Adding value to your brand can help build a strong bond between your business and your customers and enable you to charge a premium for your products or services says Alan Kaplan.
One key element in the creation of successful brands is the ability to augment a core product or service with additional and distinctive values that distinguish it from competition.
Whilst many SME’s focus on functional values, far fewer develop brand values that are less easily copied, like emotional and expressive values that are of optimal relevance to the target market.
The overwhelming majority of successful brands I have worked with, as well as those of which I am aware, add what I call higher order values that help create and maintain valuable bonds between brands and their users enabling the brand concerned to charge a premium compared with the price in a non branded situation. Coca Cola therefore commands a premium over Cola.
Ultimately, in a free market system, customers will generally be prepared to consider paying more if they perceive they are getting more value for their dollar, be this in a functional, emotional, expressive, or other form. Brands have the capacity to add this additional value whether real or perceived.
Those who drink Coca Cola don’t just drink a sticky brown coloured drink but a brand with many connotations. Its taste and thirst quenching abilities are relatively less important to its target markets than its ability, to conjure desirable lifestyle images or encourage positive self and peer group associations. After all Coke even added life some years back!
The relative importance of functional and emotional values is evident from blind taste tests in both the cola and beer sectors where some participants who claimed to be brand loyal to one brand actually preferred the taste of another until told what they had been drinking, after which their preference switched back to their regular brand.
Over time I have worked with many companies from start ups to blue-chip internationals where value creation in brands was, and still is, an important part of the brief.
One of the most interesting examples centres around the time I was appointed by Agrevo to examine the feasibility of launching a new gardening range in tandem with what is now a subsidiary of Sakata, in an overseas market.
Whilst I had enjoyed much success with Agrevo in environmental health in a mature market, and acknowledged to have played a significant part in taking them to market leader in that specific sector, this was a new area for both of us.
Following a market overview I partnered with an AC Nielsen owned company to conduct market research at both consumer and trade levels after which I analysed the data and found that the gap that presented in the market was for a range of products that went beyond the confusing ‘me too’ choice that prevailed.
What consumers wanted overwhelmingly was simplicity of choice and use, something the trade endorsed.
Brand development of the Agrevo Gardening Range (This was mandatory from France) was therefore on the major platform ‘Easy to Choose, Easy to Use.’
The range was launched in eye catching shake and spray trigger containers, which stood out distinctively on shelf. The Ease of use theme was widely and consistently applied across all touch points, including point of sale. In addition to consumers, the trade, media and gardening communities and experts (opinion leaders) were powerful allies as stakeholders.
On a foundation of research, experience, expertise and creative infusion we added values that were emotional and expressive and communicated these in the most optimal manner to a target sector selected on the basis of psychographic and other relevant factors.
Easy to Choose, Easy to Use had an association with reassurance and peace of mind and in addition, by demonstrating and illustrating that each of the variants in the range provided excellent outcomes, (beautiful gardens, etc) we engendered pride and a feeling of achievement within our gardening target group.
Prize winning gardens that now used the range formed part of the PR and imagery exercise as did a trip to what is arguable the World’s Best Garden Show, The Chelsea Flower Show, which further boosted the image of the brand.
The promotion was undertaken in conjunction with Garden and Home a publication with outstanding credibility and objectivity.
Of major value to the client was that the media space and a host of surrounding magazine PR regarding the promotion were free of charge. This was because the magazine felt we were adding substantial value to them and their readers. Being featured on the magazine cover added even more value.
The launch and subsequent growth of the brand went far beyond projected outcomes.
I recently consulted to four organizations in Australia that had no emotional or expressive values for their brands whatsoever and part of my task was to assist them to add these. One of these is an international company in the FMCG sector, and the others SME’s in diverse areas.
SME’s should examine the value their brands offer and ensure that this extends beyond the functional and that the values chosen are relevant and credible.
If they have the expertise they can add these values themselves, but if not they should work with a skilled and experienced professional who is practical and affordable as most SME’s cannot afford large scale research and take the big company route, needing instead a more down to earth pragmatic approach.
In this regard a situational analysis and brand audit is a good place to begin.
Alan Kaplan PhD is an Executive Director of Optivance 360 a multidisciplinary consultancy that helps SME’s grow and flourish. Alan’s international experience spans more than 25 years across academic, media, agency, client and consulting areas. Alan’s profile can be viewed on LinkedIn and he can be contacted on 0418758555. The skills and experience of the core Optivance 360 team, together with its service offering and value proposition can be viewed at www.optivance360.com