What is a Brand?

by Victor Lund on November 22, 2017

BrandA brand is the difference between a pair of running shoes and a pair of Nikes. A brand is what people feel about you your product, the service you provide, or your organization. It’s part rational but mostly emotional. People will forgive a strong brand if it makes a mistake. likewise people won’t forgive a weak brand if it makes a mistake, remember Gateway computers? We thought so.

WAV Group is not a branding agency – we leave that to leading firms like 1000 Watt. But WAV Group starts every project with an understanding of your brand. Marilyn Wilson, former Exec. Vice President of Marketing at Fisher Price managed the Fisher Price brand for nearly a decade. Fisher Price is one of the most valued and iconic international brands in the world. She did not build or create the Fisher Price brand, but every product they delivered (hundreds every year) had to deliver the brand promise, and everything WAV Group does for a client – strategic planning, communications, recruiting, and vendor selection – starts with brand.

So what is the secret of a strong brand?

The answer is surprisingly simple, focus. I’ll say it again, focus. Great brands stand for something, not a lot of things. One thing. For decades, Swedish car maker Volvo defined their brand with a single word, safety. Well, it seems to work for them.

Sometimes you have to think beyond the category to know what your brand stands for. Harley Davidson makes motorcycles, want to guess what they stand for? Freedom.  Not a more powerful engine and not a more reliable bike or a smoother ride. Freedom. Brands are experienced. Take Starbucks. They differentiate themselves in many ways and offer a consistent brand experience in every Starbucks you visit. They even have their own language. Starbucks has created a unique community of coffee lovers that speak Starbucks-ease, and are true brand ambassadors – it’s customers. It doesn’t get any better than that. Starbucks has realized they aren’t in the business of serving coffee. They are in the business of serving people.

What is a brand worth?

So can you put a monetary value on a brand. The people at Interbrand research do that. Think about the fine folks at Coca-Cola. Guess what their brand is worth? According to Interbrand, about 61% of the value of the Coca-Cola corporation is brand. That is a lot of cash. So a brand is worth protecting and nurturing. But how?

Protecting Your Brand

Here are a few key points to help maintain or even grow your brand.

  1. Be different. The world of real esate is filled with parity bands and services. Make yours stand out.
  2. To be vigilant, don’t allow your brand to do things that shouldn’t. Don’t be the Gateway computers of your real estate.
  3. Be relevant in the marketplace. The market changes constantly, make sure your brand keeps up.

So, who really owns a brand? The brand manager is the VP marketing. But really, the brand is owned by the people it. In the old days, a company would tell people about their brand. It was pretty much a one-way thing. Now, with social media making word of mouth so easy for customers share brand impressions, your brand is much more of a conversation. But don’t worry this. Instant feedback can be very useful. It gives you a glimpse into what’s in the hearts and minds of your customers, and allows you to take action when you need to.

Listening online can also help you stay focused, and that’s a good thing.

Recap

One of our most interesting brokerage clients has the strongest brand in their market. We measured it with stakeholders though surveys and focus groups. By listening, we gained an understanding that the brokerage was not a technology company – known for their website or transaction management system or anything like that. If you have not done this research in the last 3 years, call us. We will help and it will not break the bank.

Their brokerage brand was defined by being the oldest real estate company in their market. Stakeholders acknowledged that the company has years of community involvement. They are defined by decades of successful transactions. The brand is defined by experienced agents that are engaged, and well known in the areas they serve. The consumers understand that. The agents understand that. They do not try to be Redfin. They do not try to have better SEO than Zillow or Realtor.com. They are in the people business. They are empathetic and sympathetic. They understand the complexity of real estate transactions. They know that consumers expect a client for life service. They know that happy customers need a team of real estate, mortgage, title, insurance, and moving services that make buying and selling a pleasant experience. They ask customers and agents about their performance at every meaningful touch point. They remediate issues with the support of the owners and managers. They care! Sure, they use technology to deliver predictable service levels and outcomes. But the technology is only there as a backdrop to the human touch.

A brand is much more than your logo or the color of your sign. It’s something intangible. It’s what people think of you. For real estate brands, its more than just the consumer. It is also your staff, managers, agents, brokers, and the industry influencers. But mostly, on an emotional level, great brands are built by staying focused on what they stand for. Great brands are not just seen and heard, they’re experienced and in a way that is uniquely theirs. In Las Vegas, and many leading hotels, brands even have a smell!

A brand can have tremendous value and should be treated that way. Keep your brand healthy by being different. Be vigilant and relevant. And finally, never forget that people – your customers, agents, brokers, and staff own your brand. Listen to them. Respect them. And most of all, earn their trust.

WAV Group

WAV Group research is managed by Marilyn Wilson. She is expert at exploring the meaning of a company’s brand. Through the research process, we capture the meaning of a brand and the words that stakeholders use to describe the brand.

Kevin Hawkins manages WAV Group communications. We audit brand messaging in everything that your brand expresses and tune the communications to repeat your brand value over and over and over again. That is brand development and refinement.

As for me, Victor Lund, I am a fixer. I help companies track with their strategy and overcome the things that negatively impact brands, and promote the things that enhance them.

Together, WAV Group supports brands in ways that establish long term growth and success. We help people.

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