Why Top Brands Defy Common Sense

By Reid Neubert, April 10, 2012
Categories: Branding

A constant question in most businesses is, how can we improve our sales?

Today, many companies find themselves in a commoditized market, facing competitors offering products or services largely undifferentiated from theirs. Those competitors may also be selling at discounts that have to be matched, as painful as that might be.

This problem arises when you find yourself selling something that has become largely a commodity. Commodities are sold on the basis of price and availability. Buyers look for the best price for the available choices. So if what you provide has become a commodity, this is where you find yourself.

There are really only three ways to combat this.

  1. Offer prices so low that you blow away the competition. If you can afford to stay in business that way.
  2. Come out with a compelling and unique product or service with a high barrier to entry so competitors can’t easily offer the same thing. Very difficult to accomplish.
  3. Build a strong, unique, memorable, and desirable brand … not that that is easy either.

Given that our interest is in branding and marketing, let’s talk about number (3).

Apple, of course, has done an amazing job in building a “must have” brand. While their products are trendsetters and beautifully designed, the extent of their brand loyalty and desirability defies common sense. Brand loyalty like this literally makes no sense. That is because brands appeal to the emotions, not to rational thought.

The video below provides a perfect example of what I mean. You only need to watch the first minute or so to get the picture. (Caution: There is some gratuitous swearing starting about then as well.)


As this video beautifully and humorously depicts, the customer wants an iPhone, and only an iPhone. It doesn’t matter if a competitive phone is better, faster, cheaper, or offers three wishes, one of which can be for an iPhone. The customer just wants an iPhone. Why? Because it’s an iPhone.

But really, why? The customer might say, “If you have to ask, you just don’t get it!” The answer, of course, is the emotional appeal of the brand. Apple has built such an intensely desirable brand for its products that any discussion defies common sense.

And that is what brand bulding is all about. Buying decisions, as I’ve said before and will say again, are made emotionally, not logically. They may then be justified rationally, but they are still made emotionally. Top brands like Apple strongly connect with their customers on an emotional level.

And that’s why they defy common sense. They also defy commoditizing.

Have you even heard of the HTC brand or the HTC Evo? Now that I’ve seen this video I know that it is a brand of smart phone that competes … or tries to compete … with the iPhone. But if you were to ask most people if they would rather have an Evo or and iPhone, almost all of them would say, “A what or an iPhone?”

To bastardize that old song, “Oh what a difference a brand makes.”


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