This article I just read from Fast Company calls for a refocus on delivering quality products that consumers want instead of talking so much about the Brand. The author cites the example of Coke benefitting from shifting its focus back to its products after a long time on brand building.
Can Product really be the only important thing?
I think it’s fallacious to think that Coke could have gotten where it is without strong brand management to back it up. Coke did not become one of the world’s most loved brands by simply tasting good. Just look at its biggest competitor Pepsi, and see how far away they are despite basically providing the same products. In fact, Pepsi Challenge run back in 1975 argues that Pepsi has a superior product but is not as successful.
You might also remember a technology company famous for its sound cards – Creative Technology. The CEO famously believed in the product speaking for itself and not having a marketing focus. Despite being the first-mover in the MP3 player market, it was quickly eclipsed by the Apple iPod.
Products change; Brands are forever.
Interestingly, I read a separate article today on Wired about Apple’s new product offering being the most unrepairable laptop ever built. Could Apple do something like this without its brand equity? A consumer must have a certain conviction about a brand before they develop heuristics about it. What I mean is, if I already believe that Apple would produce quality products that fit my lifestyle, it becomes difficult for other brands to replace Apple in my mind. Apple becomes my definition of quality products.
Brands without strategy, is dead.
With that said, a brand cannot stay strong without real strategy behind it. In an earlier entry, I have expressed my views that a brand without an underlying strategy is nothing but a symbol. This is also true for brands that have become strong based on heritage. If a company sits on its laurels and declares that it has arrived and ceases to innovate, that company will not stay strong for long. In recent times, we have seen how Nokia has fallen on the wayside because it was too slow to innovate in the face of the smart phone wave. It is now facing deep problems trying to appeal to the mobile phone market it once had a near monopoly on.
The Chinese have a saying, “Riches will last for no more than three generations”. Indeed, without efforts to really build the company in terms of providing quality products that consumers would demand, a brand cannot sustain itself. One though, cannot live without the other.