According to some studies, brands, as an asset on the balance sheet and as part of the purchase price of a company, have been growing over the past two decades. But this list isn’t about the actual dollar value of a brand as much as its strategic value to your company or organization. Here are five ways that brands prove their value and support success:
1. It’s one of the few elements your competition can’t copy. Patents and copyrights would be examples of valuable intellectual property that can’t be touched, at least for a period of time. But a strong brand can be impossible to copy, especially with proper trademarks in place. Tangible elements like Coke’s red or John Deere’s green and yellow can’t be imitated, but less tangible elements like the spirit expressed in “Just do it” for Nike, or BMW positioning itself not as a car, but as a driving machine are relatively invincible, as well.
2. Brand guides your overall business thinking. We’ll assume that it is already consistent with your business values and objectives (if not, please Google “5 reasons your brand could be in trouble”). Brand strategy dictates that Rolex won’t sell $300 watches to compete with Citizens or Movado, and why Disney is careful to keep its content family-oriented under the flagship brand, but puts more mature content under a sub-brand, such as Lucasfilm Ltd. or Marvel Studios. Brand strategy doesn’t just mean increased focus, either. Apple saw that it was more than a computer company and, true to its brand of innovation and self-discovery, branched out into music and mobile phones. Virgin Records saw that its concept of being fresh and new was transferrable to beverages and air travel. (They also learned that it wasn’t transferrable to wedding dresses. Google “Virgin Brides.”)
3. A strong brand motivates employees. It’s pretty much drop-the-mic cool to work for Google or Apple or Facebook right now. And, it probably isn’t a coincidence that all three of those brands have a reputation for asking a lot from their employees in terms of energy, ideas and long hours. Of course, if the work gets to be too much, name brands like those will look good on a resume for many years to come. Being part of a small brand that is just getting started can be exciting and motivating, as well. Believing in the brand you work for can help turn a job into a career.
4. A strong brand attracts quality employees. This could be listed as 3A, but a strong brand will assist in recruiting top candidates for a job. This can be especially important in a tight labor market, where the best people are likely already employed and have to be lured away. If you were an automotive engineer, would you be more interested in a job at Ford than one at Volkswagen? A strong brand can even have the effect of keeping salary costs down. Desirable companies can offer competitive benefits, but not exceptional ones, and still get employees hopeful of moving up in the organization.
5. A strong brand helps a company weather criticism or a negative event. A typical case is how car brands get through accusations of negligence that led to faulty systems. Toyota has easily recovered from its troubles with unintended acceleration. Volkswagen’s transgressions of deliberately cheating on emissions tests are still in the court of consumer opinion. As a global brand, they have a certain amount of resilience in their brand. But, in the U.S., where they held less than one percent market share before the scandal, they could be in long-term trouble. On the other hand, a brand that is already struggling can be wiped out by a scandal. Chi Chi’s restaurants filed for Chapter 11 protections one month before they were hit with the largest hepatitis A outbreak in U.S. history in November 2003. Four people died, and the outbreak was traced to a single restaurant, but the damage was done. Chi Chi’s settled their lawsuits by July 2004, but, by September, they had closed all of their remaining locations. Perhaps the final brand snub was when Outback Steakhouse bid $40 million for the rights to Chi Chi’s real estate, but not their brand or trademarks.
As published in the Central Penn Business Journal, the Reading Eagle and Lehigh Valley Business.