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Make it Right!
by Andy
August 30, 2015

Brands are not logos.  They are the emotional embodiment of your company, your products, your service, your commitment.  The stronger your brand, the easier it is to convert prospects into customers, and customers into advocates.  Bob McKinnon, my friend and marketing guru, calls it ‘loyalty beyond reason.’  Accountants refer to it as corporate goodwill.  More crassly, I believe it turns normally smart and rational consumers into irrational morons.  Otherwise, why would anyone pay more for Morton’s salt than generic salt?  Yet they do.

Over time and with relentless consistency, this emotional embodiment can be captured many ways — in a logo (Nike swoosh), by packaging (the Coca-Cola contoured bottle), by color (John Deere green), by sound (Mac’s start-up ‘bong’), and by a slogan (BMW – “The Ultimate Driving Machine”).  In some (unfortunate) cases, it’s captured by a spokesperson (Subway and Jarod Fogle).

So how do you build brands?  According to Sergio Zyman (one-time boss and author of the best-selling book The End of Marketing As We Know it), brands are built by setting brand expectation as high as possible (via positioning, communications, product placement, price, etc.), and then delivering against that expectation time and again.  The more you deliver against that expectation, the stronger your brand becomes.

Sounds simple, yet it’s extremely hard to do as the process is very involved with many stakeholders.  And once launched, marketers can get antsy and make changes before brand expectation takes root.  Or the strategy is flawed and changes are mandated.  Or budgets get cut and brand support goes dark.  Thankfully, strong brands can withstand much.  Weak brands cannot.

The one thing no brand can withstand is not delivering against brand expectation.  That is a killer.  The adage of “nothing kills a bad product faster than good advertising” holds very true and why relentless consistency in brand delivery is critical.  Constant improvement, unyielding customer service, honesty, integrity, transparency – all these are critical to building and sustaining your brand.  Sometimes, however, things go sideways.  This is when you must make it right – and quickly.  If you don’t, word spreads fast thanks to digital word-of-mouth (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, email, YouTube, Vine, etc.).  No amount of marketing can undo poor brand delivery.

It’ll be interesting to see how Subway responds.  As long as it stands for fresh, healthy food at a reasonable price, and continues to deliver against that time and again, Subway should be fine.  Should Subway stray from this core and start offering, say, french fries and ice cream, it undermines brand expectation and faith is lost — along with customers.  That’ll do more damage than any spokesperson can ever do.

4 Responses to “Make it Right!”

  1. “Irrational morons”…no, I don’t think that’s fair, a little harsh, perhaps…there is so little we control in our lives. A lot of what we do involves security, comfort, dependability…Honda because its so technically worthy – so one thinks. Or Ford…”my Dad and his Dad drove a Ford.” It still could be a clunker.
    “We only fly Delta”…not us “We’re Southwest…saves us more.” Saves us more…now that’s real comfort. In any case, most of us drink Pepsi because we always have…our family drinks Pepsi. “Well, we’re a Coke family.”…and so it goes. Irrational morons untie…maybe they’re “Comfortable Consumers”- really “happy morons” and won’t spend their green wisely, because they’re comfortable in their uncomfortable world.
    Great copy and smart thinking, regardless…irrational moron out…
    Lean Inc.- O’Neill
    No Fat All Muscle Marketing Production

  2. Maybe a bit harsh. Strong brands do provide rational comfort for sure. But the Spock in me has a hard time rationalizing paying for the identical chemical formula – NaCl. Highly irrational, yet highly profitable.

  3. there is a difference between “same and similar” – even in salt.

  4. I have found in certain things there is a palpable difference, in others less so. Adn that ties in with what you said about delivering on the brand promise.

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