Business was born as a result of change. Henry Ford’s “any color you want as long as it’s black” horseless carriage, Alexander Graham Bell’s “Mr. Watson, come here” telephone, Konrad Zuse’s first “computer” in 1936, the printing press, the cotton gin and the wheel are all fundamental changes in both thinking and in the way of doing things that have spurned entire industries. Winning brands take advantage of circumstances.
Innovation by its very nature is a vehicle for change. Any time anything is invented, improved upon or repurposed, change is occurring. Success is born of change. In fact, it would not be going too far to say that, in order to survive, change is essential.
So why are so many companies today so resistant to it? There is not a single company in existence today that was not started because it only wanted to continue the status quo. The birth of any new company is marked by some improvement or efficiency either in product, pricing, supply or some other unique characteristic that gives it real or perceived competitive advantage in the market place.
So again, why is the marketplace littered with companies who have failed or are in their twilight? They have forgotten what brought them to life: change.
Business is an ongoing game of one-upmanship. If you are not setting the pace you are feverishly following, hoping to not get too far behind. If you are the leader, you are frantically working to maintain your leadership position.
The Ingredients For Winning
The ingredients that are used in the birth of a new company – improving something or making business more efficient – remain important in the long-term success of an organization. But too often, these improvements only deal with operational efficiencies or massive investments in R&D. Those are important and essential, but an ingredient to success that is often forgotten and maligned as unimportant: is a company’s brand.
Brand has become such an overused and undervalued “thing” in business today that most do not understand or see its value and potential to enact real and lasting change within an organization. Companies do little investing in their brands and invest even less in ensuring that their brands are consistently and uniformly executed. Too often “brand” is relegated to making sure the graphic designer has not altered a company logo in the latest “of the moment” print ad.
However, brand is more than that. It is not simply maintaining a standard or a refreshment of a company’s logo or visual identity, although that may be a component. Brand is a means to choose and a means by which a company does not always have to be so reactionary and so frantic in maintaining their lead or keeping up with the leader. Simply put, brand is a way to provide meaning. This is increasingly important in a crowded market.
The Information Age is a Myth
Some call the age we are in the “information age.” It could be argued that it is really the age of noise. Brand enables a company to break through all of the noise and incessant chatter to get people to notice you and seek you out. Brand gives an organization focus and single-mindedness in its evolution. The information age is a lie.(Read more on the information age here)
In business where product and operational change is the norm, brand is a means by which organizations can both insulate themselves from and gain share from the competition. Creating a resonate brand in an organization does mean change, but it does not mean you have to reinvent or improve upon the “wheel,” You have to stay focused and align your organization with your customers, and, more importantly, non-customers.
Most organizations will say that they have a very good sense for their customer base. They could tell you their purchasing habits, where they purchase products, how much they purchase, and how often. But what would they say about those people who are NOT choosing them? Most likely not a lot other than competitive market share data.
Methodology in Research Matters
The fact is, few organizations have asked non-customers why they have not chose them. The pat answers are that the competition has a better price or that the competition has some product feature that must be imitated in order to gain share. But what is lacking is a true understanding of the target audience. Pricing and adding product features that the competition already has are not ways to grow market share. Consumers will not switch for something that they already believe they have.
Getting non-customers to become customers is even more convoluted than it seems, or should be. Crowded market forces swallow up the speed of today’s business and the economic environment as well as underperforming businesses, products and services. If a company does not provide a good product at a reasonable price that satisfies a consumer desire then it will fail. Period.
But there are so many companies that actually do provide good products at reasonable prices that satisfy consumer desires that the only way to distinguish one from another and build lasting preference and value is through their brands. In a world of like products and service, the only way to get a consumer to switch from what they are currently using is to “mean” more to them.
Unlimited Growth Possibilities
When executed properly, a company’s brand can serve as a beacon that shines through the fog because it is a reflection of who those potential customers believe they are or aspire to be. Imagine driving down the highway and, in the middle of the barrage of billboards, you see one with your face and name on it. Wouldn’t you notice it? That is the power of brand.
Rebranding an organization does entail real change. It makes a company re-evaluate everything it does from HR to operations to R&D to marketing to ensure that each and every department and job function is aligned in a singular purpose. Unlike when the company was first founded, you do not have to reinvent or improve upon “the wheel.” You just need to change the way you think about that “wheel” to give it meaning. Your business began upon change. Don’t stop now. (Read how to rebrand here)