Cadillac versus BMW; Neiman Marcus versus Macy’s; Macintosh versus PC;? it can all seem like dog versus cat. Products versus brands; which one is better in today’s world? Product marketing differentiates your products from other products. Brand marketing differentiates your customers from other customers.
In the marketing community, there is a struggle between the two schools of thought. The product folks believe the ultimate winner in every marketing battle is the better product. If this is so, the role of a company’s marketing program is to communicate the features and benefits that make a company’s product clearly superior to its competitors. It’s simple, logical and most important of all; the product school fits the facts everybody already knows.
Just ask yourself a couple of questions..what’s the best coffee? Starbucks; what’s the best energy drink? Red Bull; what’s the best smartphone? the iPhone.
With all the evidence on the side of the product school, how can anyone believe the brand is more important than the product? The key insight is perception. Everything in life is “perceptions.” There are no superior products. There are only superior perceptions in consumers’ minds. And perceptions are very difficult to change. Once a person holds a strong perception about a specific brand, it’s extremely difficult to change that perception leading to brand loyalty. The brand school believes:
- It’s better to be first than it is to be better. The product school doesn’t need to worry about when to launch a brand, but the brand school thinks differently. Since perceptions are difficult to change, it’s critical to get into consumers’ minds before the competition does. That’s why leader brands are usually first in their categories.
- It’s better to be different than it is to be better. ?Only a handful of brands can be first. So how can you overtake a leader? Be different. For example, Enterprise Rent-A-Car wasn’t necessarily better than Hertz. But it certainly was different. Instead of locating its rental counters in airline terminals (like Hertz, Avis, National and almost everybody else), Enterprise opened in the suburbs. Today, Enterprise is the largest car-rental company in America. Not Hertz.
What school do you belong to? ?Do you belong to the product school or the brand school? Or are you somewhere in the middle? We happen to believe brand marketing does not replace product marketing; it is a complement that builds customer loyalty. Let us know what you think and as always stay #TopRight.