The Whiteboard: You believe in your brand. Does your target market?

Without belief in your brand, it doesn’t exist. The leadership of a company must believe in the brand. The staff and employees must believe in the brand. Most importantly, your next customer must believe in the brand.

Brands that are different — Uber, Apple or Tesla for example — have to convince people that the difference is better, that their innovation is real and not just flash or fad. Apple has created an aura of individuality and creativity around its products. The company has an incredibly loyal following that literally buys into the entire “ecosystem” of Apple products (iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple watches) and services (apps, Apple TV). Their customers believe in the products and the brand, with many waiting in line to buy the latest upgrades as soon as they become available.

Lots of companies make great products that compete with Apple, but this incredibly strong belief in the Apple brand is what makes it the most valuable company in the world.

Uber is much earlier in its life cycle as a brand. Uber has created a belief in its concept of easy transportation that’s a better experience and usually cheaper than catching a traditional taxi. Taking an Uber has become a daily practice for many users and at least weekly for many more. So-called “Uberites” love the service and the brand, and they promote it.

But there’s a big difference between Uber and Apple. Uber is losing money. In effect, there haven’t been enough believers in the brand for the company to make a profit. The believers who are keeping it in business right now are the investors who have put up millions of dollars of venture capital to support the concept. And you better believe that they believe in the brand because they’re betting a whole lot more than a ride home from the bars that they’re right.

It can be even harder to convince audiences to believe in a brand that claims the same concept as others in their industry. Exhibit A: Health care. Brand A may very well be a very caring organization. Its employees may very much believe that “we care.” But how effective is Brand A at proving that it cares more than Brand B or C? They all think they care. The key is: Does the market believe in Brand A more than another?

I should note that while trust and belief have overlapping meanings, there is a subtle difference for a brand. Trust in a brand is earned over time. But belief can come first, as in a person will believe a message before having it proven to be true and, therefore, earning trust. So establishing an early belief in the promise of a brand is key.

Startup brands often do this with early adopters who may become unofficial ambassadors for a new brand. As more and more “believers” are created, a brand can build the trust that is needed to grow and sustain its business. Apple has done this. Uber has created a lot of belief in its users, but hasn’t turned a profit. In a sense, the company is buying some of that belief by discounting the true cost of its service.

A simple question for any brand manager to ask is, “Do our customers and prospects truly believe in our brand and what it can do for them?”

Because if the answer is yes, that brand should be successful. But if the answer is no, believe me, there’s work to be done.

David Taylor is president of Lancaster-based Taylor Brand Group, which specializes in brand development and marketing technology. Contact him via www.taylorbrandgroup.com.

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