Branding not to Win. Are you a victim of Status Quo Marketing?
By Tom Dougherty
There is a single fundamental truth in branding that is true regardless of industry, company, or product: IN ORDER TO BE SUCCESSFUL, YOU MUST BE WILLING TO WIN.
This may sound ridiculous to say but, there are many occasions when we come across brands where the brand managers, VP’s of Marketing, CEO’s, and even members of the Board of Directors are more attached to their own preconceived notions and ideas about what they think the brand should be than in winning.
Their hidden desire often times, is to hire Stealing Share and want us to tell them that they are doing everything correct. The great Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything, but the will to win is everything.” Meaning, if a company, team, or individual does not have the will to win, they will never be able to win.
Marketing wastefullness is the practice of companies marketing and branding their products and services on the basis of self-gratification. That is, marketing and branding from only the perspective of the company. This kind of branding and marketing is based on what the company believes to be true about the product or service often without any regard of what the consumer believes to be true.
Once branded, these product and service offerings are held up as sacred cows, not to be touched in any way. Any problems with sales, margins, or awareness could never be caused by these kinds of products or services; it is always a problem with the sales force, ad agency, or market conditions – not the brand itself. However, that is hardly ever the truth.
Married to the Status Quo Branding and the resulting Branding Not to Win
The real issue for companies focused on maintaining the status quo is in not having the desire to win. Many times, corporate executive are “married” to the brands they have helped to create and believe that their “baby” can handle things just fine as it is. Having a brand firm, or anyone else for that matter, tell one of these executives there is a problem with their brand is akin to telling a mother she has homely children.
However, in order for a brand to be as successful as possible and actually mean something in the eyes of the consumer, executives must be willing to admit that they may have “homely children.” Being receptive to the idea that a company may have a brand problem is really the first and most difficult step to grabbing market share, increasing margins, and making more money.
Once this issue is out of the way, a meaningful, actionable, and comprehensive strategy can be formulated. It does not come from the boardroom or the marketing manager’s office; it comes out of the belief sets of the consumer. When the target market sees a brand they should see a reflection of who they believe they are, not what the company believes the consumer is.
Ask the Consumer
The only way to get this kind of information is through comprehensive and projectable research. Researching the target market, the competitive set, and even the internal views and opinions of personnel from within the company allow the brand to be robust and meaningful to all those who interact with it. This is not the typical usage and attitude kind of research that so many marketers and branding companies have come to rely on. (Read about conducting great research here).
In order to get down to the primary decision drivers, a different kind of research must be done, one that examines the preceptual fabric that helps each and every one of us measure all of our decisions, from what we decide to wear to work each morning to where we go to lunch to which laundry detergent we buy. Once uncovered, the promise of the brand can be aligned with the most meaningful precepts (beliefs) so that the target market now sees a reflection of them in the brand. Research can help you avoid branding not to win.
Building a Better Mousetrap Does Not Ensure Success. You Need Real Marketing Changes
In order to win, it is not imperative that we build a better mousetrap – efficacy, price, or product attributes should not be the only factors in the consumer decision-making process. The best, most successful products and services give consumers something more germinal to base their decisions on. Take beer for example.
There are dozens of beer brands that are crammed onto the shelves at the local grocery. If you ask a beer drinker why they prefer a certain brand of beer the most likely response would be, “I like the way it tastes.” Certainly no one would drink a beer that they think tastes bad, so logic dictates there must be another reason someone would choose a particular brand of beer. Look at recent beer advertising – little to none of current beer advertising talks about taste.
Today’s beer ads are about lifestyle and are attempting to get the target market to associate a particular brand of beer with a particular lifestyle. For example, Miller Lite does it with their “Men of the Square Table” campaign which is all about associating Miller Lite with manliness and Heineken is doing it with their “Night Life” campaign, associating their beer with a fun and cosmopolitan nightlife.
An organization cannot win in stasis. A consumer’s purchasing decisions are not based on what an organization believes to be true, rather they are based on what the consumer believes to be true. Marketing masturbation will only make a product or service a legend in the minds of the executives who created it, not in the mind of the consumer who is the final arbitrator.