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Product success can be measured in a multitude of ways, but they all boil down to whether or not the product has achieved its intended impact. That intended impact will vary business to business, but ultimately, what matters is how well the product is fulfilling its potential. Now, there’s a lot that goes into building, deploying, and maintaining successful products, from market research, product design and development, to marketing, selling, building customer knowledge, customer service and support, and much more. But a critical factor that is often overlooked is the role branding plays in product success.
Branding, and marketing as a whole, is often seen as an entirely separate entity from the product development world, or even customer service and sales. However, all of these branches carry a similar goal of working to encourage the success of the product, and ultimately, the company.
While a product team is creating the special thing your company provides, the branding or marketing team finds a way to speak to the world about it. Products are the asset or value of your company, while the brand tells the story and actively communicates it. What’s important to note here is how a company is different from the products it sells. That is what makes branding necessary—it ties the two together. That’s the difference between Eggos and frozen waffles (stick with me here). Eggos (a product that the company Eggo sells) have been branded successfully enough that people casually refer to them as the company name, rather than just calling them frozen waffles. But there are loads of other frozen waffle brands like Vans, Kashi, and Kodiak Cakes, yet, we don’t hear kids asking their parents to pop a couple of Vans in the toaster before school.
And it gets trickier when one company operates many different brands that all sell a large variety of different products. These different brands need to distinctly speak to what product they offer and what their company values. Think Honda and Acura—two distinct brands, two distinct audiences, one luxury and one economy, under one unified company delivering similar promises under similar values.
Now that we’ve covered the product and the brand, let’s dive into how branding creates product success.
It is easy to make the mistake and view branding efforts and product development as separate entities. Those on the product side often think branding isn’t worth the resources because a product sells itself, while those on the branding side see their position as a pivotal resource. And despite the benefits we’ve covered, many companies still don’t invest in branding efforts at all. So, let’s look into some realistic things you can do to start closing that gap between the product and the brand:
Now, all of this talk about the meaning of the product, brand, and audience may sound a bit theoretical or abstract. So, let’s dive into some tangible examples of companies who have successfully unified their product and brand resulting in their product success.
There are hundreds of thousands of shoe brands out there, but only a few who have successfully made a name for themself. Bangs is the perfect example of a company who started out selling a basic sneaker but used their unique brand to set themself apart. Their brand is all about adventure, the environment, and making the world a better place, with their slogan being “Adventure is wherever YOU are.” They have a very clearly defined audience of travelers, adventurers, entrepreneurs, and environment-conscious customers.
But what’s most notable is how they carry that brand, not just on their site and marketing efforts, but in the product itself. To start, they clearly outline how 20% of their profits go toward investing in entrepreneur business ideas. Therefore, when you buy their shoes, you are also supporting a start-up.
Next, the shoes themselves are “100% vegan, with ethically sourced materials inside a factory whose workers are treated with dignity and respect.” This speaks volumes to their environment-conscious audience. Your brand cannot claim to be environmentally friendly unless your products are sustainable themselves. And this is a huge selling factor for many of their customers wanting to do their part in the world.
And, if you look at the shoes themselves, you can see how they are designed with all of this in mind. First, each shoe has unique names relating to different geographical landmarks, like “The Sahara” or “Red Rocks High Tops,” calling to trailblazers across the world. Next, each shoe comes with multiple variations of different patchwork featuring natural patterns like forests, sunsets, mountains, deserts, honeycombs (for all the bee lovers), and more. Each individual shoe speaks to different audiences with different interests while carrying the same love of adventure that the brand values.
If that’s not enough, right now they’re even offering a special promotion with PuraVida bracelets to receive a free bracelet on certain order quantities. This is valuable to note because the company PuraVida shares similar brand values, so running a promotion like this only strengthens their target audience.
What’s most important to note is how all of these branding efforts within their products have paid off. They have created a name for themselves in the shoe business that resonates with their values. In these reviews you can see how their customers are most satisfied with the role their brand plays in the purchasing process. Overall, they created a successful product experience for their customers with their strong branding efforts.
When you think of successfully unified products and branding efforts, you probably don’t think of a grocery store—the commonplace of generalized boredom. But, that is just what sets Trader Joe’s apart. Their unique brand is exactly what makes them different from all of the competitors, offering nearly the same products at (somewhat) similar pricing. But, Trader Joe’s does it differently, defining their brand as an everyday focus on value. Their mission is to bring the corner-store, quirky, cheap grocery shop to the corporate scale, providing unique and fun groceries to everyone. They strive to be the “national chain of neighborhood grocery stores.”
While they deliver on this brand promise in their marketing efforts, in-store appearances, and online experience, they also carefully weave it into their products. To start, they have created sub-brand names to differentiate between different food cultures, like “Trader-Mings,” “Trader Giotto’s,” “Pilgrim Joe,” and more. But what may be most notable are the product names themselves. Trader Joe’s is known for their quirky and different item names, like the vanilla sandwich cookie named “These sprinkles walk into a sandwich cookie” or their infamous seasoning names: “Everything but the bagel seasoning,” or “Everything but the elote seasoning.” These are things you would expect to find at a local shop downtown, not a national chain. This naming tactic has made some of their products even go viral across social media.
And, it goes beyond the name of the product. Every single price tag in the store is hand-drawn by a local store artist including the price, product description, and even pairing and cooking tips. This helps shoppers feel like they’re receiving special one-on-one treatment.
Another special product branding experience they offer is the free samples. In fact, they spend the most on free samples over any other marketing effort, allowing customers to sample every product they sell while providing sampling stations of featured products. This strategy lets the product advertise itself and maintain this “value” brand they wish to hold by allowing customers to test a product and experience its value before purchasing.
Lastly, every week Trader Joe’s puts out new products and even offers products from local vendors. This makes every single shopping experience unique, from where you shop to when you shop. They take careful consideration of how their audience is responding to different products and adjust periodically.
Overall, this intricate tie between their products and brands has led to clear product success for Trader Joe’s. Their customers are happy, coming back to try out new products and experience the small-shop flare.
If you take anything away from this article it’s that branding should play an integral role in the development of products in order to contribute to their success. Product success is complex and involves many moving parts. To learn more about improving your product success, read about building customer knowledge and guided selling.
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