The Brand Experience Myth

flosspickMany brands continue to lose relevance, value and profitability. Much is written about how “marketing” needs to fix this. Talk abounds about consumer experience, purpose driven brands, etc. It’s all misdirected.

I will accept that consumer experience and connection with your company’s purpose can create stronger brand loyalty. It’s the “icing on the cake;” not the cake itself.

Harley Davidson has fierce brand loyalty others would “kill for.” How many consumers tattoo your company’s logo on their body and wear brand logos on their clothes like Harley owners? And yet a few decades ago when Harleys were crap bikes that leaked oil, etc. their loyal consumers began to flee. If the product isn’t what one expects all that other “icing” won’t make the cake worthwhile.

Several years ago we were invited to help Chrysler figure out ways to sell more cars. At the beginning of the process we were told they did not want to discuss the PT Cruiser as they could sell more of that car than they could make. I suggested maybe they needed to develop more cars people really wanted to buy. We haven’t been invited back to work for Chrysler since. But then they haven’t done so well either.

So-called Chief Marketing Officers are tasked with improving brand loyalty, consumer connection, etc. Unfortunately, in most companies, these folks are really just Chief Marketing Communications Officers with no real, or any, input on the products/services themselves. They are just expected to put “lipstick on a pig” so the consumer will really love the pig.

We hear more than ever about consumer brand experience, why, purpose, etc. What’s the root cause of brand value degradation today in my opinion? Crap or at least not “better” products. If your high-priced brand (at least when compared to house or private brand prices) is no better and perhaps worse than the house or private brand, how can you expect the consumer not to switch?

I do a number of workshops for “marketers” for many recognized brands and for some retailers. I have noticed an interesting fact: the brands almost never have any product people in the workshop, just “marketing” (né marketing communications) people. The retailers have mostly product marketers/product managers in the workshop and some marketing communications professionals.

If you get the product or service right, marketing communications is easy. Just look at Apple (other than the Apple Watch, which doesn’t seem like they got it right). As a percentage of revenue, look how little Apple spends on “marketing communications” compared to others. No wonder they can generate over 80% of cell phone profits with less than 50% market share.

BTW, if you’re wondering what started me down this path: it was dental floss. I resisted flossing my teeth for decades. Hate that little fishing line stuff. Then my periodontist (note I did not say dentist as there is a punishment for not flossing) introduced me to floss on handles (per the picture above). Love those things and so does my dentist now that I floss.

First time out I bought the private brand product. Worked really well. When I was running out I asked my wife to pick up some new ones at the store next time she went, if she went before we did together. She came home with Oral B brand. More expensive, fewer in the package, but it was Oral B and my wife knows that brand. Crap product. None of the private brand I had used ever broke during use. 20% of the Oral B brand does and 70% of the rest weaken to the point of less value in use. Why on earth would I pay more for this product? What kind of brand experience do you think the marketers at Oral B could come up with that would make up for an inferior product?

Want your brands and products/services to thrive? First make a great product/service. Deliver it consistently, then look for the icing. Putting icing on a cardboard cake will not make it a great cake.


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2 Responses to The Brand Experience Myth

  1. Pingback: Sense And Respond; Or Wonder What Happened | Value Acceleration

  2. Jerry Gooze says:

    Always at least try the private (less expensive) brand & then stick with it, if as good or better than brand name product. In the case of dental floss product you discussed, Walmart has a couple private brands that work very well, especially if you have tight teeth.

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