In 1990, Kenichi Omhae, a corporate and business strategist, published “The Borderless World”. In this book he outlined a completely new model of a globally interlinked economy. He claimed that, because of globalization, production and business can no longer be limited by national borders. Such a world opens a plethora of new possibilities and markets, but also, unfortunately, makes companies more vulnerable to competition. As of now, a company from the United Kingdom can occupy the same market as a similar firm from, say, Singapore or Canada. That means the possibilities to lose are much bigger, but the possibilities for winning have rose even more! And what is one of the ways to secure your company’s domination on the market? It is having a strong brand driver!

What is a brand driver and how to create one - Seb Waligorski - brand driver

WHAT IS A BRAND DRIVER?

Kenichi Ohmae outlined a 3C model for a company operating in a globalized world. The Cs mean: Customer, Corporation and Competition. Each firm needs to take all of these into account in order to be successful. There is however one thing that is especially relevant to this article’s topic – it is the principle of selectivity. It means that a company does not need to excel in every field. Having a strong edge in a single field and being average in others is sufficient. As Ohmae argued, the mediocre features of your company will improve in time, driven by that one asset, in which you excel. That will be your BRAND DRIVER – something that your firm will be recognized for. Well, enough with the theory, let’s get to the examples!

Think of McDonald’s. Chances are that you live within a walking distance from one of their restaurants – the 2004 movie “Super Size Me” claimed there are 83 McDonald’s restaurants in New York’s Manhattan (which has an area of 59.1 sq km) alone! Of course it’s not that dense everywhere in the world, in fact Manhattan is a bit of an exception, but you should get the idea. McDonald’s restaurants are everywhere. They offer fast and relatively cheap meals. They’ve been around for decades now, constantly changing and shifting to better respond to customer’s needs. Anytime you walk into a McDonald’s restaurant you know exactly what’s what. The design, the base menu, the uniforms of the staff – it’s all the same all around the world! You could walk into one of their restaurants in the US, grab a Big Mac, then jump on a plane to Thailand and get another Big Mac – there would probably be no major difference between the two sandwiches.

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The above feature of McDonald’s is what helped it become such a major player in the fast food game. Availability and shared features of all restaurants are the chain’s brand driver!

Let’s think of more examples. Take Apple – a company known for its high quality computers, phones and electronic equipment. The shared feature of all the iPhones, iPads, iPods and iMacs is the beautiful minimal design. This is what makes Apple stand out from all the other smartphone and laptop producers. Another example – Mercedes cars known for their luxurious looks, durability and high quality. A person owning a Mercedes is likely to be considered a big shot or a seasoned car enthusiast. You need more? How about Coca Cola? A classic can and bottle design, the logo, and oh my goodness, that inimitable taste!

What is a brand driver and how to create one - Seb Waligorski - brand driver

Are your company ready for changes?

This should be the first thing you should think about when deciding to search for your brand driver. There is a very true sentence floating over the internet “There is nothing more certain than changes” it’s a paraphrase of the idea of taxes, but it’s still very relevant and you should memorize it. You can start your research in few ways (which we will cover later in this article) and they mostly cost only time, but what will you do when the result come up? Are your company or organization structures ready for major changes in its overall direction and processes? How about the time you need to spend on the research and implementation of the changes? These questions are vital to the whole process of identifying what is your brand driver. it could be that the direction you took on the start of your company is not “the thing” that drives the company’s growth and you would need to focus your attention elsewhere on a field you didn’t think would be major – for example Miele’s main goal was to create high-quality products, but the thing that most of their customers valued were the innovations that each product had to offer. In this scenario, Miele retained the goal of creating high-quality products but also spent more money on research of innovations and technology. Be sure to be flexible and agile if it comes to changing of direction and implementation of changes, as it can help your company grow even faster.

Always make your research!

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Some people while reading this will say – “well that’s the basic thing to do!”. Surprising, most business owners tend to just check if the field they want develop in is not so much occupied and additionally who is working there already. It’s always a good idea to check your current competitors but I advise to look even more into the issue. If somebody is already doing or even expanding similar ideas as yours, are they doing it the right way? Is their idea only similar or in some ways better than ours? Maybe your competitors main business focus only slightly overlaps with your company’s chosen brand driver, and you can improve the service they are offering? Or even expand it to a whole new level creating something clearly unique?  

Also if you found a niche that is not used by anyone yet (good for you!) you need to do even more outside of the box research to find out how you can completely fill out that opportunity. The market doesn’t let any voids occur for long, so when you will start expanding on a new field that nobody tried yet, be sure that within few months there will be already 3 similar as your company’s specialized in the things you started. That is why you need to think out every major and minor thing through before going with your idea officially.      

HOW TO IDENTIFY AND CREATE A BRAND DRIVER WITHIN YOUR COMPANY?

Let’s come back to the examples I listed in the paragraph above. Mercedes is known for not only for its positive traits, but also for its high prices. However, there are other brands known for cheap prices that managed to fill the market niche, where the demand for affordable cars was huge. While Mercedes sells vehicles for CEOs, Ford sells at a much lower price. In fact, Ford built its reputation back in the 1920s by offering mass-produced cars – the Ford T was so cheap that an average worker could afford it. By comparing Mercedes and Ford one can draw a conclusion that in order to identify a brand driver, one needs to look for a MARKET NICHE, which can be filled by a product or a service. Somebody offers an expensive product? Start producing a cheap version! Let the affordability become your brand driver. Or to speak in a broader sense – let the CONTRAST become your brand driver! That might be applicable if you are operating in an already established industry, just like the car industry, or an electronic equipment industry (following the example of Apple).

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Recently I found a startup (named Solve), which offers a fast track guidance through airport security checks. I was a bit shocked when I’ve read about it – security checks at airports are such an unlikely place to make business, yet Solve pulled it off! Their brand driver? A unique service might be one thing, but another one is an offer to help people in a highly stressful situation. Looking at Solve, you might come to a conclusion that when thinking of a brand driver for your company, you might want to look further than what already exists and look for something that is not there yet. Look for an issue or a problem that bothers people, but has no universal solution. Solve it and build your brand out of it!

What is a brand driver and how to create one - Seb Waligorski - brand driver

Summary:

The possibilities of creating brand drivers are virtually endless. In this article I’ve only shown some of the most recognizable or striking examples in order to make my point clear. However, following Ohmae’s strategies, you want to look for that one defining feature of your company, its product or its service. Whether it’s  affordability, great design, innovative approach, filling up a contrasting niche or taste, there needs to be something that makes your company special. That feature might not appeal to everyone – some people prefer the taste of Pepsi or Fanta over Coca Cola or a Samsung over an iPhone and some people resent McDonald’s omnipresence. However, as Solve’s example shows – there is a niche for everything and therefore there will be appeal for any brand drivers! Not everyone has to like you, but you have to be special in order to stand out. This might seem a bit obvious, but it’s the essence of the idea behind great brand drivers! Use it in your business and watch yourself carve a niche!

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