Brand vs. Bucks. Or … Is “Generic” a Brand?

June 4, 2009 at 5:40 pm 1 comment

So much is said, posted, blogged, tweeted and retweeted today about “Brand.” At the same time, advertising today is all about saving Bucks. Can a company honor both? It’s easy for Wal-Mart, of course; that is its Brand. But for every other company, how does the current crisis change Brand messaging? Should a Brand’s outreach evolve with the economy? Can it?

I just returned from the Licensing International Expo in Las Vegas, an annual trade show all about Brands and licensing for Brand extensions (and, yes, I am going to capitalize “Brand” every single time!). The convention center at Mandalay Bay housed some amazing iconic Brands: Hot Wheels, Lamborghini, John Wayne, Dr. Seuss, to name a few. The show hosted old Brands trying to make a comeback – The Smurfs, Norton motorcycles – as well as relatively young Brands looking for traction – Pucca, Audigier.

All these names, images and icons (of varying degrees) were at the show searching for the right opportunities to extend their Brand for maximum reach, definition and development. And there was no “Sale” section at the back of the conventional hall – though perhaps there should have been.

All of these Brands – even Lamborghini, perhaps especially Lamborghini – are competing as much on price as on image. No matter what a company has invested in its Brand today, the generic product on the shelf below is incredibly attractive. Is “Generic” a Brand today? Yes, and it’s a powerful one. But does it have potential in the long run? That’s a question every manufacturer and distributor is asking – or they should be asking.

The Utahtimes blog posted an informative piece about Brand care and it is worth studying. Any Brand interested in competing today against Generics should look closely. Know, too, that “Generics” goes far beyond it’s common meaning in pharmaceuticals and breakfast cereals. Dozens of retailer-created Brands have been born in the last three years solely for the purpose on price competition.

The referenced blog quotes’s Jeff Bezos as saying “Ultimately … a Brand is the things people say about you when you’re not there.”
As I walked the trade show floor in Vegas and saw logos of “Fisher Price” and “Elvis” and “United States Postal Service” and “Liverpool Football Club,” they all spoke directly to me. Of course, they said different things. They’d likely speak in unique ways to you, too.

You manage a Brand. Seriously, you do. The company you work for has a Brand or two, and your work for that company affects the Brand – sometimes in a good way, sometimes now. You have your own Brand, too, whether you actively promote it or not.

Remember how Bezos defined it. How does your work change – for good or bad – what people say about a Brand when you’re not there? In your work, do you polish the Brand or leave annoying scratch marks that someone else has to rub out? Here are six tips to make sure that your contact with a Brand is more polish than scratch.

1. Be Consistent. Make sure you define the Brand the same way every time, and that your definition is inline with others on your team.
2. Be Honest. There are far too many ways for consumers to learn the truth, so you should give it to them directly. And they will remember you well for doing so.
3. Be Yourself. Trends come and trends go, and your Brand may contradict those trends at times. No one wants to sail on a ship that changes direction all the time.
4. Be The Best. If your goal is Cheap, be Cheapest. If it’s Blue, be Blue-est; Fast, be Fastest. Everyone wants to be on the winning team, or at least the time that tries hardest.
5. Be There. Yes, you can create demand by being scarce, rare and hard to find. You can also create opportunities for your competition. You don’t need to be on every single street corner, but you need to Be There.
6. Be Connected. It is fun to talk about the rebirth of historical Brands. But history is just that. Even old Brands can stay current today if they look for ways to connect with the times.


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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Stacy  |  June 13, 2009 at 1:15 am

    Would you consider adding:

    Be Simple. This is slightly related to “Be The Best”. As soon as the Brand tries to be Cheapest, Blue-est AND Fastest there’s more potential for unsustainability. (And yes, I’m wondering if I made up a word there.)


    Be First. If the Brand is the first of its kind, it’s name may be synonymous with the item: Kleenex for tissues, Q-Tips for cotton swabs, and it’s nearly iPod for mp3 player. Maybe it’s not so much as “first” as much as “First to Make an Impact”.


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