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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Does Your Brand Protect Your Company?

Jemima Kiss, writing in The Guardian's blog talks about ITV's away day to discover all about digital media.  During the away day Jemima noted that Ben Hammersley (who set up the Guardian blog):

"...caused a bit of a stink by saying that nobody gives a toss about brands - only the content. Consumers aren't going to ITV because they love ITV, they go to ITV because they want to see a particular programme or an actor"

It's interesting to see this. When I was in the IT industry we had a large number of hardware makers who made mainframe and mini computers.

If you were in computing in the 60's, 70's and 80's you'll remember DEC, Data General, Siemens, Sperry/Univac, IBM and Hewlett Packard as mini computer companies. A very famous book called "Soul of A New Machine" by Tracy Kidder even chronicles the attempt by Data General to create a minicomputer to beat DEC's champion - the VAX range.

Unfortunately some of the mini computer makers didn't see the writing on the wall for their products as PCs advanced in processing power. And now once famous brands are no longer making mainframe or mini computers. Look at DEC famous for their VAX hardware and Rainbow PCs, bought by Compaq who were then bought by Hewlett Packard. ICL? Britain's own well-known mainframe maker - absorbed by Fujitsu.

This just underlines the importance of delivering what people want. Because when these minicomputer manufacturers were rolling in the money PC seller Dell had not even started. They knew they had a well defined brand - people could find them easily. The world was their oyster.

And of course now Dell computers using microprocessor chips are actually emulating DEC VAX minicomputers for Walmart so the supermarket giant can continue to use the software they invested in with their original DEC hardware.

Maybe some people do choose BBC because we know "it's quality content". Equally many of the newer online generation are watching stuff through web sites. Some wont even know, or care, where what they're watching was first shown.

The danger here is that if media companies don't understand that consumers are now their own schedule controllers the media companies are going to go down the same road the mini computer makers did. That is they'll go bust or consolidate and move into other areas of business.

From a marketing point of view you can see that ad spend through ITV must drop rapidly as broadband take up gets higher and higher. Any bets on when the first Internet-ready TV is produced? One that will allow you to schedule all your watching so that it doesn't conflict with other things in your life?

Look at Virgin Media in Britain their cable company is now giving consumers vast amounts of programmes they can watch when they want and as often as they want. Interestingly providing this means Virgin Media will learn the true watching habits of their consumers. Who will then be best placed to say what programmes will go down best with the consumers? Why, of course Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Group!

If you have Virgin media you can see that whilst you can still access shows "on demand" via their BBC or Channel 4 identities you can also select them through comedy, drama, education groupings or simply from an A-Z listing.

So brands are red-herrings for companies now...

Something to think about isn't it? Brands can't protect your company from dying on the business battlefield if you don't deliver what your customers want.

 

2 comments:

Rob Artisan said...

Jim,

I think your argument makes sense

But I want to argue against it for a while.

It is about product or service - the best marketing in the world cannot help you if the essential element is not competitive.

However, brands can be seen as a mark of quality. For instance, the BBC for many across the world means that the program will be quality driven or the news will be accurate. It reassures.

When service and brand combine they can be powerful, can't they?

Rob
Artisan

Jim Symcox said...

Rob

Thanks for adding to my ongoing battle on brands.

I've always said that any company has a brand. But their brand identity has been given to them by their customers.

Almost every company I know trots out the line we're the best because we offer quality/service/dependability.

That doesn't differentiate them from their competitors.

Similarly having a brand doesn't make you different to your competitors. Just look at British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.

When Virgin started British Airways was a monopoly supplier of air travel. They were "branded" as the British supplier and with possibly one of the highest quality service levels in the world.

That didn't stop Virgin grabbing a nice chunk of the "branded" suppliers business.

If no one else in your industry offers great service and you do you will clean up. Assuming of course that you've used great martketing to get known about in the first place!

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