MARKETING

How to Build a Really Strong Brand

The most brand marketing can do is call attention to your customer's positive feelings.
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Conventional wisdom says building a strong brand entails creating a cool brand name, advertising that brand to potential buyers, and enforcing brand message consistency in all customer interactions.

However, conventional wisdom is wrong. Brand marketing can neither create nor build nor strengthen a brand. Brand is always a reflection of the quality of the product. There are no exceptions to this rule.

To understand why this is the case, it's first necessary to define "brand."  Most people think a brand consists of exterior elements: the brand name, the logo, the tag line, and perhaps an acoustic element (like Intel's "boop-beep-boop-beep").

Think of a brand like this, however, is like thinking of your significant other as a collection of skin, clothes, and utterances. The essence of a brand is not the exterior elements, but how you feel about the product or service.

The purpose of the brand elements is not to create those feelings, but to remind you of them.  If your feelings about the product are negative, those brand elements simply remind you of how much you dislike the product.

Your brand is like a bank account. When you delight customers, it adds value to the brand.  If you have a string of great products, customers will forget the occasional flop.  Apple is a case in point. Few people remember that they've had some real stinkers.

Similarly, when you irritate customers, it extracts value from the brand, and eventually you end up overdrawn and even if you change your ways and come out with some great products, it may take years, if ever, for customers to forget the taint.

Dell computer is an excellent example of this.  For years, the company had terrible customer service which contributed to its fall from the #1 PC vendor to the #3 position it has today. Dell now faces an uphill battle against the "bad service" scuttlebutt.

The only way to build a strong brand is to create and sell a products that delight your customers. If you fail at this basic step, brand marketing is not just a waste of money, but actively counterproductive.

Therefore, if you want to build a strong brand, put your time and money into creating and selling the best product possible.  Then, if you've got some left over, use brand marketing to help spread the word.

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IMAGE: Seattle Municipal Archives / Flickr.com
Last updated: Aug 21, 2013

GEOFFREY JAMES | Columnist

Geoffrey James, a contributing editor for Inc.com, is an author, speaker, and award-winning blogger. Originally a system architect, brand manager, and industry analyst inside two Fortune 100 companies, he's interviewed over a thousand successful executives, managers, entrepreneurs, and gurus to discover how business really works. His most recent book is Business Without the Bullsh*t: 49 Secrets and Shortcuts You Need to Know. If you enjoyed this post, sign up for the free weekly Sales Source newsletter.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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