If there’s one general rule for brands it would seem to be this: Your brand is what you put into your product, not something you add on to your product when it’s ready to ship. If you create a product and then try to dial up some “branding” to make it appear special and unique, and “emotional,” you’ve already lost the brand strategy war. You’ve reduced your brand to a media exercise. Instead of being a direct drive to create value and create customers, your brand as “branding” is busy creating “impressions,” “likes” and other media metrics. While that may be good business for publishers and ad agencies, you and your customers deserve more.
The brand as a method to create value
Strategically, we want our brands to advance our customers beyond the reach of competitors. Being strategic, we design this process so our customers will also be able to add value back to the brand, through their initiative, insight and innovation. Our goal is to partner with customers to make competitors irrelevant in the new context we’re jointly creating. (Two against one being strategically superior to one on one.)
This means that your brand is much more than a communication tacked on to the product with bells and whistles. It’s a method to create value, a creative discipline far closer to innovation than to the fluff stuff of advertising or PR. Specifically, it’s a method of engagement that advances customers where competitors can’t follow. For example, Apple makes some wonderful products in the iPod touch, iPhone and iPad, but Apple’s real brand power lies in the systematic and seamless experience that it delivers to customers: an integrated operating system, iTunes, apps, App Store, Apple Store and perhaps soon the iCloud, all of which combine to take Apple customers to a new level of being and doing. Once Apple has advanced customers to this level, why would they settle for anything less?
Here are a few reference posts that expand on the ideas above: