July 31st, 2015
Invariably, I hear this from the CEOs of young companies, and not-so-young companies, especially in the tech sector: “It’s too soon to brand. We’ll build our product and worry about that later.”
Branding, they wrongly surmise, is akin to paint — applied at the end of the process.
This philosophy isn’t so surprising, given that most members of the tech sector believe the world revolves around products and the latest technology. It isn’t true. The world revolves around customers: they have the problems that need solving; they pay to solve them.
Branding, the art of devising and articulating a value proposition, is a customer-centric task. A strong, unique brand — the end game — can endure for many decades, while a product is merely the current means to that end. Products, like snowflakes, are ephemeral.
Warning: Anyone who utters such blasphemy in a tech-heavy precinct likely will receive the Galileo treatment (the Catholic Church punished him for his heretical but correct heliocentric model of the universe).
Brand Is Foundation
I must take this a step further: the brand is the foundation of any product you invent and endeavor to sell.
Have you ever noticed a building under construction, be it a house or a skyscraper? Here’s what every building has in common: the foundation is built first, never last. Bingo. As seen below, a weak foundation causes structural collapse. And, that’s what happens when you build your brand last.
Trying to build a brand at the end of the process — in other words, treating it like paint — can be very costly and cumbersome. The brand incorporates the customers’ needs, wants, emotions, and language — and thereby dictates product functionality and format.
Building your brand first — and correctly — makes the product-development/improvement processes streamlined, targeted, and cost-effective. It also guides product replacements and service enhancements.
Frequently, solutions to customers’ problems aren’t products but easy changes to how you treat them. Alas, arrogant cable-TV carriers realized this late in the game.
Lesson: If you’re focused on your product, instead of on your customers, you’ll be blind to easy ways to satisfy them!
Parting Advice to CEOs
Next time you say, or anyone on your staff says, “It’s too soon to brand,” recall the image of the collapsing apartment building above. Etch it into your brain and your gut.
It’s never too soon to do it right.
POSTSCRIPT #1: Poor Foundation Causes Millennium Tower in San Francisco to Sink
About the Author
Marc Rudov is a branding advisor to CEOs,
producer of MarcRudovTV, and author of the book,
Be Unique or Be Ignored: The CEO’s Guide to Branding.
© 2015 Marc H. Rudov. All Rights Reserved.