START WITH WHAT’S BELIEVABLE

I am constantly amazed at how we make such hard work out of what we do.
What we do is simple.
We go from A to B.
But we are petrified of a straight line.
If we were cab drivers we’d go from London to Birmingham via Cornwall.
Why are we so terrified of simplicity?
I was just interviewed by the BBC for a programme they are making for China.
The Chinese have just discovered they can be massively successful manufacturing goods competitively.
So now they need to talk to consumers.
Which means marketing and advertising.


So they look to the West to see how to do that.
And what they discover is the vast impenetrable mystique of ‘brands’.
Coca Cola. MacDonald’s. Starbucks. Mercedes. Johnny Walker.
So the Chinese want to know what is the secret of building brands?
What do they need to learn?
Well the first thing they should do is forget the word ‘brand’.
‘Brand’ is a buzzword.
It doesn’t exist in the real world.
What exists in the real world (consumers, punters, people) is image and reputation.
Take the way we think about ourselves.
We would never think “What is my brand?”
But we might think “What is my image, my reputation?”
That’s how it is with any product: everything has an image, a reputation.
That’s the brand.
What is Volkswagen’s reputation/image?
Solid, reliable, dependable.
So that’s their brand.
“If only everything in life worked as well as a Volkswagen”.
Experience dictates reputation dictates image.
And that’s how the Chinese can access the vast mystique of ‘brands’.
It’s just advertising doing what it’s always done: presenting an image.
But the real question is “How do you present an image successfully?”
Let’s look at that from China’s POV.
Your image or reputation isn’t what you want people to believe about you.
It’s what they already believe about you.
So start with that: what’s believable?
Suppose I launched a German food brand or German perfume as the best in the world, would you believe that?
No.
Why is that?
Because the German image is cold, efficient, reliable, dependable, sensible.
None of which you want for food or perfume.
But all of which you want for cars.
So I’d pay a premium for Volkswagen, Mercedes, Audi, or BMW simply because they’re German.
But not for German food or perfume.
We have to start with what’s believable.
Simply claiming something, isn’t building a brand.
One of the best examples is Sainsbury’s: “Good Food Costs Less”.
If it had said “Sainsbury’s, where food costs less” it wouldn’t have been believable.
Because supermarkets like Lidl and Aldi are cheaper.
If it had said “Sainsbury’s, simply better Food” it wouldn’t have been believable.
Because supermarkets like Waitrose and M&S have posher food.
But “Good Food Costs Less” works because it’s believable.
It’s believable because it’s true.
Sainsbury’s food is better than cheaper places like Lidl and Aldi.
Sainsbury’s food costs less than posher places like Waitrose or M&S.
Start with what’s believable.
For the Chinese, what isn’t believable are luxury brands: premium, exclusive, sophisticated.
So they can’t start there.
But what is believable are things that have to last: hardwearing, durable, value-for-money brands.
All mass-market values.
And with over a billion people, you don’t get any more mass-market than China.

Start with what’s believable.

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