There is a vast difference between a business and a brand. Business can be a routine but the brand is something unique. Making toothpaste is a business, so many companies are there in this business, but ‘Colgate’ is a brand.
Even Colgate is so powerful brand in the mind of people, that even if the family is using ‘Pepsodent’ toothpaste but still many family members call it as ‘Colgate’ only.
Businesses survive but Brands thrive. When products in any category become a commodity, it’s the only brand that differentiates them. A brand is the best defense against commoditization. When your business just pays the bills for the month, you’re playing checkers and being one-dimensional. People are loyal to brands and relationships, not corporations or businesses.
(Content credit to one of my all-time favorite books ‘The Millionaire Fastlane: Crack the Code to Wealth and Live Rich for a Lifetime’ by MJ DeMarco)
Business vs Brand
When you think about a Volvo, what comes to your mind? It must be safety. Porsche? I think speed. How about Ferrari? Rich. Volkswagen? Practical… which then mutated untrustworthy with their 2015 diesel technology scandal. Toyota? Reliability. Yet, when someone mentions Chevrolet, nothing clear comes to mind other than bankruptcy, union disputes, and unpredictable reliability. Some auto manufacturers have carved out strong brands, while the others fortify a business.
Any person with the carpet-cleaning business also has a business and not a brand. Brands don’t have identity crises, businesses do. If that person wants to excel in an industry saturated with me-toos, he’s going to have to brand and differentiate himself. He needs to be a Lamborghini in a traffic jam of Chevys. What will make his carpet cleaning business different from the rest? Why should people hire him even though his prices might be 20% higher? Perhaps he can brand himself as a “no-nonsense” carpet cleaner—fixed prices, no surcharges, and no fine print.
Apple, the computer maker, is a great example of building a brand based on a need, or a nuisance. People hate viruses, spyware, and the constant “Your updates are ready” messages that are associated with PC computers. Apple exploited PC’s weaknesses and solved their problems. It has built itself into one of the most successful brands in history. Apple isn’t the cheapest because they’ve engineered a brand and they can demand a higher price. Say “Apple,” and many images come to mind: creative, trendy, easy, and stylish. When I think of PC, I think of blue screens, illegal operations, and “you must reboot your computer 17 times before this update takes effect.” One is a business. The other is a brand.
One more important thing about ‘Apple’ branding is they only focus on two things, one is making unique products (e.g. iPhone) and the second is making all things only and only to support those products (e.g. iTunes).
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
USP is something to focus on from day one in the business. It may take time, but if you focused on it, your product will have soon have it. Many of the first steps in building a brand is to have a Unique Selling Proposition or a USP. As a business without one, you’re floating in a sea of me-too businesses without a rudder. USP-less businesses offer nothing distinct or unique, no benefit or logical reasons why someone should buy other than hope or circumstance wrapped around a cheap price.
Your USP is your brand anchor and is typically your lead value skew.
What makes your company different from the rest?
What will compel a customer to buy from you over someone else?
MJ DeMarco’s USP was powerful: “No-risk advertising: If we send you nothing, you pay nothing.” Advertisers joined by the truckload because they were tired of expensive advertising options which offered this risk proposition: “Pay us $5,000 upfront, then hope and pray.” He exposed a pain-point, fixed it, and then advertised it. That carpet cleaner had no USP. Nothing set him apart, as he might as well just been a lonely grain of rice in a 50-pound bag of feed. USPs are the building blocks to brands and can compensate for higher prices or even an inferior product.
FedEx was introduced to the world when it said, “When your package absolutely positively has to be there overnight.” M&M’s said, “The milk chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.” Notice how these USPs target benefits. I don’t like Domino’s Pizza (despite once being employed by them), and yet that didn’t stop them from building a pizza empire based on the USP of “delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.” Domino’s identified the need: Pizza delivery was a long ordeal. They solved it, branded it, and the rest is history. More recently, Dominos became the first major fast pizza chain to offer vegan cheese as an option. This uniqueness broadens their market to a swath of new consumers who never before considered the chain.
Price Perception in Brand Building
Price is a brand-builder because price implies value. The more expensive your price, the higher its perceived value. The cheaper your price, well, the cheaper it will be perceived. Price isn’t just a number that tells someone cost. It conveys value and worth.
There’s an old story about how price equates to value. Cleaning his basement, a man found an old dresser and decided to give it away. He moved the dresser to the street corner and placed a sign atop it: FREE. Shockingly, the dresser stood there all day, and for several days thereafter. This confused the man because the dresser, albeit old, was in decent shape and just needed a quick wood stain for perfection. The man decided a new strategy was warranted. He went to the street corner and replaced the “FREE” sign with “$50.” Not an hour later, the dresser was stolen. Same objective, different pricing strategy.
A company placed two ads for only one web programmer position in the paper. One listed the salary as $120K a year. The other ad listed it for $32K a year. The first, higher-paying ad received only about four responses. The second ad for MUCH less pay got over 100 responses. Most people have a lack of confidence in themselves and their ability and are willing to settle for so much less.
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett