It wasn’t long ago that automotive giants Dodge and Chrysler were on the verge of failure. For decades Dodge was the flashy, sporty brand and Chrysler was the choice for the sophisticated buyer. From 1999 to 2009, these brands slowly withered under the harsh realities of high gas prices and changing automotive tastes. Then came the financial meltdown. We all remember the headlines decrying Detroit’s demise, corporate failures, government bail outs and inevitable buyouts. But just when it appeared that Chrysler was about to take its last breath, a visionary leader arrived to take the wheel and steer this iconic American brand back into the mainstream.
In the midst of the 2009 financial crisis, Fiat Group CEO Sergio Marchionne purchased twenty percent of Chrysler Corporation as it emerged from bankruptcy. How could he revive this emaciated, nearly bankrupt brand while the nation and the world remained trapped in the throes of financial upheaval? He bet the bank on a new brand. With a single commercial during the 2011 Super Bowl, the cash-strapped auto giant spent $10 million dollars to purchase two minutes of prime airtime to present the new Chrysler message.
This two minute commercial helped Americans see Chrysler in a new way. For two minutes, Americans saw Chrysler mirrored in their own lives and their hardships. Like them, Chrysler had seen some tough times, but true to America’s spirit of reinvention, Chrysler was coming back strong. Americans love the underdog, and Chrysler embodied the spirit of humbled giant that was fighting its way back to the top again. Chrysler was America. Bam.
The new tagline underscored the American national desire to buy locally and to spread the American ideal around the world. Sales went through the roof. Chrysler got back to work doing what it does best…building powerful, iconic cars. The reinvention saved Chrysler and helped reinvigorate America to believe in itself again.
Strong brands embrace the zeitgeist of the moment, yet transcend any given time. Visionary brands help us to see more, to want more, to be more. The best brands are bigger than the companies they represent…because the best brands are ideas; ideas that help us see our interconnectedness, to imagine and to dream. The best brands inspire.
Is your company’s brand in need of an overhaul? How do you build a better brand?
According to an October 2014 study on authentic brands by Cohn & Wolfe, the #1 quality that people demand of big brands is: Honest communication about products and services. Today, it seems that only the most sensational news or messaging makes it through the clutter. But the truth is that honest, trusted brands capture our attention and hold it, in meaningful ways that even the world’s flashiest brands cannot. Most of us can tell when the brand promise is too big to be true or when we are being “sold” a line. In an age of half-baked truths and finessed lies, the honest message is the one that gets through.
Google is everywhere and has secured a stronghold in consumers’ minds by being perceived as a necessity in their lives. In some polls, Google ranks # 1 among brands that “genuinely want to make a difference in the world.” Google is lofty in its aspirations and is perceived as genuinely striving to reach their lofty goals. Customers see Google as a visionary, honest global brand.
A brand is more than a mark or a logo. As great as your logo may look, your logo isn’t your “brand” in the true sense. And it certainly isn’t what makes your brand valuable. While you may own your logo…you can’t own your brand. Your brand is the perception of your company in the mind of consumers. Essentially your customers hold your brand perception. Take care of your customers and you will likely have a great brand. Neglect your customers and your brand will reflect this negative perception. Poor brands make promises they cannot keep. Good brands make bold promises and they keep them. By delivering on their brand promises, companies create brand value.
You can’t just change a brand willy-nilly. A brand is a consensual arrangement. Case in point: McDonald’s wants to be perceived as a fast food restaurant with healthy choices. While McDonald’s offers salads and fruit items, most of us are in love with their crisp, golden French fries, making it difficult to picture the fast food giant as a healthy choice. Because McDonald’s has succeeded globally in branding their tasty burgers and fries, it will take time and persistence for us to see McDonald’s as a healthy brand.
The key to a powerful, positive lifetime brand is to build customer relationships first and put marketing second. Relationship marketing is predicated on a triadic process of helping your customers come to 1. Know you, 2. Like you and 3. Trust you. Your customer service and your marketing should be focused on helping customers know you in honest and sincere ways. When you help them Know you, you build a foundation for them to Like you. When they Like you, it’s easier for them to Trust you. Earn this Trust by keeping your brand promises. When your customers Trust you, they will inevitably continue to do business with you. Relationship development produces customers that not only rave about you but refer you to other people without your even asking. This is the kind of brand that every company wants!
Remember…Relationships are of little value if you lack a brand to give the relationships meaning. Your brand is of little value if it lacks customer relationships.
Be Geniune. Keep your Promises. Build Relationships. It’s that simple.
When is the right time to build a better brand? You can wait for a crisis to make drastic changes like Chrysler or you can pay attention to market trends, listen to your customers and be proactive about your branding. You already know which one is the right approach. But like Stephen Covey says, “To know and to not yet do it, is to not yet know.”
Patrick Goodness, CEO
The Goodness Company