Branding: The Simple Math of Branding
The art of brand building still remains a mystery to many companies. During these tough economic times, business leaders are searching for ways to grow their brands, expand their reach and influence their bottom lines.
Retailers need to reach more people with more products, more often. Human nature tells us the best way to grow a brand is to sell more stuff to more people. Makes sense, right? It's simple math. Ironically, the opposite is often true. The broader your product offering, the more watered down your brand becomes. The more watered down your brand is, the less meaningful and memorable it is to consumers.
The goal is to own a position in the minds of consumers. What does your brand stand for? When people hear your company's name, what do they think of? Owning multiple positions in the consumer's mind isn't an option. It simply can't be done effectively. It's a fact. Our minds don't work that way. With all of the competing marketing messages today, you're fortunate if consumers can remember one thing about your brand. Asking them to think of you for multiple things is asking way too much. After all, that's the simple definition of branding: a singular idea or concept that you can own in the mind of the prospect. Levi's sells jeans. Starbucks sells coffee. Hershey's sells chocolate.
Allow me to explain how expanding your brand can actually weaken it. Al Ries, one of the world's better-known marketing strategists, calls it the "Law of Expansion." The power of a brand is inversely proportional to its scope — i.e., the broader a brand tries to get, the less focused and less successful it becomes. In other words, you simply can't be all things to all people. Yet many brands still think they can (or at least they'd like to try). It may sound a bit counterintuitive, but the more focused your brand is, the narrower your product offering, the better it will perform in the long run. And that's the key — in the long run.
It's true that if you add products to your merchandising mix today you'll perhaps see a spike in sales tomorrow. But most likely this will be short-term success. Branding is meant to be a long-term endeavor. This is where many CEOs make a mistake. Do they invest in the brand today, staying focused on its core competency so it can build brand loyalists for the future? Or do they expand the brand today in order to make short-term gains, but ultimately weaken the brand in the long run?