Recently, Michael “The Situation” Sorrentino was offered a substantial amount of money to stop wearing Abercrombie & Fitch Co. apparel. Draw whatever conclusions you like about Sorrentino and his cohorts, but what lessons can we learn and apply to Small Business?
First let’s examine “The Situation.” Isn’t he famous for being famous? Doesn’t he get plenty of air time in front of a key demographic on MTV’s “Jersey Shore?” Aren’t people talking about him? Isn’t the paparazzi snapping pictures of him lifting A&F shirts to show off his abs? Isn’t that loads of free publicity?
The answer to all of those questions is a resounding YES, but there’s more to consider when a company, large or small, begins to think about branding it’s products.
The best definition I have for the term branding comes from my good friend, Julian Yudelson. As he puts it, branding is a promise to deliver.
For some brands like Coca-cola, and Pepsi, the brand is associated with a particular flavor. When you open a can of cola, you already know what it will taste like and how it will make you feel after drinking it. For other companies, branding is about how bright your whites are after they’re washed (Clorox), the long lasting quality of the tools (Craftsman) or even an emotional response such as gratification that your family is keeping up with the neighbors.
In this case, the issue probably centers around Sorrentino’s persona and how the public perceives his lifestyle. If A&F want you to feel as if you belong to a certain socioeconomic class when wearing their clothes, it seems reasonable to disassociate with individuals who don’t reflect the standard.
When considering your brand, what perception do you want to project and protect? Many times this has to do with who your target market is and how they perceive your products. Some companies will even go so far as to limit the use of their name with a price point or retailer because price and reputation are big components of a brand.
One example is Ollie’s Bargain Outlet (Warning, Ollie’s site has audio) . Their ads will often tout a famous maker, but won’t actually say what brand to expect. The reason is that even high end brands have surplus from time to time, but for a brand that wants to be perceived as high end, association with a discount is the kiss of death. After all, how can you convince your deep pocketed, brand loyal customers that they’ve gotten something special if regular people have it and paid pennies on the dollar to get it?
The answer is you can’t. It’s really easy to lower prices, but it’s hard to raise them. It’s also easy for the low price to make the product seem low quality and that effects your ability to live up to to a customer’s expectations.
So when thinking about the brand image you want to create for your business and it’s products, how would price, quality and personal association play a role in your promise to deliver?
If you have any questions or comments about branding, feel free to leave me a note, below. Otherwise a tweet, Thumbs up or sharing on your favorite service would be greatly appreciated. ~Karlie