5 myths about branding.

Posted on March 5, 2011


This blog is about thinking outside the box and so the aim of this short article is to get you to think again about 5 of the most commonly heard viewpoints  on successful branding/rebranding.  To encourage debate I’m going to refer to these as the ‘5 Myths’:

Myth 1: Exceed your clients’ expectations. Every time I read this type of statement I get concerned. I am a Project Manager and often in managing a project it is difficult enough to deliver the outputs on time, of sufficient quality, to budget and within scope let alone trying to exceed client expectations.  Let me put it this way, if your client wants “a” don’t give him “a+” Why you might ask? Well, “a+” will surely cost you a bit more, in time, in resources  or in some other way.  Think of the EXTRA time YOU spend in the office in order to “exceed your client expectations”; he is not paying for it so wouldn’t you be better off using that time in some other way? Dealing with another client perhaps, doing some sport for the sake of your health, spending some quality time with your family or socialising with your friends?  Besides, if you give people (clients) more than they ask for all the time they will think “more” is the norm. Think of Amazon; I am always buying books from them and despite them saying delivery will take 5 working days, my purchases invariably arrive within 2 or 3 days.  The other day, however, I ordered a book and when it arrived on the 5th working day, I was disappointed!

Think of other services where it seems companies often fail to deliver within the deadlines they advertise (eg furniture delivery, phone lines being connected, internet being installed).  Wouldn’t we be delighted if they delivered what they promised us, when they promised to? Of course we would, but it seems many service providers can’t do even that.  My point here is simple, when there are so many organisations under-delivering , doing just what you promised is probably good enough  – trust me.

Myth 2: Your client “owns” your brand. Sorry but they do not.  You want you client to be your “friend” and your “friends” do not own you.  Their opinions are important and you should listen to them but they will not stop loving you if you are firm in your opinion, values or whatever, as long as you EXPLAIN WHY you are doing things one way and not the other (even if this is what they have suggested). Your relationship with your client is clearly important and you should give consideration to their views but at the end of the day you must make the decisions and should remain true to your values.

Myth 3: You have to have a unique “product” or be different. This sentence is easily said, but, what if you don’t have a unique product? Does this mean there is no place for you/your product in the market place? In fact, sometimes what you want is to be the same, or similar, to a leading product (but perhaps less expensive).  Think of how many mobile phones are similar to the iPhone. If they were trying to be “unique” they would probably look quite different, but they don’t. You can also use “the same” for your own advantage, think about ink cartridges; I bought one the other day and the salesman’s pitch was “it does the same as the named brand for half the price”.

Ok, but let’s imagine you do not want to be the same, as you are too proud to copy others, but you do not necessarily want to be unique either as you are either not creative enough or are not willing to invest sufficient time in Research and Development.  Well, perhaps it is Ok not having a unique product, if what you do have is of a satisfactory standard and what you deliver is consistently what your clients expect. Consistency can be preferable to “unique” or “different”. Burger King deliver a consistent product everywhere, it might not be high-end cuisine, but whenever you go, you know what to expect.  In an unfamiliar environment, going to the brand you know reduces the risk of not getting something you like.

Myth 4: You have to offer quality. But what if your aim isn’t quality.  Think of Ryanair; I do not know anyone who flies with Ryanair for the quality of its service, they do so because it is cheap. Also, consider pirate DVDs – if people want quality they go to the cinema or wait for the blu-ray DVDs to come out, but if they want to see a film BEFORE it goes to the cinema or gets formally released or if they don’t have the money to buy the real thing they might consider buying an illegal version.  So, no, you do not have to have quality as long as that is not what you promise to deliver.  Clearly if what you advertise is 5 Star service, or a high-end product, then quality is something that you have to deliver.

Myth 5: You have to have “good presentation”. In terms of products this could be fancy packaging, a nice website, whatever you perceive good presentation to be.  The problem here can be when the presentation is “good” but not what your client expects.  Monsanto is a good example of missing this point;  one of Monsanto’s main business streams is selling soybean seeds to farmers in Brazil it is an area in which the company had always done very well.  For some reason however their sales dropped dramatically one year (2006 I think). It was difficult for the management to understand why, as their product was the same as previously and the packages better as they invested lots of money buying laptops, new cars and smart suits for their sales people.  After much soul-searching, they discovered what the problem was – their improved presentation.  You see their main clients were farmers, many of whom were rich, but quite simple people for whom who they did business with mattered.  Often business was often done over a cup of coffee and home-made cake or “cheesebread” and they liked to feel they were dealing with a friend or at least someone they could relate to.  When the Monsato salesmen started wearing suits and showing them presentations on their laptops it broke the bond they had previously with the farmers, leaving the farmers suspicious and less likely to buy.
Presentation is important, but the most important thing is ensuring your presentation is appropriate for the environment you a pitching at.  Turning up for a job interview in a bank wearing jeans and a t-shirt is unlikely to help your cause whereas wearing a suit for a job in a creative environment might lead to you being considered  “too corporate”. Are you getting the picture?

Anyway, these are my ‘5 Myths’, I’d welcome your views particularly if you can add to the list…..