What really is the difference between a bottle of water and Eva by Coca-Cola?
What is the difference between a car and a Mercedes Benz, or a watch and a Rolex, an artist and Davido?
The answer is brand.
If then, then what really is a brand? What’s yours?
If you take out all the buzzwords and jargons of business school, you’d see that your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room. Every interaction is like an entry into a room. Once you walk into that room with a product or just yourself (whether it’s a business boardroom or someone’s life), you would be greeted with 3 moments of truth:
1.What people feel when they first see you.
2.What you portray (as they interact with you/your business or proposition)
3.What you will be remembered for (after you leave).
Brands, Branding and Brand Strategy is about how to influence those 3 Moments of Truth. Whatever you decide to build as a brand, ensure that it is unique, easy to identify and consistent. The truth is anything can be a brand, be it people, places, object or businesses. An even more tangible truth is that anybody can build a brand. It starts from finding an ideology around your product and being the best at it. As you build it, your value will increase, way beyond your competition – way beyond logic.
The outcomes of branding are not logical. People will pay more for less when you’re a brand. From the Rolex to the Rolls Royce to a night in Burj Khalifa in Dubai or to listen to Jay-Z perform life in concert.
Jay-Z and Kanye West once charged $6M (over 2 billion Naira) in 2011 to perform for a few minutes in Dubai. It was for Sheikh Monsour (The owner of Manchester City. It was his sister’s 16th year old birthday party). That is how much people can pay for brand. Brands enhance value. When Procter and Gamble acquired Gillette in 2005, Gillette was sold for 57 billon dollars. But in reality, only $6b of the $57b purchase price was for its tangible (touchable) assets, the vast majority of the value being in its brand equity and perception in the eyes of the customers.
In branding, we say “the only thing more important than what you are selling is what the buyer believes he is buying”. It is perception and trust. Every brand is a product, but not every product is a brand. I suggest that you package whatever you sell so well that it feels world class. It shows that you understand excellence, which creates trust. Blow the mind of your customers, especially when you have substance. You have a good product already; don’t serve it wrongly. Just like I love to say, “don’t put your champagne in a Zobo nylon’. They’d underprice it. Don’t put a good product in a bad container.
A brand is trust. And brand strategy is how you present and deliver that trust. The deeper the better. Brand audaciously and intimately. Let your product, you or whatever you sell give a promise that feels real and intimate and must be kept as a covenant. A brand even in a deeper definition is an illustration of a covenant; things like logo and other aesthetic assets should be the graphical representation of the purpose of that product. Just like the cross is a graphical representation of Christianity and the half moon and star suggests Islam. In line with this, let your product be the covenant with the creator to be identifiable, unique, the best, and consistent.
Brands are meant to be audacious. It’s supposed to pose questions and start conversations. For example, I once saw a billboard that said, “who says “there’s no virgin in Port Harcourt”. Yes, this was a slogan that Richard Branson’s company had on billboards around Nigeria when it launched in Port Harcourt. After a while of processing that thought provocation, you’d realize that oh, maybe he means Virgins as in Virgin Atlantic?
Another brand came by introducing us to a game that these sexy ladies likes through wordplay. They can’t get their hands off it. The tagline for that brand was “The more you play with it, the harder it gets” Oops. No, it’s not what you think. “The more you play with it, the harder it gets.” Was the slogan for the TV game console, Sega Genesis.
The audacity of brands goes beyond aesthetics and messages; it also includes a voyage into experiences and thoughts. This can be delivered via corporate communications on things like slogans. It should provoke thoughts and actions through the story telling of its products. Brands should tell stories. Entrepreneurs should be storytellers through their products. And if so, then let’s borrow the words of Chinua Achebe. Writers don’t give prescriptions. They give headaches! A great brand isn’t see-through; it’s encoded to the close-minded with your product as the antidote. This is because the mind is like a parachute; it’s activated and works best when it is opened.
The deeper the brand, the better the value and equity.
You can sell anything, even things below value once you can create a high Brand Equity, from Coca-Cola’s products (mere Sugar water) to D’banj (where has he been and what has he been singing lately?), to Wrigley for making billions from Orbit and PK chewing gums, or Tonto Dikeh and Bobrisky, with a good career from controversy. On the other hand, Kanye West is more popular for his arrogant Brand Attitude, Redbull – an energetic brand attitude, GTbank – a corporate yet creative Brand Attitude, – Mercedeez- a classy brand Attitude, Lady Gaga- a weird and cult like Brand Attitude. They were all created on purpose with identity, uniqueness and more importantly, consistency. And how about yours?
Whether life or business, have a brand that send people curious. It sends them on a psychological errand to know more. So out of curiosity, they engage further the brand. And as they do, more sales, more talks, more experiences and engagement it creates. As a matter of fact, in brand strategy, mystery always sells.
Just like Lady Gaga’s weirdness, or the ground breaking horror video of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, like Ben Enwonwu fine art crafts in our museums or even Picasso or Da Vinci’s decoded artworks at the gallery you do not understand yet you pay so much for, that weirdness is how brands are built. In creating a brand, first create a deep feel not totally understandable. It draws value and attention. We see this even more in folklores, myths and even modern-day religious stories. Have you noticed that in the bible, there was no recording of Jesus, between ages 13 to 30yrs (at 13, just after he went missing and was found in the temple)? Think about it.
Mystery sells. That’s why religion is powerful. In the words of Ezra Taft Benson, “Some of the greatest battles will be fought within the silent chambers of your own soul”, use this concept to create a void, to play with the minds of others with what you sell.
When branding, less is more. In other words, don’t be an open book. Just like the Lauryn Hill song, “The Mystery of Iniquities”; create a part to be deciphered. Branding is not the loud noises of advertising; it’s the messages and the perception it creates afterwards. In the words of the Mafia, Don Clericuzzo from The Last Don, he says, “Sometimes silence is the loudest and most effective type of sound’’. Sometimes, “The Loudest guy in the room is the weakest guy”. Capture something more than their eyes and ears.
A brand that captures your eyes gains notice, a brand that captures your mind gains attention. But a brand that captures your heart gains commitment!
With your customers, place or product, create an experience that they cannot get anywhere else (it may be emotional, a story or an experience). And ensure that its unique, easy to identify and consistent. Those are the building blocks of a brand. I look forward to working with you in creating yours.
Strategy. Business StartUps and Corporate Restructuring Consulting
Uwaoma Eizu is the lead strategist at Hexavia! He is a graduate of Mathematics with two MBAs and over a decade of experience working with startups and big businesses. His core is in building startups and in corporate restructuring. He is also a certified member of the Nigerian Institute of Management, Institute of Strategic Management of Nigeria and the Project Management Institute, USA. By the side, he writes weekly for the BusinessDay newspaper.