So if there’s a topic that is well covered on the Internet, it’s brands and brand building. In fact, terms like “personal brands” are used so much that my immediate reaction is to mentally turn off. But, to turn completely away from understanding brands and their value is a mistake.
There are a lot of theories out there about brands and there are those who know way more than I do but I want to talk about it anyway. Instead of going 5 miles deep in brand theory, I wanted to set up some ground rules for understanding and building brands. If you want to go deeper, get a doctorate.
It’s Hard to Relate to the Intangible
Companies struggle to make connections with people. If a company or organization can make a real connection with a customer, that customer can be changed from a one-time purchaser to a repeat purchaser. String a number of repeat customers together and you have a healthy business. But, like I said before, companies struggle to make connections with people. Why? Companies are abstract. They are secretive. They are hard to define. Many times, they are even harder to understand. People don’t fall in love with things they don’t understand.
You want an illustration? Not to throw a company under a bus, but do you love Halliburton? Let’s take politics out of the equation and simply focus on the company. If you don’t love Halliburton, why not? Is it because you have no idea what they do? Maybe you do love Halliburton, I don’t and it’s mainly because it seems like an enormous company that is mysterious and are scary for some reason. As a company, they have never extended their hand and introduced themselves to me. They have remained in the shadows so I have negative feelings towards them.
Let’s take a look at two other equally vexing companies. How do you feel about 3M or BASF? Chances are, you feel a lot better about those companies. BASF doesn’t make the products I buy, they make the products I buy better. If I am being honest, I still don’t really know what that means, but I know it makes me feel better.
3M has a very tangible product that makes me feel good about them. 3M makes post-it notes. Post-it notes are so insanely useful and lovable that the feeling rubs off on the company.
I would argue that there probably isn’t a giant difference between Haliburton, 3M or BASF. Yes, they are in different industries, but they are all three large companies that are hard to define or explain. Yet, we feel positive feeling toward some and negative feelings toward others. What’s the difference? Brands. 3M and BASF have developed brands and spent money to protect them. Brands work. Brands are valuable.
Just ask the most cited brand in the world, Coca-Cola. At the mention of that name, I bet you immediately have an image of vibrant red with a flowing ribbon of white intermingled with scripty letters. Even better, you may be thinking about grabbing a cold can right now. That’s brand power. In reality, Coca-Cola is a collection of factories and bottling plants filled with scary contraptions that fill bottles and cans with fizzy brown water sugar concoctions. They have diverted out attention from that and reminded us that in ice-cold Coke is refreshing. They’ve reminded us over and over. Enough of this, I want a Diet Coke
More to Come
This is the first blog entry in a series where I will try and tackle the idea of brands. I will talk about them as I see them so there will no doubt be disagreement. I plan to use this to learn more. In my next article, I am going to talk about what a brand is and what it isn’t.