C-Suite Network™

Product and Brand: What’s the Difference?

The words “product” and “brand” are sometimes used interchangeably. But we think there’s a great difference between the two. A product is simply the item for sale. A brand is the combination of the label, image, logo, promise, positioning, and overall reputation. A product without a brand is generic, and typically sold in bulk. Once that product has a brand, however, the product itself and its provided customer experience affect the brand promise, brand image, and reputation.

This goes double for brands with physical products. The brand is judged by the branded product. It isn’t the only factor, but it can make or break customers’ experience. Their experience with the packaging, logo, label, price, position, and accessibility directly influence the brand’s image, reputation, and promise. For example, if the branded physical product is out of stock when a loyal customer wants it, the brand’s image is tarnished. The brand is no longer dependable. This happens even if the situation is the retailer’s or distributor’s fault.

Likewise, when your consumer thinks the price is too high, your brand image is hurt. Your customer thinks, “This is supposed to be the same quality product for the same price I paid last time, but now they want more!” They might feel required to warn friends or colleagues to whom they had previously suggested your brand. But the price increase may have been a desire on the retailer’s behalf to make more off of your product. Or maybe the retailer wants to sell their store brand, thus returning more profit, and drive traffic away from your product. Still, in the consumer’s eyes, it’s your brand’s fault.

There are many ways the brand producer can harm their brand: removing quality markers in the name of cost reduction, productivity, or conforming to corporate formats, which your customer sees as devaluing the brand’s image; making drastic changes to the logo or label for “change’s sake” which confuses the customer; diminishing the product’s quality to “increase profit margins,” which hurts the brand’s value perception and quality. The producer can also cut their own sales by doing things that hurt the environment, labor, or the community—this all reflects poorly on the brand’s image.

So, in the branded product arena, the product and how it’s perceived are still the main features of brand building. Keeping your distribution channel open and moving are essential to the brand’s feel of dependability. The product’s pricing, shape, packaging, size, labeling, contents, and availability represent what the consumer thinks of the brand.

This is why we highly emphasize retail merchandising and distribution of physical product brands. So what if your website looks great, or if your persuasive slogan and logo are matched on your baseball hats, envelopes, and stationery—It doesn’t matter if you let the consumer down.

Real brand building takes true responsibility for your branded product once it leaves your hands. Active support, observance, and care at every point in the distribution channel are all essential to building your brand. Your brand’s image is only as good as your customer’s experience and your physical product. If it’s good, they applaud your brand. But if it’s bad, they blame your brand!

For more, read on: http://c-suitenetworkadvisors.com/advisor/michael-houlihan-and-bonnie-harvey/

MIchael and Bonnie Harvey
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