A product itself, is just one element of the overall brand experience. Like a burger in McDonalds to the Petrol in a Shell station, the product is the product is the product. It is not the brand. If it has a logo on it, it’s a logo’d product. It’s still not a brand.
But any product, whilst not a brand in its own right, is the start of a brand ‘promise’. If people have an expectation about a branded product being able to deliver them some ‘effect’, some feeling or some performance benefits and the product fails in that, they will start to have serious doubts about the overall efficacy of the brand itself. In effect, they will start to believe that everything else the brand owner says, must be questionable too.
There is a lesson in here for any brand owner that is well worth thinking about.
Is the quality of anything and everything you do adding to the reputation of your brand, or is it slowly undermining it for it to become average at best, or potentially collapse around your ears at worst?
In what way is it enhancing its differences?
In what way is it making itself one of one to its potential audience?
Is it honestly the best it can possibly be for the money or is it made as cheaply as you can get away with? – if it’s the latter, your brand is in trouble.
Those running brands for big plc’s may well be tempted by the short term gain and leave the longer term problems that they invariably create, to those following in their footsteps. Guinness used to say that brands were far too important to be run by mere brand managers.
For some time, there was a difference in the UK to the US with the way brands were run. In the UK, if your brand did well, you were moved on to others and left your baby behind. This hardly encouraged long term planning. In the US, the opposite applied and if your brand got bigger, so did your job. But it still remained your responsibility and you treated it with far more reverence.
In building a brand, you create layer upon layer of brand expectation and brand experience.
Using the onion analogy, a brand has many layers and a core of values. Every contact or touch point builds another layer. A good one obviously adds in a positive sense and a bad one if you’re lucky, may just peel back one layer, but still leave lots of good stuff in place.
The fear for any owner is however if your layers are thin or if there are doubts already beginning in a consumers mind, it could almost certainly undermine all the hard work you have gone into building it in the first place.
So, a product isn’t a brand, but if you get it wrong you can guarantee that consumers will make a negative connection between the two very quickly indeed.