Being the best

2007-12-19 00:00

THE vast majority of the population, by and large, take great brands for granted. It is as if they are part of the landscape and have always been there. Seldom do we actually think about how “brand leaders” came to be kings of their jungles. I am obviously referring to such household names as Hoover, Five Roses Tea, Elastoplast and many more such names. In my opinion, the days of giving birth to a brand leader product are few and far between and you certainly couldn’t say: “I am going to produce a brand leader”.

However, as I indicated last week, you can decide to become the best at what you do and there are many advantages that accrue from achieving this objective, not the least being healthy gross margins.

History has given us many examples of how branding can increase a firm’s independence in pricing strategy. Bearing in mind that in our country it is a truism to say there is too much capacity chasing too few, price-sensitive customers, having a strong brand that is synonymous with quality can give you a distinct marketing advantage.

Many of the great brands were born many decades ago, HP sauce being a perfect example. During the 1920s and 1930s in the U.S. and UK many brand-leader products were established and although a number have subsequently bitten the dust, a lot of them are still on the shelves of worldwide retail outlets.

In South Africa today it is very hard to establish what I would call modern-day brand leaders. However, there are examples, such as Kreepy Krauly and Baracuda, who fight it out between them for the number one position in their market.

My own research suggests to me that producing brand-leader products is usually something you do not do by design, but rather develop almost by chance.

Having said this, you can have a product or service that develops to become incredibly successful because it stands out from the crowd. This may not be a product such as the Pickle Pot “Mild n Spicy Chutney”, but could be a carpet cleaning service or restaurant. Get the product or service right and invariably you will get noticed, even revered, by your market.

A couple of weeks ago in my column, entitled Are You Ready KZN?, I talked about the need for the region’s service and leisure industries to be so good that holidaymakers keep returning. In order to make this happen, the business has to deliver the best product and service — consistently. Too often it doesn’t happen because entrepreneurs fail to appreciate that it is their responsibility to ensure their businesses consistently perform to the highest standards.

This need, it could be argued, has much to do with developing brand leadership as a strategy. Get the product and service absolutely right and then, you are left with a simple question to answer: “What can we do to make our business, our product/service, special?”.

While I was on the south coast, my wife and I had dinner at the Blue Lagoon restaurant on Ramsgate beachfront. We both had fish and it was superb. The quality of the food, the location, the decor, were all excellent, it only needed a little extra for this restaurant to be a brand leader and you know, that little extra often comes down to exceptional service — particularly when all the other factors are positive.

To stand out from the crowd as exceptional doesn’t require a great deal for the simple reason there isn’t an abundance of real quality around!

I would like to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a joyous Christmas and all happiness and success in the New Year.

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