Product versus Brand: Why Acknowledging the Difference Is Not That Simple
There are two ways the customer gets to know your business: buying from you and the way you present yourself. Your business is more than the sum total of the products that you sell. You have a brand, your personality in the business world, and it requires specific upkeep that is distinct from your product marketing efforts. Businesses that fail to differentiate between the two often find themselves in a marketing scheme that nets them retail sales significantly less than the competition.
Here are some common ways you might be blurring the lines without realizing it:
When you offer content to the public, either through advertisements, social media, or elsewhere, a form of indirect communication is established. Since they only know as much as you tell them, you could be missing out by failing to market your brand alongside your products.
Product marketing is more specific and usually pertains to the qualities of a single item or line with the goal of making a sale, whereas brand marketing is usually more broad, appealing to different sensibilities with the purpose of raising awareness and brand recall.
Social media can be a terrific way to build a brand through frequent posts that relate to the particular company image you wish to convey to the public. Creating original content, either video or text, and posting on social channels is a great way to build the brand’s following around the product. Fun, exciting, quotable and SHAREABLE content that indirectly relates to your brand will additionally lead to sales of the product.
Why, How and What
There are three questions associated with your business: Why, How and What. The products you sell are only a part of the answer, because who you are as a company is not what you sell. Your brand is about the Why. Apple makes computers, but the reason why is that they seek to innovate. Innovation is their brand identity. Their How is in the barriers they have broken and only at the end, the What, do we find their products: computers.
Microsoft’s brand has arguably declined as they have overlooked the Why. They have focused so heavily on What they do that they stopped paying attention to Why anyone should care. Their brand identity amounts to little more than a popular name, and only because of their products previous market share. What and How you do things is only a portion of your identity, don’t neglect the Why.
Moments in a Lifespan
While your products are the lifeblood of your company, you would be foolish to rely on just one of them for the life of your company. Products have a considerably shorter lifespan, while a brand might persist for generations.
How many products do you use today that remain unchanged from even a decade ago? While some products last longer than others, everything has a shelf life. Borders decided to stick with books, while Amazon expanded into other merchandise. Borders did not have an identity outside of their product and that mentality ultimately lead to their demise in 2011.
One Hand Washes the Other
One reason why it might be difficult for a company to distinguish between their brand building and product marketing efforts is that the two are so inextricably intertwined. The strength of your brand has a direct impact on your sales and the quality of your products have a direct impact on your brand reputation, and therefore its identity.
Your brand (which is distinct from your brand name) gets a little bit of exposure in all your product marketing, and your products become a bit more trustworthy with each positive brand message communicated. However, this does not mean that they do not both require their own attention and targeted efforts.
The ultimate goal of a brand is to facilitate a product that functions without falter, is needed by a large community of people, and will be supported by that community over any other brand. Learning the differing functionality of the two components to your company is vital in a 2014 marketplace increasingly dominated by social media instant gratification. As Jodi Parker states in the Business section of the TollFreeForwarding.com blog, “brands not only need to create [...] customers, they need to create customers who will be brand ambassadors.”
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