Tension creates a branding dilemma

Last week, I expressed the need for a powerful brand to create a certain tension between novel and utilitarian.

This is really a concern when branding a new company, product or service. For the consumer to put a new product in context to their needs and desires, they must have some sort of understanding of the purpose of the brand. In other words, they must comprehend its utility.

For my own part, I’m still not clear just what Blackberry means to me. Nor do I know enough about Blue Tooth to know if it even applies to me. And what is a “Blue Ray”? Until I’ve actually experienced the technology and gotten past the strangeness of it can I begin to appreciate its benefits to me.

So do I begin by branding uniquely and then through my marketing efforts build some familiarity, or do I attempt to brand based on knowing my customer’s collective mind-set well enough to make the new product familiar right from the beginning?

To me the challenge is to brand with a novel name and icon structure that conveys benefit in a context in which customers can immediately identify. I want my cake and eat it too.

Most technologically driven companies won’t stand for that. They claim the product is so revolutionary that it’s no longer relevant to “the old paradigm”. So begins the long gestation period where market segments, usually one at a time, begin to “get it”.

There’s a bit of arrogance in this position.

And an expensive approach to market penetration.

So I say, yes, make sure the branding elements are unique, but place them and your “brand story” in the familiar arena of your prospects’ frame of reference.

Now that’s a difficult assignment. Sometimes, as in the case of Hewlett-Packard, it has to do with re-defining the product category as they did back in the 1970’s when they “invented” the “programmable calculator” and then evolved it into a “desktop computer”. They evolved, and their target engineering/scientific markets were accepting the transition. That base is the foundation to all that followed for H-P in the small computer and peripheral business.

So it can work. Just requires some work and a market’s view-point instead of a technologist’s.
Martin Jelsema


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