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Branding: is it relevant in an internet driven, price focused world?

It’s a bit of a cliché to say that things in business have changed a bit over the last few years.

Things have changed, utterly, monumentally, unrecognisably. The world we live in now could not be more different than the world of 10 years ago. Even 5 years ago.

Consumers now have perfect access to all pricing, specifications, reviews and ratings of your product. They know far more about it than you do. They can be standing in your shop and within seconds have all the other places they can buy your product for less with a better guarantee.

They have much less time to spare for marketing.

Oh, and they talk about you. In public. Where everyone else can see them. Every little mishap or glitch in your system, they bombard you with complaints.

And on top of all that, you now have hundreds of competitors from all over the world, doing exactly what you do. They copy you and undercut you on price.

Many sales principles have changed in the face of this. They’ve had to.

The process of buying something is now so transparent, so spontaneous, so instantaneous and so scrutinised. People trust you less than ever, they have less time, and less patience.

But there’s also an awful lot of good news.

People have more money than ever before.

It’s never been easier to setup a company, start trading and spread your message.

Corporations are more accountable and more transparent than they have ever been.

People are arguably more loyal, because they don’t have time to research options and change brands every time they want to re-order.

And we ourselves have got an awful lot better at selling and marketing.

One thing hasn’t changed. And that is the power of a brand.

Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, we could differentiate ourselves relatively easily from our competition. Because information was so much less available, customers’ imperfect knowledge of the market meant that we could claim that we were different even if we weren’t.

Nowadays, not only can we not hide, but even if we do come up with a unique feature or service, competitors copy it.

The only real competitive advantage left to us now is that of the brand.

And the good news is that a powerful brand is the most powerful, profitable and growth-driving asset that a business can have.

A brand is what people say about you. It’s the deep-down gut feeling they have about you, and the emotions they experience when they are reminded of you.

It’s fundamentally the personality of your company, or the personality of its driving influence. It’s how you behave and how you think.

And it’s the most powerful and valuable thing your company owns.

People can copy what we do, but they can’t copy who we are.

A brand with an appealing, unique, underlying belief, and an authentic way of communicating it, will by default attract buyers and create loyalty.

If Coca-Cola lost all of its tangible assets overnight – property, stock, manufacturing equipment etc. – it would still be a successful company.

If all its consumers had memory loss and forgot what Coca-Cola was, the company would die very quickly.

Coca-Cola goes dead against the current consumer trends: it’s relatively tasteless, mass-produced, sugary and acidic.  There’s an urban myth that police use it to clean blood off the streets after a shootout.  And it’s marked up with a ridiculous profit margin.

But it’s one of the widest-consumed soft drinks in the world and one of the best known brands globally. They turn over billions every year.

It’s because of the power of a brand.

So this is a valuable lesson in today’s mad world of the digital era. You don’t have to be unique. You don’t need talent. You don’t need to price match, or be the cheapest in your category. And you don’t even need to have a product or service that’s particularly good.

You just have to have a bit of personality and a bit of authenticity and let that go. And your brand will fly.


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