Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Lessons from Procter & Gamble - What is a brand?

Procter & Gamble is well known for its brands. As we have said in earlier articles, many people mistakenly believe that a brand is a product. While that is in part correct, it isn’t the whole story. A brand is an image in the customer’s mind. The thoughts customers have about products are brand impressions. These brand impressions are the major influences on the purchase decision. Customers form impressions of products every time they come in contact with them. Once products or companies are out in the market, you already have a brand, whether you want it or not. The only issue left to consider is what kind of brand you want to have.

Brands are inferred, not implied. Branding isn’t something companies do to customers. After experiencing a product or a company, a customer has an impression of that product and decides how to "brand" that product in their own mind. In other words, a brand isn't what a marketer says it is. It is what a customer thinks it is.

However, companies can do a lot to influence the impression that customer/consumers have about them and their brands. Often we think of brands from big companies like Nike and Coke who use the brute-force of mass marketing to "impress" their message on people. Brute force is becoming a less and less effective method for branding, because it's gotten harder and harder to tell today's discerning customers how to think.

Only a very few companies, like Nike and Coke, can afford to brand with brute force. Now the method of choice seems to be primarily via some form of social media in addition to the traditional advertising/marketing vehicles. Companies like ThoughtLabs specialize in bringing customers closer to their clients.

Branding isn't just something that applies to big, national companies with large advertising budgets. For all types of persuasion, thought is always a prelude to action No matter how the product is marketed; it all must start with positioning. It is in this effort that companies attempt to set their desired image in the minds of the customer. This is key!

People's thoughts and beliefs drive their actions. The goal of the interactions with a customer is to encourage them to create a brand impression in their mind that motivates them to act in a way that helps my product. By focusing on what they think, I am forced to pay attention to everything I do that affects what they think about me and my product. I can't just make an independent decision about what I want my brand to be and create beautiful advertising that "declares" what my brand is -- I have to orchestrate all of the experiences they have with my product in a way that encourages them to create the right brand impression in their mind.

So . . . what do you want your customers to think about your products . . . and you?

If you have not clearly defined the positioning for your company or its products or the results are not meeting expectations, we can help. Contact us.



This is one of a series of articles that share some of the learnings from twenty three years in marketing at Procter & Gamble.

John Maver
Maver Management Group(
925) 648-7561
Maver Management
View John Maver's profile on LinkedIn

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