“Branding is the most misunderstood concept in all of marketing, even among so-called professionals,” says Frankel. “For example, people think successful branding is about awareness. It isn’t. After all, everyone knows about cancer, but how many people actually want it?”
Branding is way more than just working to keep your logo or name before the buying public, explains Frankel. Real branding raises your bottom line revenues, lowers the cost of acquiring customers and increases customer retention and profitability.
“Branding is not about getting your prospects to choose you over your competition,” he says. “It’s about getting your prospects to perceive you as the only solution to their problem. If they don’t see you as the only solution, it means they’re still shopping.”
Forget about brand “freshening”
Frankel says he’s often asked, “How often should we freshen up our brand?” “Just asking the question is enough to reveal how little most people really understand branding,” he says, because genuine, well-structured brands never require “freshening up.” They’re designed for the long haul.
“The whole point of a brand is not to change over time,” says Frankel. “The purpose of a brand is to remain stable so that it cultivates trust with its users.” Brand changes lead customers to think the product or service has changed, which inclines them to distrust—and having to re-build trust every few years is expensive, requiring all sorts of marketing efforts that hit the bottom line and reduce profitability.
“One of the most common errors I see brands commit is confusing product with brand,” Frankel says. “Branding is the promise; products are the proof of the brand’s promise.”
The RE/MAX story
However, when a company makes major changes, Frankel believes re-branding is in order.
Take RE/MAX Realtors, for example. Founded in 1973, the RE/MAX® franchise now has more than 100,000 agents worldwide. The premise was to allow agents maximum freedom to run their business and to pay them 100 percent of their commissions rather than the measly 30 percent other real estate companies were then paying. Each RE/MAX agent paid a desk fee to cover their office expenses and paid their own marketing costs.
Naturally, when word got out, it didn’t take long for the high producers in the real estate industry to become RE/MAX agents. However, RE/MAX’s public branding efforts were limited to its dull, meaningless motto, “Above the Crowd.”
Then third party research indicated something far more interesting: The average RE/MAX agent outperformed the average real estate agent by a margin of three-to-one.
Translated, this intelligence meant RE/MAX offered the maximum real estate benefits to consumers, who could purchase or sell a home faster, as well as to agents who earned more, which made recruiting them easier.
It also impressed franchisors, who realized that the real money was in recruiting and hosting RE/MAX agents, not sales.
The result was “The maximum real estate has to offer” campaign, which spawned programs and enabled RE/MAX to successfully invade Southern California where it previously could not flourish. The brand strategy was featured in their print, radio and TV and has remained for years since.
Today, the RE/MAX franchise network is a global real estate system operating in 62 countries with more than 5,800 independently owned offices and 114,000 member sales associates who lead the industry in providing real estate services in residential, commercial, referral, relocation, and asset management.
See how powerful accurate branding can be?
People aren’t brands either
In addition to refraining from confusing a product with a brand, we should not confuse people and brands, Frankel says.
“Years back, the entire entertainment industry subjected the viewing public to a crudely orchestrated display of crocodile tears as Oprah Winfrey announced—a full year ahead of schedule—hat she would be ending her famous talk show,” Frankel notes.
The blubbering hugs and moans that followed were consistently accompanied by announcements of the imminent launch of the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN), where viewers would be able to nurse their Oprah addictions by watching All Things Oprah all day long.
“Mind you, Oprah herself wouldn’t be in the room,” says Frankel. “The network would simply be the product of stuff on which Oprah bestowed her blessing—and presumably, her own Midas touch.”
The Oprah network never really took off. The channel stumbled out of the gate and has never done any better since. How, people wondered, could this happen to Oprah?
The answer is simple, Frankel says. “Oprah was not a brand then and is not a brand now. Oprah is simply Oprah.”
Granted, people watch Oprah, but a true brand would be capable of expanding products under the Oprah aegis, and the Oprah Winfrey Network clearly is not capable of doing that.
“The Oprah Book Club succeeded because it was hand-held by Oprah. Not so with OWN,” Frankel says. “As long as Oprah is in the room, stuff works. But when Oprah leaves the building, everything falls flat.”
In contrast, a true brand works regardless of where the owner happens to be at the moment.
Article by Julie Crawshaw