Until recently, big brands seemed as though they were unshakeable. If a company was known, respected, and popular, you could be confident that it wasn’t going to go anywhere. In the last 10 years, however, that has all changed. Just look at this short list of companies that have failed in the last decade: HomeBase, 3DO, Tiger Electronics, Kwik Save, MFI, Rosebys, Woolworths, Habitat, and the Sun-Times Media Grop.
It seems no industry is safe. Whether you sell furniture, household goods, toys, or newspapers, the name of your brand isn’t enough to keep your company going when you can’t shift stock from your display units because of an ailing economy.
The power of a brand name used to be an important part of a brand’s appeal when it came to attracting investors. This is still true to some extent, but the draw of a brand name is not as big, or as important, as it once was.
Today, the focus is on brand advocacy. Investors are looking for brands that have loyal customers. They want to see consumers voluntarily doing word of mouth marketing. Campaign agencies such as Buzz-Agent, and street teams, are one thing, but a brand that has people going around and evangelizing without that sort of incentive is even better, and that’s what investors are looking for. Consumers are increasingly starting to shape brands, rather than simply accepting that they should buy whatever brand it is that is designed for them.
Building a brand takes a lot of effort. Many brands engage in huge publicity stunts in the early days of their existence, enlisting trailer manufacturers to create special promotional vehicles and display units designed around their brand. The brand truck might travel the country, attracting attention everywhere it goes, and drawing crowds when it stops to do product demos in big cities.
Some brands simply hand out product samples. Others get the trailer manufacturers to make mobile computer labs, with everything from PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS stations in them, to fully featured PCs demonstrating the latest and greatest hardware and software.
Of course, the passing crowd can only generate buzz for so long. For your brand to survive in the long term, you will need to create a group of loyal users that will advocate your product without you having to spend a fortune on PR.
One good example of an advocacy program is the Intel Partner Program. This program is free to join, and offers support, documentation, and promotion to software developers that target the Intel platform. The benefit of this program, to Intel, is that it encourages developers to optimise the applications they write for Intel’s hardware. Developers join the program for the information it provides, get discounts on products that they probably plan on buying, and get a little free advertising. The people who buy the software that those developers write will see that it was designed for Intel based hardware, and will hopefully choose to buy Intel in the future. It’s a long term investment, but a good one for all of the companies involved.
Amy is extrememly interested in how the recession is affecting businesses of all sizes.