“Why do we need a brand?” is a question I have been asked many times in my career in marketing. Most often the question comes from the CEO or CFO of a B2B brand or the founder of a start-up enterprise, though I have had the question from B2C companies, and new marketing graduates
It is a good and important question because building a brand costs time, money and effort. Perhaps not surprisingly, I believe it is time, money and effort well spent; it is an investment, not simply a cost.
For me, there are six good reasons to build a brand beyond its basic function as “a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
No.1. More effective and efficient marketing and sales
Defining and agreeing what your brand is beyond a name and identity, is important in ensuring the most effective use of your marketing and sales resources. If everyone knows what your brand is, what it stands for (and against), what its aims are and what its beliefs and principles are, then there is much greater clarity and coherence to any and all marketing, sales and PR efforts. In turn, this makes them work more efficiently in building awareness of and predisposition towards your brand. Without this coherence, there is a danger of a scattergun approach and budgets being wasted.
No.2. Creating demand/pull for the brand
Partly as a result of the first point and partly as your brand reputation grows, you can stop relying on pushing your products all the time because there is a demand for your brand. One of the ways that this can be seen is that when you launch a new product or service, it becomes endowed with what your customer already knows about you and has experience of your brand before.
No.3. Shortening the sales process
Knowledge of your brand isn’t generally going to the sole reason for a purchase, there will be other factors to consider including particular customer requirements and of course pricing, but knowledge of who you are, what you do, and your principles can help speed up and shorten the sales process by allowing your team to cut to the chase more quickly.
No.4. Helping to build greater barriers to entry for competitors
Building your brand and its reputation for what it does and how it does it, means that you start to ‘own’ a space in customers or potential customers’ minds. This means it will be much more likely that you will be on the consideration set for any needs those customers have in that area. It also means you are differentiated from your competitors and can provide reasons to your customers to choose you over them. If you can do this very successfully it also builds the perception that this will be a difficult market to crack for any new competitor.
No.5. Supporting higher prices and margins
Having a truly differentiated product in today’s marketplace is increasingly unlikely and even if you succeed in creating one, it won’t be long before there are me-toos and even me-threes and fours available. Your window of opportunity will close fast. However, it is much more difficult for competitors to copy your brand and its style. It is also more likely that people will be willing to pay more for your brand – maybe not to the 10x level that a Nurofen can command over generic ibuprofen, but often enough to add a significant difference to the bottom line. According to McKinsey research “Emotionally unique brands deliver 10% higher returns to shareholders”.
No.6. Working internally, helping recruitment and retention
Finally, it is worth considering that the best brands work internally as well as externally. A well-defined brand vision and set of beliefs can provide a rallying cry and cultural framework that unites and motivates employees and partners. It also aids recruitment and boosts retention by helping to shape the employee value proposition.
Important questions deserve thoughtful answers and I hope you have found something to think about here.
Written by Giles Lury.
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