My apologies to those in the industry who make a living chanting the mantra of “Branding, branding, branding.” Whether you’re running a drugstore or an online empire, if you don’t treat each customer like gold, charge a fair price, and offer something that customers want, you’re toast. That doesn’t need to be called “branding”; it’s called “commonsense.”
The Three Cs: Convenience, Cool, and Cost
An awful lot of people spend an awful lot of time handwringing over the question, “How can I brand my company for success?” It’s simple: Take care of the three Cs, and you’ve got it solved.
How many of you give a damn where you buy gas? My decision is based totally on convenience. When I notice my gas tank is getting low, I don’t care where I buy my gas — I care that I don’t run out of it. I’m not concerned with the “sign of the tiger” or pondering what the Driver Human campaign is all about. I just want gas. It’s a parity product like napkins or writing paper. Unless you’re a petrochemical engineer, I defy anyone to explain how one brand of gas is better than another.
If branding is such a big deal, why do I continue to patronize Burger King? It changes images, ad agencies, and tag lines as often as Anna Nicole Smith says “Duh.” Who cares? I like its hamburgers. I’m really not concerned with its latest marketing effort to sear its brand into my brain. Conversely, no matter what McDonald’s does on the air, I still don’t like its hamburgers. Sorry.
Think about your office. It’s almost lunchtime, and you’re hungry. You’ll probably choose one of the restaurants within easy walking or driving distance. We’re basically creatures of habit, and those businesses that have the good fortune to be located where we can find them easily will get our business.
How many of you have a favorite hole-in-the-wall restaurant that you hope nobody else discovers? It probably has food you like at a reasonable price, and it’s convenient to eat there. If branding is so gosh-darn important, how has it been in business for years with little more than good word of mouth?
What’s the Cool Factor?
I know, it’s a tough question. Be honest… does the world really need whatever it is you’re selling? The standard law of positioning says that unless you’re in the top three in your category, you’re toast. Jack Welch at GE demands that each GE division be No. 1 or No. 2 in its category or heads roll — or he sells the division. Think Jack Welch knows something?
In the Internet world, eBay is a huge hit. Why? Because people love yard sales. When man first climbed out of the primordial ooze, the first thing he did was set up a table at the edge of the pond and sell his gills and fins. eBay figured out this basic human need and created one of the true phenomenons of the past 50 years. I’ve bought more than 15 P.G. Wodehouse novels on eBay that I couldn’t find anywhere else. eBay fills a need. It is cool, and it was first. There are other auction sites out there, but I defy you to name two others.
eBay made it convenient to sell America’s cluttered attic. There are eBay addicts who have 20 or 50 or 100 auctions going at once. I work with a woman who buys and sells Japanese anime material. I never heard of the stuff before meeting her, but there are thousands of others who want to do the same. Who knew?
Amazon.com filled a need we didn’t know we had. How many of us were perfectly capable of getting to a bookstore all by ourselves? Amazon.com created a need and now offers books, DVDs, videos, and a million other cool items that will be delivered to your door — fast. Its U.K. site, www.amazon.co.uk, is one of my favorite places on the web. Great stuff you can’t find in this country, and it comes to your door within a week (more P.G. Wodehouse opportunities). There are other online bookstores, but they’re all playing catch-up to Amazon.com.
Remember when video games first came out? Pong was the coolest thing on the planet. How many hours did you spend in front of a screen watching a little line bounce back and forth? If what you sell is cool and either creates a need or replaces an old one, you have a chance.
How Much Are You Charging?
Are you charging a fair price for your product or service? Unless you’ve uncovered the genetic code or sell only luxury items to newly minted millionaires, price matters.
Next week: the top mistakes people make in the name of branding.
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