A product isn’t a brand but it is one element of a brand promise

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.

McDonalds Burger – All part of the branded experience

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.

Thanks to ‘The Food Pornographer’ for the use of her image. She’s from Perth and you can see more of her work on Flickr here and her website here.

Nice post about branded philately

My clever colleague at Purple Circle, Abi Jackson has written a rather nice little blog post about branding in the world of stamps. Have a look at it here.

It’s one of those areas that you maybe don’t notice there is branding even going on, but the Royal Mail have been quietly doing it for years and there have been many beautiful examples ranging from the current UK theme of Plants (Action for Species) right through to Victoria Cross winners back in 2006. All have real design integrity, because you have to work so hard to design something that beautiful in such a small space and still get the salient information across.

In the US now you can even get Simpsons stamps to celebrate their 20 year run. It was selected as a subject from over 50,000 suggested themes. They are officially sanctioned stamps launched by the USPS and they even ran a vote so that people could select their favourite.

Its hard to deny that we all write fewer letters than we used to, but integrating brands into postage stamps could be a lovely way to get kids interested again. If there were Everton FC stamps, my son would find excuses to write to people. 90210 (didn’t this used to be Beverley Hills 90210 – before it got rebranded?) stamps would get my daughters pen up off her desk and into her hand.

Perhaps we should have Bob the Builder ones, that are subsidized by the brand owner to get kids writing, or maybe even the best postage stamps in the world by Carlsberg, or even McStamps by you know who?

Just a thought, but it does seem a good way to raise revenue for the Royal Mail AND engage with new audiences.

Letters, Just do it.

The best of British stamps
The best of British stamps