What should you do when your PRODUCT is better than your BRAND

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers


This article is not about we could go on about how product and brand coincide.  Yes, they should be one in the same. They should work together and play off one another. All that makes perfect sense to every marketer.  But running a brand, connected to a P&L and delivering results forces marketers to go beyond theory.  As a marketer, many times you have ask a very important question:  

What is better, the pure performance delivered by the product or the how well the idea of the brand connects with consumers?  

Here’s a few examples where there are differences.  I worked in the allergy category on Zyrtec (Reactine) and the product is better than the brand, competing against Claritin where the brand is better than the product.  In electronics, Samsung’s product is better than the brand, while Apple’s brand is better than the product. I’ve owned a Toyota for 10 years which is an amazing product:  high resale value, low maintenance, quality experience.  But can you define the Toyota brand easily?   On the other hand, I bought ONE and only ONE Volkswagen Beetle.  I connected to the Beetle brand’s non-conformist spirit, the expressed creativity and nostalgic style. But, that product was a pain. Constant breakdowns and repairs.  And we have all seen how Pepsi used their great tasting products to make gains through the Pepsi challenge in the 1970s and 80s.    

When you have a product that beats the brand, you need to figure out how to create a brand that matches up to the product, because when the Brand is better, you’d better push that R&D to start to fill in any gaps. 

Here’s the Game Plan:

Here’s a 5 point plan that will help make the most of your great product, while at the same time building a following and creating a brand. 

1. Drive Trial by emphasizing Substance over Style

Early on, you have to create a bigger sales base by standing behind your greatest asset:  that amazing performing product.  It makes common sense, right.  But then why aren’t you doing it?  When I first got on Zyrtec (Reactine) they had some fluffy advertising that tried to replicate the “freedom” positioning that Claritin owned.  Our advertising drove more brand link for Claritin than us.  Yet, in blind tests, over 83% of consumers noticed a positive impact, compared to only 38% for Claritin.  We narrowed our entire plan down to one strategy, by driving trial.  Everything, from the advertising to sampling to doctor recommendations came down to trial and we were able to make significant share gains on Claritin. 

2. Establish a unique brand position

You can’t rely on trial alone, because it could be a very slow and expensive pathway to success.   USP 2.0Don’t think of a brand position as just something you will advertise, but rather something that gives your brand focus. You must pick a focused target market, by putting your resources against those consumers who are most motivated by what you have to offer.  A focused target impacts all your executional choices of where you advertise, distribution choices, future product innovation and pricing.  Shift your focus from product features (what you do) to benefits (what they get) which immediately increases your power with consumers.  Layer in two reasons to believe, that re-enforces the benefit and enables you to tell a consistent and quick “elevator speech” about your brand.  The focused brand story makes sure that everyone in your entire organization follows the same story at every touch point of your brand. 

3. Use key influencers to highlight your product strengths

If your category leverages key influencers whether it’s product reviewers (food critics), experts (doctors) or on-line user-generated review sites (Yelp or Trip Advisor) then you need to take full advantage of each of these tools to your full advantage.  But there needs to be a constant and consistent effort to ensure your product is best represented.   Imagine getting the review below on your hotel. 


4.  Get your followers to talk about how good you are

With social media,it’s a great opportunity to leverage those who already the product and have them influence their followers.  Slide1Most marketers have been trained to try to INTERRUPT the consumer in a busy part of their day and then YELL at them over and over.  It was all about AWARENESS-PURCHASE-LOYALTY where Awareness leads to conversion to Purchase which then the brand experience leads to Loyalty.  The new school of marketing is all about LOYALTY-AWARENESS-PURCHASE where the most loyal users will be the ones driving Awareness and the influence of the conversion to purchase.  It’s no longer about yelling at strangers on TV.  Instead, you have to engage your most loyal consumers, and they become the medium for reaching new users as they WHISPER advice to their friends.  These new tools are a great opportunity for you to get the most satisfied consumers to sell the product on your behalf.  Brands have also leveraged their own social media sites to act as listening forums for feedback on how to get better.

5. Layer in emotional benefits

Most product oriented brands avoid the emotional elements of their brand. I would recommend you walk before you run, and use the emotional benefits as a way to back up what you’re doing on the product side.  It seems that not only do consumers have a hard time expressing their emotions about a brand, but so do Brand Managers.   Companies like Hotspex have mapped out all the emotional zones for consumers.   I’m not a researcher, but if you’re interested in this methodology contact Hotspex at http://www.hotspex.biz  Leverage this type of research and build your story around the emotions that best fit your consumer needs.  Leveraging Hotspex, I’ve mapped out 8 zones in a simplistic way below:

Within each of the zones, you can find emotional words that closely align to the need state of the consumer and begin building the emotional benefits within your Customer Value Proposition.  It almost becomes a cheat sheet for Brand Managers to work with.  But you want to just own one emotional zone, not them all.  

It is time to get your Brand in line with the quality of your Product




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