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How well do you know your customer?

By Tim Oestreich | Fri, 7 Apr 2006

What is branding? It is the methodology of shaping your market's perception of your product. This includes matters such as the all important first impression, the perception of your prominence in your industry, the perception of your product/service in your market and the list goes on and on. In any serious discussion of "branding" the vocabulary will be peppered with subjective words such as; perception, impression, preference, appeal, believability, relevance, etc. The specific direction that a branding project may take should always address the most fundamental and final issue...what will make someone choose my product or service? Whether you utilize a playful, dancing clown or a starched, well postured icon of the establishment, the fact remains that you have to appeal to the people who best fit what you have to offer.

There are countless topics for discussion related to branding, but one of the most recurrent stumbling blocks that we see in brand development is what we call the Auto-Centric Approach. This is the tendency of the marketing decision maker to imprint their preferences and biases onto their target market. In other words, to assume that your customer likes what you like. There are coincidental cases where this happens to be true, but very rare. The answer is to develop an accurate demographic profile (based on reliable research) of who is most likely to choose your product/service. This issue is addressed, more or less, consistently by very large corporations out of the necessity to survive and grow.

For every company that markets and brands well, there are countless others who do not.  The sucess stories are those of marketers who are methodical, focused and willing to challenge their own preconceptions.  An excellent example is that of Electronic Arts prresident Larry Probst. EA dominates the video game market to the point of approaching a monopoly.  Sales are phenomenal, and their marketing message is obviously connecting with the right audience...the 12-35 age group. There are countless stories of failure to connect to this age group from marketing departments such as Honda, Disney, Burger King etc.  The most common point of failure is failing to correctly identify the customer and their prefrences.  In an interview with Larry Probst, he reveals a brilliantly simple core marketing concept.

On the record: Larry Probst"

Sunday, May 9, 2004

Q: What game do you play most, and do you know all the cheat codes?

A: No, I don't know the cheat codes. And to be very honest, I don't spend a lot of time playing games. I spend a lot of time watching people play games. My most favorite games tend to be the ones selling the best at that moment. So right now, my favorite game is Fight Night.

He is revealing that his prefrences are not the focus of his decisions.  He understands his target market, what they want, and then he sells it to them.  Very often the most elegant and effective approaches are the simple ones.  We frequently see a tendency to over-complicate tasks thinking that complexity adds some mythical component for success.  All the while a more straight-forward approach is more likely to be implemented quickly and efficiently and lead to greater success.  Good branding is a concept.  That concept is then translated into the design and implementation of your more specific marketing plan.  Good brands connect, and they connect to the right people. Simple!


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