Brands represent a promise.
A powerful brand represents a promise in such a way that customers intuitively understand what the brand is promising, and why it matters to them.
In other words, powerful brands deliver their value propositions in a very efficient way. You need only to see the Target bull’s-eye, the Nike Swoosh, or the Coca-Cola swirl, and you instantly know what the product – and the promise – is, and perhaps even experience the feelings associated with using that product. That said, there’s possibly no more iconic or respected brand on the planet earth today than Apple.
Photo by Kevin T. Houle on flickr.
(Be honest: you associate this logo with some sort of feeling — be it positive or negative. It’s become quite a powerful image.)
An obvious element to powerful brands is that they hold a lot of sway and can harness a lot of buy-in from the customers. A powerful brand has a lot to leverage.
What’s not so obvious is that a powerful brand also buys you time.
Powerful Brands Biding Their Time
For the last two decades, if Microsoft introduced a product that was deficient, it wasn’t a big deal. It was generally understood that they would get the product right by the third version (or so). Meanwhile, before version 3 was released, people continued consuming and spending money on versions 1 & 2. Microsoft had enough brand power to release sub-par products, based on the promise that they would get it right… eventually. And it worked.
Google has also done this as well, albeit with free products. Google Docs is a product that increasingly gets better, but was quite limited at first. Another product, Google Wave, was confusing and never did live up to its hype (and then eventually was put out of its misery). Google Buzz More recently, they released Google Plus – for which the jury is still out, but most (including Google) seem to think that it is not a game-changing Facebook alternative, but rather just another internal collaborative platform (for which it is well suited). So again, we see a powerful brand leveraging its reputation to buy itself time.
“Siri is enough to set my hair on fire”
But no better example of a brand buying time exists than of Apple and its (premature) release of Siri – a product that is clearly not ready for prime time, and is deficient on many levels, and yet here it is! Quite frankly, I just want to poke my eyes out when I see Martin Scorcesse issuing a series of commands that are impossible to perform with Siri in the real world. As if.
Yet the reality is that this misstep won’t cost Apple significantly, because their overall product (in my case, an Apple 4S decked out with 64 gigs of memory) is otherwise an extremely satisfying product. But Siri is enough to set my hair on fire. It just doesn’t work. Let me put it this way: I am amazed when Siri works. Amazed. That’s enough to tell you that, in general, Siri does not work well. (If you’re a fellow iPhone user, I’m sure you understand.)
Building Your Brand
So what’s the point here, besides complaining about Siri (which was the inspiration for this blog post, by the way)? When you have a strong brand, it buys you a form of grace with your customer base, provided that a few things are true:
- You have a reputation for great products and good customer service.
- Your other products/services surrounding the failed products are quite good, or are actually world class – and they do succeed in terms of customer satisfaction.
- You have a history of improvement, so that people assume – as I do – that [Siri] will actually get better and improve over time, and therefore allow you a bit of grace until it does.
Now, I’m not saying that we should all aim to become a brand that buys time in order to release inferior products, but we should aim to become a brand with inherent value. All of us – whether B2B or B2C, large enterprise or small business – should be building our reputation, satisfying our customers, and continuously improving so that we have a trusted history, and – overall – a valued and respected brand.
- How are you doing? Does your brand fulfill all three areas – reputation, satisfaction, and history? What area do you still need to work on?
- What other companies are so powerful that they have bought time and released less-than-ideal products?