Brands, value and me

Photo by Jon Stow

Photo by Jon Stow

I would normally avoid medical matters in this blog, but it is relevant that I am allergic to pollen floating about from early spring to mid-summer. You see, I buy anti-allergy pills which I find very helpful.

I needed some more, so went to one of the local supermarkets. They only had the famous brand variety, at £5.99 a packet. I am used to paying £2.00 for the generic version, which is exactly the same. Yet people must buy the well-known brand at that higher price otherwise the pharma company would not bother to maintain it. Brand power is worth a lot to big business, but I have to see value, and as far as my antihistamine requirement was concerned I did not see the value.

I crossed the road to another shop and paid my £2 for a generic version. What would you have done?

Standing out from the crowd in your business

Boring shopping

I was walking through the main shopping area of our county town the other day and I could not help thinking it looked just like the main drag of every other large town I have been to recently. Even if I did not know them, it would be possible to guess which stores lined the street because they are all parts of large chains and multi-nationals. That goes for both the retailers and the coffee shops.

There are of course certain chains we might rely on for particular products such as our underwear, but the reality is that there is no variety of choice. Without real diversity in the product or service there is far less attraction to the customer looking for specific features.


Selling the same old…

It is the same with professional firms such as accountants or solicitors. I would always go with a recommendation because how else does one distinguish between them when they all appear to be the same? How do we know in what areas of expertise they particularly excel?

If we go to many accountants’ websites they say things like “we specialise in audits, accounts production, self assessment tax return processing, and management accounts and cash flow management.”

Well, firstly, they do not specialise in the services offered since they offer many. They may have specialists in each area of course. Secondly, talking about “processing” does not sound like much of a personal or individual service, does it?

Nowhere do many say what they do for the client, and how much better the customer will feel having the weight taken off their shoulders.

Your brand is the difference

The accountants do not appear to have a distinguishable brand. We do not know what they stand for. The big stores have some sort of brand, but few large companies have a personal brand. There are exceptions. Richard Branson is the face of Virgin. Anita Roddick gave her personal brand to Body Shop through her own ethics and campaigning.

You can do that too, by creating an individual brand around yourself, with a reputation for the very best and most different service to others in the market. If you have a unique product, sell it. If you make the finest shortbreads which could not be confused with other people’s shortbreads, sell that feature and the satisfaction it will give the purchaser. If your offer is the very best bespoke service anyone could expect, sell that and your personality along with it.

Small businesses do best by being different and when they grow into Virgin they still do best by being different. Try it and see if I am not right. Don’t you agree?

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Why your brand and your USP are important

Have you ever been confused by a marketing message or an advertisement that seemed out of place with the product? My on-line and sometimes off-line friend Rod Sloane quite rightly described McDonalds’ current TV ad in the UK as “bonkers” which was exactly the word that had come to my mind.


Possibly McDonalds feel that their burgers have to be portrayed as a wholesome product made with 100% British beef but the ad does not even show the product, only pulling us back at the end with the familiar McDonalds banner. Otherwise it is along the line of some of those car adverts where we think “what on earth was all that about?” Of course I understand that the healthy option food police have suggested that burgers are dangerous with all that cholesterol, but let’s be sensible. Healthy sports can be dangerous. As a fit though not talented skier I did myself a lot of damage once. I do not think we should ban skiing and I do not think we should ban Big Macs or that McDonalds should almost pretend they do not sell them.

I have more than one business, and perhaps I should not tell you so as not to confuse you. I think if you are here then you are more likely to buy into me and my personal brand (this is not a selling blog of course). However, my businesses are marketed separately and distinctly, and I hope people are not confused between them. We need to keep our propositions simple. If someone is a landscape gardener who also knows a lot about keeping coy carp and goldfish, and excavates and sets up ponds, it is probably better to keep the propositions separate. Otherwise potential clients will say “is he / she a gardening expert or a pond expert?” They might think that they are looking at a gardener who dabbles figuratively and otherwise in ponds, and it blurs the offering. Of course a person can be very good at more than one thing, as I think I am, but for someone who does not know the business owner, it can be very confusing and that person may go to whom he or she considers the “expert” rather than to a supposed dabbler.

So I believe that when we market our business by whatever means, we need to keep our product or service clear and distinct, and whilst we may talk about the problems we solve, we do not need to get involved in the fluffy stuff such as McDonalds’ pastoral scenes and bucolic frolics. McDonalds are selling fast food, aren’t they? They should stick with their USP.

© Jon Stow 2009