Start here to sell a brand irrespective of price
In the early ’90s, fashion brand French Connection was being slaughtered by an influx of cheap competitors. It couldn’t beat their low prices and, worse, it had lost its youthful edge and looked increasingly old-fashioned. One night, its creative director spotted a fax from the Hong Kong branch (FCHK) to the UK branch (FCUK).
FCUK. Within weeks those four letters appeared on every new item of clothing, in every shop window and on every ad. Fuddy-duddies were outraged, cash registers chimed and the brand regained its youthful appeal. Anita Roddick built her brand The Body Shop not on price, but on the idea that her cosmetics weren’t tested on animals. “Against Animal Testing” was plastered everywhere. The crowds flocked in. Everything Roddick or The Body Shop did afterwards sought to reinforce that core brand value.
The greatest creative minds love nothing more than the challenge of selling a brand irrespective of price. So why shouldn’t you? Start with the most basic assumption: your product is superior to any of its rivals because you are better at your job than anyone else you know. And then analyse why that is. Compile a list of all the attributes that you believe you possess, that your enterprise or products possess, and the qualities that set you apart.
How to make competing on price irrelevant
For example, if you have set up a wedding planning business, focus on why. Is it because you would be more sophisticated, or is it because you would be funkier and edgier? Or because you would be more traditional? Already, you are building up a list of brand attributes and brand values. Keep finding words that better describe what you aim to achieve. Ditch ones that are too generic and focus on the ones that are uniquely you.
Next, apply those values to how you promote yourself in every single way. For instance, if you are leaning towards more unusual and imaginative weddings, you will want to focus on selling yourself in ways and places and to people who are “out there”. Conversely, if you realise your expertise and taste is more traditional, concentrate on everything from business cards to your website to your promotional ideas to reinforce that traditional feel.
The reason brand advertising is so much more highly regarded than retail advertising and, ultimately, far more effective, is that deep down consumers love to believe in a product, a service or an enterprise. The emotional response will always trump the rational one. People will pay more for a coffee when they believe that the barista has special skills that lead to a superior product. Not because he has a sign up that says he is an expert, but because his every action, his every utterance, and his personal style are consistent with that belief.
Live and breathe your brand values. No short cuts, no deviations. Competing on price will become an irrelevance.
- Quality and expertise
By far the simplest way to justify a higher retail price is by the quality of your product or the expertise of your services.
Finding new or better ways of delivering an established product or service will always justify a higher price. People love innovation because it reflects on themselves.
- Value plus
Going the extra mile or delivering additional services will always be ample reason for people to prefer you over cheaper rivals.
Finding a niche that you alone occupy means you dictate the price.
- The cool factor
Generating PR buzz is a double-edged sword if you overdo it, but if you’re honest about your products it will work.
Consumers will always be prepared to pay a premium for a product or a service they trust.
Relying on stunts that your brand can’t live up to may work in the short term, but will alienate consumers in the long run.
Charging people a low entry price in order to compete and then trying to make up the shortfall with expensive add-ons is a popular formula. Eventually, people cotton on and you lose repeat business.
Lying at the quotation stage is no way to build a brand.