The other day I was talking to a prospective client who said this: “I know I should worry about having a strong brand for my company, but I also know that takes work, and resources like time and money, to accomplish. Is it really worth the effort?”
I replied, “Well, let’s make a list of what we can simply call ‘good things that happen when a company like yours has a strong brand’.”
Here’s the list I came up with – a strong brand:
- Makes the customer’s buying decision easier: strong brands are well known, and trusted, which in turn engenders loyalty; why waste time shopping around when I know you will deliver for me?
- Means that you have achieved realistic, effective competitive differentiation in the minds of your customers; they know why you are “better than most or all of your competitors,” and the points of difference are important to them.
- Provides better profit margins. Think about it: a strong brand, with loyal customers, usually can charge some premium above the market standard price, with most or all of the premium going straight to the bottom line.
- Provides internal focus – just like customers know what the brand is about, employees will too, and almost without doubt also be on board with the company’s direction and vision.
- Helps to achieve long term goals – where you want to be, 3, 5, 10 years from now – because people know what the “direction and vision” is!
Then I said, “Look, I could talk about Gulfstream Aerospace – a trusted leader in long-range business jets that defines the playing field – as an obvious example of a strong business aviation brand that exemplifies these five points, but let’s look at another example I like.
“That would be Garmin, an avionics company that has ridden a key technology to broad product leadership. A relatively young company by aviation standards, Garmin entered the market in the early 1990s with GPS products for aircraft panels and as handhelds. (Remember the Garmin GPS 90? They don’t make new ones anymore but it’s still around on eBay).
“Garmin was an early adopter of GPS for navigation and a leader in the use of graphical interfaces. The company developed its own software logic that it uses across product lines – meaning a short learning curve for upgrading to new products with the added benefit of capturing customers for brand extensions. Their focus on GPS soon evolved to include related navigation and communications gear integrated together – often in the same physical unit.
“While the early appeal of Garmin products was to general aviation and amateur built aircraft markets, Garmin also has become a leader in business aviation avionics where today they are OEM-specified in everything from Skyhawks to top line business jets.
“Garmin’s corporate vision statement: ‘We will be the global leader in every market we serve…’ clearly states their objective. The company has made their vision come alive through active involvement in all their markets, understanding how customers use their products, providing top-rated support, and building a product that is durable, of high quality and offers good value.
“So, Garmin certainly fits anyone’s definition of ‘strong brand’ and has reaped the real, associated benefits.”
Given all this, you might think that everyone would strive to develop a strong brand, or at least actively set out to do so. But, certainly, there are companies that have weak brands, and tomorrow we’ll look at some of the reasons why.