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A Product is NOT a Brand

A Product is Not a Brand

Having a great product is no longer a guarantee of success. A Bain & Co. survey notes that 80 percent of CEOs believe that their product is differentiated, but only 8 percent of consumers agree. To truly stand out in the market, a product must embody the characteristics of its brand. But, with all the hoopla around branding, it’s no wonder that companies are continually lured into believing that their brand is their product and their product is their brand.

Many companies fail to achieve their branding goals because they mistake their brand for their product, service or technology. Simply put, a brand is none of these! A brand is an experience that lives at the intersection of promise and expectation. Your products are a way to deliver upon that promise. Forget features, concentrate on the unique experience you can provide.

Consumers believe that their decision-making process is completely rational. They examine a competitive set of products for consideration. This set represents the competitive offering, minus those the consumer sees as unworthy, based on past experience, reputation, perceived value, or any number of other factors. They evaluate products based on their own criteria. An emotional choice, rationalized logic. They make decisions based upon their beliefs, and beliefs lead to action.

In order to ensure that your product is preferred over those of your competitors, you must consider the complete brand experience and how that experience will contribute to consumer perception.

Being first to bring new product or technology to market provides an exceptional opportunity to define the category and establish a clear position in the minds of consumers. Without the element of competition, the brand faces no resistance in owning its market. These brands define the markets they operate in by being the first and only to offer consumers a solution to a problem they may never have known they had. Being first has its advantages, but it comes at a price.

The first-to-market position is a market opportunity, not a brand strategy. Competitors are always drawn to new markets where the potential for profit is high and the competition is sparse. Product convergence is inevitable. Advances in technology have made it possible to emulate any product. Eventually, someone comes along with a better widget for a whole lot less. Or worse, they bring a new technology to market that makes your widget obsolete.

Pong meet Atari
Atari meet Nintendo
Nintendo meet PlayStation
PlayStation, meet Xbox
Xbox meet Wii…

Eventually, someone else builds a better product based on superior technology and steals your position, or at the very least, dilutes it. To build a brand on a product or technology is putting the cart before the horse. Price and quality are unsustainable points of differentiation. By delivering on benefits, as opposed to features, a brand can focus on owning a mindset position instead of a product position. This encourages innovation and as such your brand reflects its potential not its confinements.

If you think your product is your brand, think again!