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Thursday, June 01, 2006

Branding: Is It Important?

The Manchester Evening News reported on a story that Marks & Spencer were testing a name change to "Your M&S" at one of their stores.

I've commented on this story. Some of what I'm going to say has been put forward as a comment.

My first question on this story is: "How important is branding?"

The answer is "it depends". Branding when it comes down to it is all about your relationship with your customers. If you have a one-off or intermittent relationship, or you're a commodity  you pretty much have no brand.

Similarly many SME's think branding is vital to winning them new business. Wrong!

Branding is all about the customer experience with your company and the long-term continuing relationship you build with your clients and prospects. For SMEs such relationships are difficult to sustain as your customers can go elsewhere easily.

However, branding is vital in your customers and prospects minds when you're a huge brand like M&S.

Changing the M&S name mean that qualities built up in the brand are lost or diluted. After all do we really need another Tesco, Asda, Sainsbury's, Matalan or other clothing/food firm? Because when the name changes they become just another company that sells stuff.

What's the point in changing a high value brand name? It's like Harrods deciding to update their image and changing the name to Al-Fayed. Would you still think of the store the same way? Maybe if Harrods changed to "Your H?" Again who cares?

What about people who've heard of Marks & Spencers or Harrods and they ask for directions to the store but because the names have been changed nobody knows where to send them?

The loser here is not the customer because they can always, always, find a different supplier for anything they want.

The loser is the store. Playing around with a huge brand is something that is not worth the risk.

Look at The Royal Mail's attempt to change their name and the public's response. In the end they had to change the name back.

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