A March 5, 2014 Forbes article, The Psychology and Philosophy of Branding, Marketing, Needs and Actions, says “Customers build brands, not companies.”  Really?

Flawed logic

While I agree with the author’s premise that lessons learned from Maslow and Aristotle about human behavior can dramatically improve brand creation and development, I don’t believe that customers build brands.  If that were true, innovations would never survive their initial entry into the marketplace.  

Diffusion studies show that only 2.5% of the total market for a product or service buys during the initial launch.  That’s hardly a resounding endorsement.  If it weren’t for the creator’s conviction that their product or service has real value, innovations wouldn’t just die, they’d die quickly.

Brand building

Conviction

Building a brand requires, first and foremost, a conviction on the part of the innovator that the innovation will improve others’ lives.  Finding the right mix of features and benefits, the 2.5% of the market that loves innovation and surviving the countless rejections from those who don’t, aren’t for the faint of heart.

Alignment

The second element of brand building is communicating your values, your vision and your passion in ways that allow people like you to find your product or service.  It’s this alignment that builds brands.  

Companies that believe they can help everyone, end up serving no one.  Why?  Because their marketing messages are so generic that potential customers don’t feel that the message is intended for them.  Contrast that with marketing messages that, in the early stages, target only innovation buyers.  These customers see themselves when they hear language like ‘leading edge, never before, amazing new…’.  Innovation buyers can’t resist the latest, greatest.

As these innovation buyers provide feedback that allow the company to fix problems and improve its offering, the marketing messages must change to attract the next group in the succession of innovation buyers.  These folks need to know that the inevitable problems that occur with new product/service launches have been fixed.  They’re also visionaries who see applications others don’t see.  Your marketing messages have to speak to their interests in reliability and vision.

The third group of customers for innovation offerings need to know that there are practical applications and measurable results from using your product or service.  Once again, your marketing message must change to deal with this ‘third market’ for your offerings.

Interestingly, all three groups, despite the timing of their entry into the market, share your values.  They all want the value you intended when you created your offering.  By aligning your values, the marketing messages that allow customers to see themselves and the current stage of your brand’s development, you build a brand.

Moral

It’s your responsibility to build your brand, not your customers’.  They will support and encourage the growth of your brand as long as you consistently deliver on your brand promise.  

It’s not rocket science, but there are some hard, fast rules that, if followed, will accelerate the development of your brand.