Why do jingles stay in customers’ heads for years? How do families ignore price or quality because of branding? So many questions, so many dollars relying on these answers. Brand loyalty can easily morph into cultural tradition. In some parts of the country, buying a Chevy truck instead of a Ford can jeopardize an inheritance! Fundamentally, great branding leads to extreme behaviors in customers, and consequently, more dollars into corporate coffers! Beyond features and benefits, buying decisions ultimately reveal cultural identity and credible influencers. So, how does a marketer develop such brand loyalty and emotional connectivity?
Products and services deliver specific sets of features, solving certain problems in the marketplace. Business occurs when someone pays for that outcome. Brands create value when that marketplace anticipates satisfaction and believes the purchase will deliver it. Value is obvious when premium products have high prices because of the purchase’s emotional gratification. But, it is equally true at lower prices, when basic satisfaction is enough. Being cheapest can be a recognized value!
But, no product regardless of cheapness relies on price as the only reason to buy. Quality can drop to low, low levels. Ultimately, even minimal value can result simply from endorsements or clever marketing. While celebrity endorsements create widespread buzz, a local presence reinforcing community loyalty serves the same goal. In local supermarket aisles, a generic cola has to communicate at some level that its bargain basement price provides better satisfaction per dollar than Coke. At the bare minimum, “No-name” cola is brown, sugary and fizzy enough.
Low prices do not mean that products get to claim their value. The marketplace declares value! Brands simply get to manipulate prices to reflect value. Take the example of low-end cigarettes in urban communities. Superior benefits and attributes become irrelevant in the face of feeding a nicotine fix or identifying with the popular brand on the block. Essentially, trend-setting influencers, advocates and images dictate purchase choices and that reality exists completely up the value chain.
In certain categories of consumer brands, regional preferences favor specific competitors. In the northeastern United States, taste, sweetness, freshness are irrelevant characteristics in who dominates the donut market. Krispy Kreme empirically wins handily in these key characteristics, but Dunkin’ Donuts dominates the cash register. Local tastes defies the tongue in this competitive category. Image makers, channel partners, and credible influencers have effectively communicated better attributes associated with Dunkin’ Donuts. The brand embraces the story, the marketing channels perpetuate it such that targeted consumers believe it.
The question remains, “Who needs partners when they have a great brand?” The answer continues to be, “Everyone!” Branding extends beyond sellers shouting their superiority from rooftops. Effectiveness requires building trust through intermediaries and delivering value at every point in the sales channel. Guaranties must be honored. Upgrades must be easily available. Options must be communicated. Beyond the point of sale, every part of the customer experience must be seamlessly executed. Branding is not what is said. It is what is done! Businesses at all levels build brands representing their persona to the marketplace. Ongoing sales success demands every step of the customer experience, whether through collaboration or a singular value chain, executes and communicates directly to the customer. Branding takes teamwork. And, earned trust leads to premium profits.
By Glenn W Hunter
Managing Director of Hunter And Beyond, LLC