The Price You Don’t Have to Pay

[Cache #189]

By Andris Pone
President, Coin Branding

“Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product.”
Jeff Bezos

Clients and others often tell me, with a measure of pride in their voices, that most of their business comes from word-of-mouth.  In other words, they don’t spend much if any money on advertising.

On the surface, in today’s world this is an impressive accomplishment.  Each and every day, our company and personal brands are competing with the biggest ad spenders in the world for the most precious asset in the branding universe, brainspace.  Regardless of whether you run a billion-dollar-organization, an entrepreneurial startup or just yourself, you are locked in competition with titans like Apple and Google, who, together with their cohorts on Fortune’s list of the world’s most valuable brands in 2014, spent a combined $24-billion on advertising.

Hopelessly outspent, the most promising strategy for the 99-plus-percent of us is to be remark-able – worthy of word-of-mouth.  Among its virtues, word-of-mouth is close to free, and compared to advertising, people more readily believe it.

But in this regard there are two key caveats.  First:  just because you get most or all of your business from word-of-mouth, or just because you don’t spend money on advertising, decidedly does not mean you are remark-able.  In fact your brand could be quite unremark-able and still survive for some time, as demonstrated so impressively by companies like Canadian Tire and Hudson’s Bay, which are understood to be lacking on multiple levels – yet somehow still draw us in.

The second caveat:  remark-ability is not just for the 99-plus-percent of us.  In fact, it is for everyone.  Even among the world’s most valuable brands, there is a clear, if not straight-line, inverse relationship between brand value and advertising spend.  Apple, 2014’s most valuable brand at $124-billion, spent just 0.89% of that figure on advertising.  Louis Vuitton, which had the lowest brand value on the top 10 list, was the biggest ad spender, at $4.7-billion – almost 16% of its entire value.

Apple could therefore be considered – and this will probably surprise no one – as the world’s most remark-able brand.

How, then, to be remark-able?  Start by focusing on these three factors:

1.  Be different from everyone else.  But, because it is very likely that your business is actually not much different from others, the difference that does exist will be difficult to express.  Hire someone to help you do it.

2.  Find your “why,” because people don’t buy what you do – they buy why you do it.  When you talk about what you do, or even how you do it, you are often just expressing table stakes.  Watch Simon Sinek’s 18-minute TED talk as a starting point.

3.  Deliver great experiences.  Even in industries that are not commoditized, there are far fewer than 50 shades of grey between one brand and another.  Delivering a great experience is your secret weapon, one that the other guys are probably too lazy to try.

Because ask yourself:  do you really want to be the Canadian Tire or Hudson’s Bay of your industry?

Why leave a comment on the blog?  I greatly appreciate the emails I get each week from people who’ve enjoyed the blog.  Yet most people do not actually leave a comment on the website, at the end of each blog.  I’d like to encourage you to use the comment field instead of sending me an email, because:
-It is fun and enlightening to get a conversation going with other commenters, as Cache readers are an extremely smart and good-looking bunch.
-I respond to every comment you leave.
-If you have a website, your comment helps your website rank higher on Google (because there is a space for you to leave your web address).
-Even if you do not have a website, your comments definitely help build the Coin brand as a provider of thought leadership related to branding.

OR, you can just continue to send me your emails, which I love to receive and respond to.

With thanks –

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