A strong brand is a vital asset in a world of clutter and commodity. Consumers are flooded with choice, and have no way to sample each product in a category before choosing. Brands are shorthand. They make it easier to find the right product faster.
What's funny is that the right product may be the same in composition as the wrong product. Consider the Mazda B-Series truck and the Ford Ranger. They're essentially the same truck, but carry brand cargo that couldn't be more different. Just try telling a Ford fan they're driving a Mazda.
So we all understand that brands are vital. But most of us believe only big, powerful companies need well-developed brands. Nothing could be further from the truth.
EARLY ADOPTERS BUY BELIEF.
Early adopters are the consumers most likely to try a new product. If they're impressed, they pass their recommendation along to the early majority, who tip the product into mass acceptance.
What's important to understand about early adopters is that they don't buy rationally. They're driven to be first, try the new, stand out from the crowd. They're the guys lined up at the electronics store the night before a new iPhone launches, even though they could just as easily wait a week and buy one with no hassle.
Early adopters want brands that reflect their adventurous spirit. They need to feel a kinship with the company they're going out on a limb for. And how do they make that connection?
Simon Sinek talks about why some new products succeed, while others fail. His point is that the failures talk about what they do, and perhaps how they do it. High on rational, low on imagination.
Wildly successful companies like Apple, however, always lead with why they do what they do. They talk about their beliefs, their deeper motivation, the way their product is more than a product. They talk about brand, essence, philosophy, and values.
SUCCESSFUL BRAND? OR FAILED PRODUCT?
Creating a brand often gets lost in the frenzy of launching a new product.
This is easy to understand. A million things need to go right just to get your innovation on the shelf. Too often, brand is left on the back burner. Or you make do with a quickie logo and a spec sheet.
This is a false economy.
What's the point of lining up your capital, getting the logistics right and mapping scalability if nobody's going to buy your product? Without a brand, the early adopter won't feel any affinity with you. And without the early adopter, you're not going anywhere.
GOOD DOESN'T MEAN EXPENSIVE
I'm not advocating a full blown branding effort with thick graphic standards manuals, ad campaigns and reams of online strategies.
On a limited budget, a brand bible outlining your brand essence, story, values and philosophy would make a great start. Putting a bit of effort into naming and logo work would really help, too.
It's a foundation you can build on as your brand gathers steam. And it will guarantee all your future efforts reinforce your brand, not distract from it.
All in, the initial effort might use up 5 to 10% of your initial funding.