Your brand is a promise of value. Strong brands build customer loyalty by being consistent, honest, and differentiated.
Brands are built on consistency, which means that your customer gets the same product or service each time they choose to do business with you. For example, no matter where you buy a Coca-Cola, you know that it will taste the same. Even the packaging will be same. This reliability makes buying a Coke an easy decision.
While the exact formula of Coca-Cola is a trade secret, we all understand that it is carbonated sugar water. Coca-Cola has marketed Coke with a variety of slogans such “The pause that refreshes”, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke”, and “Coke is it”. The underlying message has been a simple one: drink this carbonated sugar water and you will have fun. This honesty rings true for the consumer.
Differentiation is what the customer believes to be special or unique about the brand. While it could be argued that colas are very similar or even the same, Coke drinkers think otherwise by choosing it over the many other cola alternatives. Coke has extended its brand to include many different flavors including Diet Coke, Cherry Coke, and Vanilla Coke (to name a few). These spin off products have proven to be wildly successful. Note how similar these products really are.
Still, you must be careful not to dilute your brand by trying to be something you are not. For example, I read recently that Buick has been marketing the Buick Lucerne in China as a luxury automobile brand and has had considerable success in selling to upper class business executives. You may be surprised to know that China is now the world’s second-largest auto market with 250 million members of its emerging middle class owning a car or planning to buy one within the next two years. Encouraged by their success in the luxury market, Buick extended their brand with an economy model selling for $12,000. Unfortunately, this brand extension backfired. The luxury car buyer was left confused by the economical image of the new cars; the China luxury car buyer deserted the Buick brand for other upscale automobiles.
The Buick lesson is simple: don’t confuse your customers with high, medium and low quality offerings. Instead, be like Coca-Cola and be true to your brand even if it is just carbonated sugar water.
John Bradley Jackson
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