We are planning a branding expertise this week and in the spirit of all good workshops the moderator sent us some pre-work (AKA homework if you ask my kids). One of the questions were:
What are your thoughts on what makes some brands inspirational while others struggle?
In order to answer the question, I listed the brands I like: Apple, Amazon, Virgin Atlantic, SPG and Facebook to name few. When I thought of these brands, I found one thing in common: All are brands I like talking about with my friends and colleagues. A great brand is one that its target audience wants to speak about.
Why does it matter to my branding exercise? It does since none of these brands are great because of their marketing departments. The brands are great because the products are great and all that was left for marketing was wrapping the great product with a nice wrap. We don’t talk about Apple because of its amazing billboards. We talk about iPhone and the new MacBook and the fact that every time you buy an Apple, they come up with a better, sexier product that makes you iPhone/iPod/MacBook envy. When was the last time you heard anyone talking about a Dell device with any passion? Never- and not because the guys in marketing are not smart.
When was the last time you heard someone talking about United Airlines with love in her voice? Amm- never. Get someone into Virgin’s Upper class and you will pay for the talking will stop…You get the point- brands get to be lovemarks when you talk about the products they are and how they impact your life.
What’s in common to all these brands we talk about? They have CEOs that think that branding is the job of the CEO, and not of the head of marketing. They know that a brand is a combination of product (first and foremost), marketing, customer service any many other attributes. If you are building a company, don’t follow the process of building a product, showing it to customers, bring a brand expert and deciding on messaging and branding. Start the other way around: decide which brand you want to be, figure out what will make customers talk about you, imagine their discussions in great details. Think of a user and play in your head his discussion with a friend after using your product. Imagine the tweet that another user will write and see for yourself that your product makes a great Friday night discussion for your demographics. Name 3 features that will make the headlines in every conversation (think massage on board in VA flight…) and if you can’t find them, never mind- you started early and you can still rethink many things. No matter which process you choose, make sure you drive the brand, or the branding will drive you.