Brands that Don't Ring True Become Roadkill

“Brand” and “reputation” cause substantial market distortion for the business strategist expecting share to be determined solely by price. But they are fundamental to the choices customers make every day and, therefore, they are tangible and real. For the sellers of most products and services, cultivating brand value and protecting/enhancing reputation are as important as any aspect of business and require as much forethought and deliberate execution as any element of strategy.

Consider the three basic elements of strategic positioning: cost, customer and competition.

Cost: Selling purely on price is seldom a winning strategy. Desirable characteristics of a product (or service), especially those that are truly unique, add value that enables the product to be sold at a premium, or to dominate the market. Desirability is the measure of the strength of a brand, and communication (advertising, other forms of marketing communications, media coverage, social media “buzz”, etc.) helps the brand resonate with the customer.

Customer: “Markets are conversations,” (meaning that conversations among customers and potential customers shape, even define, brands) was the opening thought of The Cluetrain Manifesto, way back in Web 1.0 at the turn of the 21st century. It’s even more true today. Brand management is less about crafting a clever identity and shouting it from the highest hill at whomever will hear it, than it is engaging in authentic conversations with real people.

Competition: You aren’t alone in wanting to engage in market conversations. Your competitors are working overtime. Fortunately for you, most of them are still shouting at the market, they’re just using Twitter and YouTube to do their shouting. If you can help the markets of people “out there” discover your product, and if you invite them inside your brand—and they like what they find there—y ou will be well ahead of your competition. Companies whose brands aren’t seen as authentic will end up as reputational roadkill.