Sep 09

Branding: a love story


It's true

Many tons of books from many tons of experts have been written on the subject of branding. Happily, long ago one of my pithier mentors distilled it into a mere five words: brands need to be loved.

Love, as we all know, is far more powerful than money. Conveniently, it’s also a pretty good way to make money. If your customers love you, three good things will happen: they’ll keep coming back, they’ll introduce you to their friends and familes, and they won’t hold it against you when you screw up. This all translates directly into revenue. Being the perky optimist I am, I believe we’re all born into this world eager and ready to love our brands — we just don’t give it away for free. We need to be loved before we start doling it out. (Some of us are really easy and would gleefully settle for just a little respect.) As short-sighted companies inevitably discover, things don’t work out so well when you decide to skip the love part and go right for the money.

Unsurprisingly, Microsoft and Apple are good examples at opposite ends of the spectrum. Microsoft gives you four distinct Vista products, each with its own price (up to a whopping $320) and unique set of features. Apple offers only one version of Mac OS X and it gives you all the features — whether you’re a 12-year-old beginner or a Hollywood film editor. Forgetting Snow Leopard’s ridiculously low price for the moment, the all-in-one Mac OS X Leopard went for a reasonable $129. Which approach shows more love for the customer?

Now look at how the same two companies sell music. Apple sells individual songs for $.99 or $1.29. You pick your songs and pay by credit card. Done. Microsoft prices songs about the same, but first you must add Microsoft Points to your account at $.79 each, then buy the songs with your Points. You’ll be comfortably ensconced in your retirement home long before your Point balance ever returns to zero, so Microsoft will forever be playing with your float. Which shows more love for the customer?

Understanding what we like and what drives us crazy requires zero effort. It doesn’t take teams of researchers, it’s just common sense. Every consumer brand should want our love — to get it, they need only act as if our relationship is more important than money. Idealistic as it may sound, once we have the relationship, the money will follow. Honest.

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  • Mary Maguire

    Ironically enough even simplicity is often over-thought.
    Why do we hurt our brains?

  • Rich Carroll

    Well put, but why do so few companies get that? I’m an avid reader of consumerist.com and consistently the same lesson is learned over and over again, good customer service / relationship with your audience wins you more business at a higher profit margin. And it wins you loyalty, which (don’t tell anyone,) could reduce your need to carpet bomb advertising to constantly attract new customers because you keep pissing them off.

  • ken segall

    Good question, Rich. To me, this is one of the great wonders of the world. It really is extraordinary that so many companies struggle to achieve what seems like common sense to most of us. While much of the world talks about how creative Apple is, I have long maintained that common sense is their greatest virtue. Blatantly dumb ideas and insults to the customer are simply not tolerated — even if it costs more money to go a different route. This type of behavior does not pay immediate dividends, so many companies can’t justify it. Clearly in the long run it pays spectacular dividends.

  • Keep it simple for samuel. (insert appropriate word). Ken, your Apple genes are showing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  • Yes, Ken. Brands need to be loved. Even the serious BMW has got it now. The ‘ultimate driving machine’ company now claims “we make joy” with a pretty nice slogan: “What you make people feel is just as important as what you make”. Gott in Himmel! Vere iz ze vorld going?

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