What is a brand?
“Simply irresistible brands”
What makes a brand irresistible? Let’s start with a common understanding by asking a simple question: What is a brand?
Branding is most typically associated with marketing elements like names, trademarks and logos. But, a brand is actually defined by a combination of factors. Like an iceberg, only a small piece breaks the surface. Signs and symbols are indeed only part of the definition.
Let’s start with perhaps the most recognizable definition of a brand:
“Simply put, a brand is a promise…
it delivers a pledge of satisfaction and quality.”
“A brand is a reason to choose.”
Fred Burt, Siegel+Gale
Here is my favorite definition:
“A brand is the sum total of the entire customer experience.
A collection of perceptions in the mind of the consumer.”
Every brand carries some level of emotional capital based on how the consumer feels about the brand experience. Whether these levels are high or low depends on factors such as brand image, personality, energy and ability to satisfy their needs.
Today, the challenge for brands is to manage the entire spectrum of marketing elements across all consumer touch points to positively impact the target audience. Not an easy task. For example, what is the impact when your favorite laptop experiences an issue and you call tech support. You may get one of these outcomes: a) no answer, b) answers but transfers you 2 or 3 times, c) hangs up or d) just cannot fix the issue. Let’s say these issues persist the next 2 to 3 times you call. How do you feel about your favorite brand now?
Interbrand’s Best Global Brands - 2010 Rankings
Interbrand’s list of the Best Global Brands shows that 9 out of the top 10 are U.S.-based including Coca-Cola, IBM and Microsoft. Google, an innovative and aggressive brand, worked hard to move up from #7 to #4, having moved far beyond its search engine roots.
Building on a great year, Apple improved its ranking from #20 to #17. It is hard to think of another brand with the power and sheer “coolness” of Apple. Yet, it is puzzling why Apple isn’t higher on the list. Would you wait overnight, outside for the privilege of buying any “other” brand’s products?
Resurrection of the Apple Brand
Back in 1997, Apple needed to address some simple yet very significant questions such as: who are we, what do we stand for and where do we fit in this world? The answers to these questions led to the famous “Think Different” ad campaign. Apple basically used this campaign as air cover to go out and change the world. Did they succeed? Just ask Microsoft.
Leading brands earn their reputation by engaging customers. Branding is all about creating a meaningful point-of-difference. But, standing out in today’s cluttered environment demands more than having a difference. It demands finding a way to cut through and deliver a unique benefit that makes your competition’s message irrelevant. How many brands can you think of that do this?
Verizon Wireless - Point-of-Difference is in their DNA
When you think about powerful brands that are built on a singular positioning that is not only meaningful but relevant to its target (consumer or B2B) you can’t help but think about Verizon Wireless. While their arch nemesis, AT&T, flaunted the iPhone, the folks at Verizon Wireless dug in and created a partnership with Google. Now, the iPhone has come to Verizon and the game will change again. The reason Verizon may ultimately take significant market share from AT&T isn’t because it is now able to sell the iPhone, but because the brand is perceived as being the best wireless network. However, even the best brand can still fail if it does not realize that brand choices are based on the entire package the consumer buys. The Verizon brand is much more than the physical cell phone you purchase or even their network. It represents the sum total of many components. Let’s look at a few:
• Network: the quality, breath and speed that carries and completes calls + the LTE 4G network
• Devices: sell not only the latest phones but now the iPhone
• Tech support: e.g., outstanding BlackBerry data and voice support
• Calling plans: meeting users needs for voice and data services
• Product packaging and instructions: easy to understand and use
• Warranty: again, easy to understand
• Customer Service: response time and quality of support
• Clarity and accuracy of the bill
• Performance of add-on services: e.g., the VZ Navigator GPS
Let’s talk for a minute about the importance of add-on services. Driving through Queens, east of NYC early last year, I was lost when my GPS connection died. No maps and out of luck, I phoned Verizon tech support. The only short term solution to get back to New Jersey, was for the rep (David) to provide turn-by-turn instructions to the Manhattan Bridge and a sure path to Jersey. Not only did he save the day but he credited my Verizon account for $9.99 (one month of VZ Navigator service). When a brand goes out of its way to help customers, it is rewarded with more than continuous service. The loyal customer reaches that magical stage called advocacy. In this case, David’s name soared throughout the Twitterverse with this customer’s praise. On that day, Verizon Wireless, was a simply irresistible brand.