Developing and communicating a corporate brand helps you deliver your business value message, confirms your marketplace credibility, helps build customer loyalty and reduces entry barriers during the sales cycle for qualified prospects.
But is your brand helping the sales process, or hindering it?
Is Your Brand A Gate – Or A Barrier?
Imagine that you received a phonecall from a salesperson at Apple, who wanted to know whether you would be interested in their value offering.
What mental image would you have? As an Apple salesperson they could be selling computers, watches, music players, TV set-top boxes, phones, tablets, software, support contracts, or even speakers. Because Apple is such a successful company with a broad range of products and services, they could be trying to sell you any (or all) of these things.
And therein lies the issue: Brand marketing can often hinder a salesperson’s ability to effectively communicate the company’s business value offering.
The very essence of most brand marketing programs is to instil a strong and evocative image into the target market’s mind. However, this also forces prospects to make conclusions about why a salesperson is calling them. If your company is known for one thing – and ONLY one thing – then this isn’t a problem (in fact, it could be an asset).
Buying A TV From A Computer Manufacturer
However, most companies attempt to expand their product or service offerings to grow their business. These new offerings may not closely relate to existing products/services, confusing prospects due to pre-established branding.
Gateway Computers is a formidable PC manufacturer and vendor of laptops and desktop computers. Back in the late 1990s, it’s fair to say that Gateway’s sales footprint was a lot larger than it is today. Anyone looking for a Windows-based PC would be at least considering a Gateway machine. They had – and have – a reputation for keenly-priced, well-specified equipment for home and light business use.
Gateway had powerful brand recognition in their market space.
In the early 2000s, riding the wave of popularity for their computers and (especially) their growing business in flat-screen monitors, someone at Gateway had an idea. How about selling televisions?
At the end of the day, a TV is a flat-screen monitor with a TV tuner and a remote control, right? Technically it’s not too much of a leap to manufacture TVs. After all competitive manufacturers such as Sony were doing the same thing.
Just Because You Can, Doesn’t Mean You Should
In 2002 Gateway started selling branded TVs. The specifications and quality of Gateway televisions were on-par with similar offerings from the likes of Sony, Panasonic, Sharp, and JVC. Gateway even extended their range of consumer electronics, selling their own brands of MP3 players, DVD players, and more.
They banked on the fact that they were so well-known for their computers, customers would buy their other products too.
But customers didn’t buy Gateway TVs, or Gateway MP3 players, or anything else. The computer business was doing fine, but the consumer electronics side of the business was a flop. After two years, Gateway stopped making TVs.
What went wrong? The TVs looked good, performed about as well as ones from other companies, and were competitively priced. Why didn’t people buy them?
Because people thought of Gateway as being a computer company. They didn’t see Gateway as a TV company, or a music player company, or indeed any other type of company. Gateway’s brand was all about PCs. They hadn’t thought about creating new brand positioning for these new product lines.
Extending Brand With Multiple Product Messaging
Gateway thought they could sell their new products through the creation of a generic, all-encompassing brand value message. But it didn’t work.
Today, many potential customers prefer to seek out specialists rather than generalists. We tend to pigeonhole the brands we buy. “I’ve no problem considering a Gateway computer when I’m looking to buy a new PC. But a TV? That means looking at Sony, or Samsung, or whoever. I wouldn’t think of Gateway.”
A wide-ranging brand message isn’t going to help businesses sell specifically-targeted products or services to a pre-qualified prospect.
What works better is the creation of a number of focussed messages on the specific products or services. Above all, position the message based on the results that your product/service will achieve, rather than what it actually does, and communicate the business value gain from your customer’s perspective. Apple does exactly this with their ever-widening range of products.
Gateway didn’t – and paid the price.