How Well is Your Company Leveraging the Modern Brand Portfolio?
What do you do when your company’s product just got leapfrogged by your nearest competitor? Not long ago I was asked by a senior executive to speak to the company’s 700+ salespeople who were being challenged to sell against a competitor that just announced a new technology that was setting a new standard for the industry. The sales executive was honest telling me it would be a year before their new technology was ready, but when it was launched it would leapfrog the new technology leader (leapfrogging the leapfrogger?). His challenge to me – how can I motivate the sales team facing a deficiency in the one of the company’s leading product brands? For sure the salespeople were coming to the sales conference with a bit of a sulky attitude, being asked to meet their sales goals while selling a product with inferior technology. These sales professionals wanted to know what management was going to do to help them meet their sales quotas. On the day of the presentation I stood before hundreds of sales people acknowledging their plight and started my presentation with a rhetorical question – Ask not what the corporate brand can do for you, but what can your personal brand do for the corporate brand? My point wasn’t to poke a hornet’s nest, but to raise awareness that every company has three brands to create differentiation: product brands, corporate brands and personal brands. Not all three are strong all the time, so it is prudent business to recognize how to reposition the three-brand portfolio to compensate for any weakness among the three brands companies use to build customer loyalty. In case you are not familiar with how personal brand can augment the traditional product and corporate brand portfolio I have recently published an article on this topic called “Help! The Products We Sell Are Commodities.” During the presentation I went on to explain how over time each brand (product, corporate or personal) benefits by association from one of the other brands. A salesperson’s personal brand benefits when they are selling the best product in the category or they work for the industry leader. Or how many times have we seen a company’s brand become much stronger from the introduction of a hot new product brand (iPod or iPhone and Apple?)? Is the potting soil that carries the Miracle Gro brand really better than other black dirt one can buy? My advice to the audience was to find ways to use the personal brand equity they have with their customers to offset any perceived deficiency in the product brand. Was it possible to ask their customers to stay loyal and trust that a new superior product was just 12 months away? I suggested it was time to “cash-in” some of their personal brand equity for the benefit of the company’s product and corporate brand. Not so subtly I reminded the salespeople that the brand equity of this industry-leading company had helped build and shape their personal brand. As we all know a strong personal brand is a very important career asset for any salesperson. Besides all of that, striving through adversity would make their personal brands even stronger. Their reaction was very positive and enthusiastic with a resounding – count me in! These successful salespeople and industry leaders knew that using their personal brand to shore up the corporate and product brands would pay big dividends in the future for their personal brands. They knew having a strong portfolio of brands ultimately makes every brand stronger! How well is your company leveraging the modern brand portfolio?