Why leading companies keep branding

Fuel GaugeDo companies like SPX, salesforce and Canon really need to continue branding themselves to retain their customers and encourage others to purchase their products?

Why does Intel feel the need to spend billions each year on keeping its brand relevant, knowing they are the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip manufacturer? Shouldn’t they be able to ease off the gas for a while and coast by on a skinnier budget?

Sure, these leading brands could certainly take it easy and do what many businesses do when they are having record profits – cut branding budgets and enjoy the cheap ride. But they don’t, and probably never will for two reasons: 1) Their cultures require an ongoing investment to ensure delivery on their brand promises, and 2) They know that once their brands fade out of consumer sight, they also fade out of consumer mind.

Cultures require an ongoing investment to ensure delivery on the brand promise

In the manufacturing sector, being a leader in an industry is synonymous with innovation (patents), expertise, quality and brand value. While many companies boast having these traits, only a rare few can prove ownership through evidence of performance. And if you believe this can only be achieved by large companies flush with cash to spend on research and development while hiring six-figure experts in an industry, think again. Just tune in to the show Shark Tank, and you’ll see plenty of brilliant innovators who are one successful pitch away from getting the funding they need to take their game-changing innovation to the next level. Just remember that every business started in someone’s garage, on a kitchen table, or in a dorm room.

As a company scales, its owner will need to establish the kind of culture necessary to deliver on his company’s brand promise. The culture will be 100 percent driven by the company’s mission, purpose and values.

Take the case of two manufacturers, both of which produce fluid film bearings for OEMs. One manufacturer wishes to be the industry leader through innovation and technology. The other has a different focus – to produce the best and highest quality bearings. Two manufacturers, each producing identical products with a completely different focus. For the manufacturer focused on innovation, he will need to hire teams of innovative thinkers and researchers and foster an environment where making mistakes along the path to success is embraced. For the manufacturer focused on quality, she will need to hire people who are analytical, possess traits of perfectionism and have high expectations of their colleagues. This manufacturer will need to invest heavily into rigorous testing and quality control. This is exactly what is meant by “hiring to culture.”

Out of consumer sight, out of consumer mind

What would you expect to happen if AT&T, Oracle, Lenovo, or any other well-known brand hit the brakes or scaled back on their branding efforts? In the minds of buyers and prospective buyers, one of either two thoughts would occur:

  1. No thought at all. People don’t notice what they don’t see or hear, and this is unquestionably the most dangerous consequence of scaling back or eliminating any form of branding activities. These companies may retain a fair share of their current customers for the short term, but will have minimal success in converting prospects into buyers due to a visual absence of the brand. They can also expect a fair amount of attrition, as competing brands with strong value propositions will lure its customers away over time. Some justify a scaling back on branding by believing word-of-mouth and referrals will keep the pipeline full, but such a strategy is never sustainable.
  1. The brand no longer exists. Mergers and acquisitions are more common now than ever. Customers and prospects may simply assume that the company was either purchased or that it has fallen on hard times and closed its doors. Scaling back on branding is perceived as a key indicator that a company is in trouble. And, a company perceived to be in trouble is one that is avoided.

Your brand is the most important asset you own – it’s the reason people buy from you and it’s the reason people work for you. The greater the investment you make into it, the greater return you will experience in the form of sales, awareness, uniqueness, value and growth.