As an SME entrepreneur, you face several challenges on your way ahead. A most pressing challenge is not having a brand the market knows and talks about. This restricts your ability to seize new business opportunities and scale up the demand for your products and services in new markets.
Unfortunately, in India, there is very little or no knowledge about how to create brands. Most know-how, media coverage and case studies in B-schools are focused on large, established brands. The result is, small enterprises are carried away in branding myths that hinder them from sourcing, capitalising and monetising the value of their most important asset—The Brand. Some popular myths are:
Product is everything: Products get outdated faster than brands. Your brand is like your house. You can change your furniture as it gets old but you don’t easily change your house. The product is not the brand but the product experience is the most valuable brand experience. If your product is not consistent in performance, nobody trusts your brand. In this regard, ‘productising’ is a very useful tool in branding, especially if you run a service business. Productising adds predictability to your performance.
Another useful tool in branding is ‘product as a service’. In concept, it is the opposite of productising, but in highly competitive markets, it differentiates you. It is about imagining how your customer uses your product and designing experiences around it. For example, when you buy a flight ticket, the product is a safe, on-time flight between two destinations. Most airline brands run airplanes of similar make and origin. The differentiator is the service design—before, during and after the flight.
Branding is only for consumer products: Whether you run a B2B or a B2C business or a commodities business, the truth is you have customers and they must trust you if you are to do business and make money. Branding is the process of doing things that build trust. In most B2B businesses, the transaction sizes are significantly higher; therefore, winning the customer’s trust is even more critical. For a consumer product, the risk to a customer is less as the buying price is lower, and trust can often be won through high-pitch advertisements. For B2B companies, you have to win trust at each stage of the customer journey, right from the time the customer gets introduced to you to the time he visits your facilities to transactions thereafter.
Branding is the same as marketing: Although marketing has a role in building brands, branding is not marketing. Branding is like getting the house in order, and marketing is inviting people to it. Marketing helps you acquire while branding helps you retain; and if you learn how to retain, you will never have to acquire again. There are examples of several brands in the world where they hardly spend on marketing yet have the highest market shares. Your brand is your best marketing.
To become a brand, you need to be famous: You don’t become a brand by becoming famous. You become a brand when you become famous for being trusted to do the job. The focus, therefore, has to be on creating a brand that is relevant for the customers and performs consistently under almost all circumstances. Once you are able to do that, becoming famous is going to be easier.
Branding is expensive: Branding is actually not expensive, it is rather valuable. Like all good assets, it gives you positive returns year after year. Rather, marketing is expensive; you have to pay more to convince the customer to buy your product or service. Branding is the opposite of chaos. Managing chaos is expensive, as it increases costs. Non-performance can be really expensive, as you lose the customer forever. Managing reputation loss is extremely expensive as it can bring the brand value to almost zero in no time.
By Saurabh Uboweja
The author is CEO Brands of Desire, a brand consultancy