When companies struggle to launch innovative new products, find growth or – most importantly – improve business performance, they often blame the brand. It’s either a lack of customer engagement, or not having enough brand awareness and customer activation. However, that is not always true.
I recently spent time with a group of mid-level executives and had candid conversations on the topic of leveraging the user/consumer decision. At the heart of the user or consumer’s decision process is, ultimately, the value proposition. Understandably, that is the most integral part of any business other than the channel pipeline, and yet companies race to launch new products without understanding what their Unique Value Proposition (UVP) is. Without knowing what it is that makes you stand out among the fray, there would be no reason for a user or consumer to choose – or even consider – you over the other products or brands.
Brands can humanize the product and bring out the UVP, touching on what is relatable or personable about your product and therefore easier convey your value to empathy-hungry consumers. But that positioning will fail without the magic of the UVP. And even when brands claim to have one, it’s often only a CVP – a ‘Common Value Proposition’ – in disguise. CVPs can be applied to every other competitive product. That’s why you need a UVP.
When a user or consumer encounters a brand or product, three factors come into play as they deliberate whether or not to commit:
1 / Information from trusted sources: what are other users or industry experts saying?
2 / Comparison of found information: Are there inconsistencies? Whose opinion is in the minority, and could they be trusted?
3 / Opportunity costs: will the product’s value outweigh its cost?
Branding only comes into play when the user has insufficient information and is forced to make a guess or assumption. This is a completely subconscious decision; much like how we automatically assume a company performs terribly if they have a bad and uninformative website (more than often, true), or suppose its success if their website is well-designed (however misleading).
A few years ago, a friend used to work for a company that had major problems. A dedicated team ran the small company, which sought to encourage the sharing of ideas through a membership-based model and gatherings. It drew its bottom line from membership costs and exclusivity. Though plenty of traction was gained in its first years of inception, the head honchos took a few years off and their steam ran out. Their competition and the horizontal competitors were primarily based on brand warfare, and this company had no idea what a UVP was, or what fueled their brand engine. Users were left clueless as to what they were getting out of the product that was unique from other similar services.
Branding can be overvalued as a solution to building a business. Large member bases and easy-to-obtain discounts was detrimental to value, and the lack of transparency and ease of information accessibility further detracted from usability, creating a difficult future for the company. Excessive focus on creating an image and spreading brand awareness neglected their ability to determine a unique value proposition. More often than not, we tend to overlook the larger issues, forgetting about which parts of your business drive the others. The brand does not drive the business; the business drives the brand.