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Is Your Product Really a Brand?

By: Heather Champine, Partner and COO, Media Relations Agency

August 12, 2019

When you hear “Uber,” you probably think of a ride share service. Similarly, the name “Nike” makes most of us think of shoes. What would a stranger picture when told the name of your company or product?

At its core, a brand is the definition people hold in their minds of your company and its products. That definition is built in two ways: by what people are told, and by what they experience when they use your product.

Most products are not yet big enough to achieve brand status 

Heather Champine, Partner, Chief Operating Officer, Media Relations Agency

Heather Champine, Partner, Chief Operating Officer, Media Relations Agency

The term brand should not be used  for a company and its products until they have reached a certain level of name recognition. What is the threshold for a product becoming a brand? That’s debatable. But just as it’s reasonable to say an actor who is not famous is not a celebrity, it’s also reasonable to say a company or product that is not famous is not a brand.

There’s something about a novice marketer throwing around that word—”brand”—that makes them feel all warm inside. But calling your product a brand before the masses know about it is a mistake. Not only does it sound as silly as your little-known neighbor referring to themselves as a big celebrity; it fails to mask the fact that you have a lot of hard work to do before you are truly there.

Start by creating a brand statement

Write down how you want your audience to define your product. This is called a Brand Statement: the bull’s eye toward which all marketing communications are aimed.

Write your Brand Statement in the voice of a customer by imagining you are sitting in a coffee shop and overhearing two people at the next table talking. One person is explaining your product to the other and gets it exactly right. Their words come out just how you would like to hear them, and you are thrilled with their explanation.  

Target brand status for your product with Strategically Aimed Marketing

To become a brand, your audience must internalize your messaging. The best way to do that is to make full use of each promotional mix channel.

I encourage businesses to use a six-step marketing process called Strategically Aimed Marketing (SAM 6). This process is easy to implement, fun to follow and effective. It ensures that every marketing task is on point: using the right channel to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time. It’s all about making and keeping your product famous. Easy to say, tough to do. Do your block and tackling first. When you’re done with those, it’s time to get creative. (To help, there are free SAM 6 marketing tools online.)

Media coverage must be part of your brand-building strategy

Educating your market all at once is unrealistic, but to become a brand you’ll need to start somewhere. It makes sense to use media coverage as an initial channel: You have the time and space to tell a persuasive story, first to the early adopters, then the early majority. Once you’ve won over the early majority, you’ve got some serious brand-ward traction.

Media stories are a great way to reach and teach the masses. That’s because product publicity is relatively low-cost compared to other mass promotion techniques. And while a product is new, it’s especially newsworthy.

Good media coverage is a credible, compelling, flexible marketing tool. It gives you a reason to reach out to your followers without a heavy sales focus. If your product is featured on a national morning TV show, turn the video clip into shareable content by uploading it to your YouTube channel so you can link to it in blogs, newsletters, social media posts and digital ads. These tactics enable you to share your media stories with people who may not have seen them the first time around.

Of course, some products fail to become brands simply because people just didn’t want the product. But if marketing is the problem, it can be fixed.


About Heather: With more than 20 years of experience, Heather has played an integral role in building Media Relations Agency’s position as a respected international marketing agency. She has the keen understanding and insight to know how to run an integrated campaign and what it takes for clients’ stories to become the news. She’s part marketing strategist, part consumer psychologist and part motivational cheerleader. Follow Heather on Twitter @PUBLICITYCHAMP.

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