A while ago, two well-versed experienced marketers wrote a book about the car industry called “Branding Iron.” “Iron,” of course, is the term the automotive industry uses to refer to their cars.
At any rate, the premise of the book was that the greatest single reason for the industry’s weakening sales was its lack of focus and clarity in what exactly they were. In other words, Who – or what – is Land Rover? Who is Jaguar? What is a GMC?
You have to realize that the car industry has often been praised for their prowess in branding and messaging. With an innovative sense beyond measure and a quick ability to unearth the best strategies for consumer research and sales, the carmakers were often positioned as the leaders.
And then, things changed. The question is why? And what did they change to?
The stark reality was, as a whole, the automotive industry fell victim to its own success. By becoming more and more innovative, all the while cost-cutting to generate even more sales while using strategies like using cross-platforms and releasing sub-brands that became ultra visible, the market was bound to plummet. Think about it. What is a GMC? Sure it’s a car or truck – but what does it represent to you?
It’s a simple case of lost identity. By becoming more diverse on the outside and less so on the inside, people were confused with why they would want to purchase any particular car. The Jaguar now uses the same platform as other, non-luxury cars, and yet sells for much more – and customers are asking why? The confusion has led to reduced sales, less loyalty and ultimately, a lack of brand distinctiveness.
It’s something you’d hope was limited to the automotive industry, but it isn’t.
The fact is – as I point out in Principle “D” of our brand building strategies – you have to be distinct.
Without differentiation, you are every man. Successful branding helps the customer make fewer decisions. If they have to decide every time whether to use your service or not, you are making them work too hard.
And that’s just what the car industry fails to do as a group – they are losing the distinctness of their brands.
Now, not all brands are suffering. Toyota, for instance, just became the number one auto dealer. Why is that? Because they understand the strength of distinct messaging and positioning. They know that they cannot be something to everyone.
So instead, they reduce the potential messages down to one or two: quality, safety.
If you can take the example of the car industry and understand that rather than create multiple, equally elevated but indistinct brands you should instead produce a more narrow focus, and then deliver on that brand every single time (more on that in the next article), you have instantly created a stronger brand.
It is then that your customers will remember who you are – clearly. It is then that you have allowed the consumer to make one less decision every time they come across your service or product. It is then that your loyalty and awareness will be at its peak.
Remember, you cannot be someone to everyone in an effort to gather larger sales; you will only confuse people to inaction. Narrow your brand’s focus into a single, powerful message. You’ll gain the loyalty and, in turn, sales you desire.
Here’s a preview of brand principle “T.” Be Trustworthy – relationships are built on trust and they die by broken trust. If you hope to build a strong brand, start by keeping true to what you promise.