Your brand is your reputation. It is how customers perceive your firm, regardless of the products or services you bring to market, and while brands are not permanent by any means, the longer they exist and the more they are reinforced, the harder they are to attack. Many companies can have a misstep when it comes to a particular product or service. Companies with a strong brand are more likely to weather a misstep because most consumers will forgive a single transgression if they already perceive the brand to be strong and of high quality.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Steve Maul, Chief Revenue Officer at LocatorX, Inc.
Thank you for joining us Steve! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have always been passionate about creating a strong relationship between myself and my customers, whether that was at the personal level — in ways I serve them directly — or as a company, in creating a sense of comfort in their decision to buy from us. A company’s brand is all about creating a sense of fulfillment… whether that be in addressing a need for quality, reliability, security or status. A customer buys not just for utilitarian fulfillment of a need, but usually makes their selection based on how the brand aligns with their sense of purpose or needs at a higher level.
In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?
Brand marketing creates a general sense of what the brand delivers, regardless of the specific product’s capabilities or features. Luxury brands market themselves as fulfilling the need for style, status or having “arrived” at a certain social level, regardless of how well their individual products actually perform their stated functional purpose. Product marketing can (and should) play on the brand to strengthen its message, but in the end is likely to focus more on the capabilities, features or attributes of the product itself. As an example, when you’re buying a Lamborghini, you’re exposed to the brand messages of “fast,” “sporty,” “status,” and “exclusive,” but the product messaging is going to focus on the engine attributes, the driver experience and the overall design of the vehicle.
Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?
Your brand is your reputation. It is how customers perceive your firm, regardless of the products or services you bring to market, and while brands are not permanent by any means, the longer they exist and the more they are reinforced, the harder they are to attack. Many companies can have a misstep when it comes to a particular product or service. Companies with a strong brand are more likely to weather a misstep because most consumers will forgive a single transgression if they already perceive the brand to be strong and of high quality. Of course, repeated missteps can destroy even the strongest of brands (think Arthur Andersen or Enron), but if you lack a strong brand in your marketplace, a single misstep can prevent that brand from ever developing.
Can you share 5 strategies that a large company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.
Be specific in your brand goals. You don’t get to unilaterally establish your brand, but your brand will develop more quickly if you are clear and specific in what you’re trying to establish. You need to define exactly what you’d like your brand to be and why that brand creates value in your customers’ lives. If you want to be “trusted,” you need to identify the areas in which you want your customers to feel that trust. Is it that you’ll always stand behind your product (e.g. Nordstrom), or that you can count on them to always tailor their services to your needs (e.g. Ritz-Carlton)? Is your trust to be based on the reliability of your service (e.g. FedEx) or that your product is the easiest to use (e.g. Apple)?
Differentiate your brand from others. How does your high-quality product or service create a stronger bond with consumers than your competitor’s high-quality product or service? If the specifics of the product or service are similar, what will set your brand apart? What is that “extra” element of your brand that will make the difference?
Align the business to your desired brand. There’s not much that can slow a brand’s development more than a company developing and marketing products or services that do not exhibit or reinforce the brand. Every product or service experience that does not support the brand detracts from it. But it’s not a 1-for-1 exchange. Someone who has a negative experience with your company will have to have 3–5 (or more) brand-supporting experiences in order to overcome that one negative interaction.
Support your brand in indirect ways. One of the reasons that athletes can get endorsements or underwriting from firms that have nothing to do with athletics is that the brand can then be associated with performance, competitiveness, winning and excellence. Does a tennis player’s win at Wimbledon really relate to a software company’s ability to process your company’s payroll? No. But when Novak Djokovic won this year’s gentleman’s final, the Ultimate Software logo was everywhere he was, and those connections get made in the viewer’s mind.
In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand? What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?
There are several brands that have done an excellent job of creating a strong brand. At the top of my list is The Home Depot, because their brand is all about creating the “can-do” attitude amongst homeowners and handymen, and everything about their execution supports that brand.
Replication of a brand isn’t just about copying what others have done. Mimicry is often quite obvious to the consumer, and the brand won’t strengthen in the way or at the speed you’d like. Instead, it’s imperative to personalize your brand in a way that reflects the ideals and standards of your organization and the relationship you want with your customers.
Thank you for all of these great insights!