I once sat in a meeting discussing a highly successful TV campaign. Underlying the discussion there’s this funny unspoken question from the brand side of the house: “How can it be good branding if it sold so well?”
The truth is that product is your best way to build brand. But this has been lost by the billion dollar brand consultancies and amidst the plethora of marketing PhD dissertations – with collusion from creative teams who learn the hard way that their best opportunity to get the NEXT ad job is to ignore product in THIS one.
Consider the brand ecosystem chart Forrester tweeted today. (Link here.) I challenge you to find product in this brand activity chart. Oh, yes. It’s there…somewhere…amidst all the complexity.
It took me a while to find it. But the product seems to be hidden in the upper right in touchpoint #5 – “Use”. That’s funny, this chart gives it one word. But “using the product” is 95% of a consumer’s interaction with the brand. (If consumer interaction with product is below 95% be afraid. That means you’ve got a quality problem and they’re probably pretty mad at you.)
I’m not picking on Forrester because I mis-understand their intent. I think the intent of this chart is to look at the wide range of activity within a company where brand might be able to be strengthened. Kudo’s to ensuring that your entire company supports brand.
But regardless of its intent, this chart is an accurate representation of the fuzzy thinking in too many ad agencies today – fuzzy thinking which loses track of product amidst amazing sociological gymnastics justifying brand theories.
Consumers don’t buy a brand. They buy a product. Consumers buy a physical thing. If you offer software or a service, they buy a process or an outcome. But in either case they buy something.
In this purchase, the brand impacts their decision and can be a tremendous benefit. So the brand promise desperately needs to have worked it’s way into every far corner of the product or service.
But never forget that when spending their hard earned money, consumers want to buy a something – and not a theory. Brand’s are no more than theories – important theories, but theories none-the-less.
Communication can enhance the power of a brand. But not when that communication becomes so dis-embodied that the product becomes merely a faint aroma slightly flavoring your advertising.
How important is product? Consider Apple and Nissan. Apple has an exceptionally strong brand – because of their products. Despite angst about Apple fanboys, the vast masses of consumers wouldn’t buy iPods, iPhones, iMacs, or iPads if they weren’t highly effective products.
The limit of the Apple brand is shown by the recent Final Cut Pro X release. It was announced one week. The next week my operation began evaluating replacing FCP with options that are NOT from Apple. Why? Apple claims FCP X has brilliant innovation consistent with their brand. That’s nice. But their “innovative software” is imposed in a way which forces Apple’s customers, like us, to make big changes in the way they work and throw out all projects from prior FCP versions. In a situation like this, suddenly brand doesn’t matter. At all.
Consider also Nissan. They’ve benefited from 30 years of highly innovative brand advertising. But their product has never quite made it over the top. So Nissan remains an also ran Japanese car brand. Brand advertising can’t turn lemons into lemonade.
When you sell products effectively, consumers, your bottom line, and your brand will be happier. The better we are at selling products, the better will be the short term, and long term, profits to our clients.
The campaign I mentioned at the start sold well because we used product to define brand. This also gave consumers an immediate reason to connect with the brand and take action. And they did. That’s why it sold so well.
In fact, there’s lots of fluff these days about whether people are “engaged” with advertising. What’s missing is that product is the ultimate engagement point. And I can’t imagine a more powerful brand engagement than purchasing the product.
Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved