marketing and sales executives from Silicon Valley

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Small Time Brands Go Big, if They Survive Long Enough

A branding article in the Harvard Business Review caught my eye: "How These Small-Time Brands Made It Big", as I try to keep apprised of the psychology of branding and product acceptance. The article is a good refresher on some branding fundamentals, but also glosses over some core dependencies. If, as a reader, you can internalize the take-aways and understand the key prerequisites, I recommend you engage with the article.

The fundamental take-aways in the article:
  • Focus on a small idea
  • Deploy a powerful visual
  • Treat the name as a strategic creative decision
  • Don't overwhelm customers
Those take-aways are indeed valuable, but often get lost or misrepresented when applied. In nearly all of the examples provided, the author correctly mentions, but almost glosses over the struggles and hard times the companies endured before the brand really mattered. Yes, the brand was important, but the brand is/was an accelerator, not the core value. In each example, the brand didn't make the company, the company developed a great product or service before people cared about the brand.

Here's how to put things in perspective:
  • Nike: A shoe company under a different name for 14 years before it became Nike, and even then, the logo was rushed out to make production deadline and cost $35
  • Instagram: The now-famous service is a rebranding and outgrowth of the less popular Burbn
  • Twitter: Tweaked a $15 stock photo that came to signify the brand
One take-away that you shouldn't miss, is that the entrepreneurs behind the brands in the examples built the business and customer base first. Once customers love or simply believe in your product or service, you've proven yourself brand worthy, which is where the value of your brand comes from. 

Build value first, and the brand value will come.

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