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May 19, 2020

Is your brand treasured or tolerated?  It’s a simple question that brands and marketers have been asking and working to address, well, forever.  However, the answer to the question today may signal whether your brand will survive or thrive as we work our way through and out of a pandemic. The question can be asked in any category or sector from B2B to B2C.  It can apply at the organization level, to products, and to individual service providers or personal brands—it even applies to politics (don’t get me started). 

Make a list in your head.  Which brands do you treasure and why? I’ll share three of mine and the reasons why I am beholden to the brand to get you started.

Delta Airlines.  One person’s favorite is another’s not so favorite, yet I’ve flown Delta for years. The planes are cleaner than other carriers, prices are on par with other business travel options, the people that take care of me seem to care about my comfort, and they ask after every flight if they could improve the experience.  When I’m delayed, I get an email apology, even if it was due to the weather.  Call these the little things, yet as a frequent flyer the little things add up to a lot. When we all are cleared to travel again, I’ll be booking with Delta. By the way, booking on line via the app or website is super easy. Another brand plus.

Wilson Farms.  A few miles outside of Boston, Wilsons is a blend of road side farm stand, working “farm” and local grocery store (think Wholefoods or Wegmans before Wholefoods and Wegmans, but on a smaller scale).  Everything you buy is made on premise or curated like it was made on premise — the best meats, bakery items, cheeses, flowers, dry goods, vegetables, prepared meals.  Everything is also presented like an art exhibit; offered by a friendly, knowledgeable staff; packaged in a homey atmosphere; and priced close to your local supermarket’s structure. For added measure, the workers have been at it 15+ hours a day for two months to keep our cupboards and fridge full. They don’t complain about the conditions but do ask how you’ve been.  I’ll pay their efforts back with interest for years to come.

Cannon Mountain.  I am an avid skier and have a resort of choice which is unlikely to change. Ever. In the white mountains of NH, Cannon costs 30% less than other resorts—it is state run and runs with no frills.  My family has season passes, but we don’t shop on price.  We love the people who ski Cannon (even the snowboarders).  We also love the vibe, the lack of fancy restaurants, the short lines, and the fun we poke at skiers from other mountains. The mountain’s tagline, “I am Cannon,” kind of nails it.

I could go on and on about other brands I favor like McKinsey and Jeep and Netflix and Kimpton Hotels and Maine’s Allagash Beer Company; you can do the same. 

What do these treasured brands have in common?

  • The product or service is something of value.
  • You tend to connect with the brand personally and vice versa.
  • They’ve shown genuine care for you through the years.
  • They are priced right for the value you get.  This means they might be a more expensive but you value the brand enough to pay a bit more or, at least, to not shop around.

Now, which brands do you tolerate? I bet a list quickly comes to mind. I’ll not name names because it is not fair to do so in this forum.  Whether they are in categories like the ones above or in others, the tolerated tend to be, um, tolerated because they are:

  • convenient or available in the moment—like the only airline that can you get from point A to B that day, but is not worthy of your loyalty on other days.
  • less costly—you’re loyal to the pricing and not much else. If you got a better deal from another, you’d take it in a heartbeat. Car dealer brands may be a good example.
  • hard to change—there’s more work involved to move from one brand to another than you’d like to do. Fancy consultants call these switching costs. Examples might be your cable provider, a tax/financial advisor or the place your less than fully happy kid goes to college.

Tolerated brands might be the first to go when we are all free to go “shopping” again. So, if you accept the premise that treasured brands are positioned for post pandemic success, the question this post begs to answer is what you can do to move your brand from tolerated to treasured?  This is an not an easy question—there are shades of grey—but on a continuum of 1 to 10, tolerated to treasured, we’d all like our brands to be on the higher end of the scale.  

Perhaps the place to start is by asking customers what they find satisfying, listening intently, and then responding with changes they value.  Then it’s a process of finding and persuading non-customers or clients that they’ve been missing out on a treasure.  Talented researchers, strategist and campaigners can help.  I know several at Finn if you need to talk through the process.

 

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