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A Harvard Business Review article says “Brand” is a thing of the past

January 26, 2014

Here it is, and this is the money shot quote:

“But brands are less needed when consumers can assess product quality using better sources of information such as reviews from other users, expert opinion, or information from people they know on social media.”

The argument goes on to suggest that lesser known brands like Roku were successful without a “brand”. Roku was not a well-known name, but people were willing to buy it because of the awesome reviews on Amazon.

I can’t disagree with this enough.

Redesigned logo used from 2011-present.

First of all, “brand” is not the name of a company. It isn’t a logo. For more details, go read Nigel Hollis.

Secondly, it seems they assume too much of us. When we have so much information, a clear distinct message will actually set a brand apart from the competition.

Roku is a fine example of creating a great product that people talked about. Roku is an intuitive solution to a very real problem. But weather they had a brand, or didn’t, they have a perception, and that perception is that it works.

Starbucks is another brand that famously launched without marketing, but not without a brand. It was/is fine coffee in a comfortable/repeatable location. Incidentally, Starbuck later needed to use marketing to define their brand because if a company doesn’t define what it is (ie brand), then consumers will do it for them.

If the authors have a problem with the word “brand”, then we can call it a cheese sandwich for all I care. I’m willing to concede that I want to change words, I just wrote a blog post on re-thinking words.

Brand, not brand, whatever: “how your customer describes your company” is your brand. In a fast-moving, always connected internet, getting that right is critical. Whether the product/service is in a high or a low consideration category, the way people think of it will determine if they take the next step.

While we’re at it, I disagree with the notion that loyalty is going away.

Many marketers still believe in the power of consumer loyalty and the great profitability of even a small increase in the number of consumers declaring themselves “loyal.” But more and more consumers think about their relationships with companies as an open marriage. Loyalty doesn’t benefit the customer as much as it did in the past.

Social media is loyalty. A “like” a “follow” are validations of purchase. A reviewer is a potential loyal person, someone who cares enough to give their opinions. Loyalty does benefit the consumer. People like, follow and review because they want, maybe need affirmation that they made a good purchase decision. Being loyal to a brand is entirely about getting continued affirmation. As we get more choices, loyalty will be even more important for brands to encourage.

For the record, the authors also think positioning is going away. They appear to be positioning themselves as marketing mavericks — which is their brand.

That’s a clever positioning.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Katherine Kapanek permalink
    January 27, 2014 1:33 pm

    “‘How your customer describes your company’ is your brand.”
    Could not agree with this statement more. Brand is not defined by the company itself, but rather, by the perception of the company and what it offers as a whole. This goes back to the old “push-pull” methods of marketing. No longer is the “push” by the company as relevant as the “pull” by the consumer, who is able to seek information using social media and review sites to form their own opinion of the “brand” of an organization.

    • January 27, 2014 4:37 pm

      Hi Katherine, thanks for the comment. I actually think, in an information age, it is even more critical to push one message. Consumers will still pull, but a push in concert from a brand could ensure a singular message, and that is part of the battle.

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