We’d like to welcome Brad Farris, Principal of Anchor Advisors, as our first guest blogger. With experience as both a VP and an advisor, Brad is a treasure trove of business wisdom. This week, he’s sharing his story of when he first realized the true power of branding.
My first general management assignment was for a manufacturer of built-in audio products that were primarily installed in new construction homes. The previous management team felt that the company’s logo and product packaging weren’t really important and so we sold our products in brown boxes that were printed with one-color line art. To say that they were drab and industrial was an understatement. But it made sense: The end consumer (the home owner) never saw the box. The product went from our factory to an electrical wholesaler’s warehouse to a job site to the dumpster.
Sound equipment is an aspirational product. People don’t brag about how cheap their stereo is, instead they revel in how much they spent on it. I knew that image was important to how our products were perceived and sold, so I worked with our agency to create a nicer package to put the speakers in. We still had brown boxes, but on one side we added a full-color label with a photo of a model experiencing the beautiful sound that our systems could produce. It was a nice, aspirational image and really made our package look better.
After we launched the package, I sat back and waited for the sales to improve. However, I was shocked by the reactions I got. I had a line supervisor stop me as I was walking through the factory about a week after the new packaging launched. She said, “Brad, those new boxes look great—the production folks are really impressed. I see them taking better care of the systems during manufacturing because they realize now that this is really high-quality stuff and we need to make sure it all works great!” Never mind the assumption that the sound systems didn’t need to work great before. I was blown away that adding a sticker to the box could change the attitudes of our line workers so much. But that wasn’t all.
Later in the month, I was traveling with a member of our sales team and we were preparing to visit a long-time distributor. All the distributors carried our products and our competitor’s products side by side. But this day my sales person said, “Brad, I’m thinking about asking this guy to dump that competitor’s line and only carry our products. The new packaging makes our products look so much better than theirs do. Why would he want to have both in the store?”
I thought this was a great idea; I’d been pushing for exclusives with all the distributors. I asked the sales person why he was willing to ask for an exclusive today. “Well, the product looks so great, I guess I have more confidence that we really are better than the competitor’s product.” This sales person was an industry veteran. He knew that the product in the box hadn’t changed, but the package gave him more confidence.
On that same trip we met with a dealer/installer who told us that our “new” speakers sounded a lot better than our old speakers—he was going to be recommending them to all his customers now. Again, our “new” speakers were the same as our “old” speakers, but the package made the sound “better” and gave the dealer the confidence to recommend them.
The lesson I learned that day is that your brand and the image of your product aren’t expenses to be managed. Our low-cost packaging was robbing us of product quality, sales and employee morale. Instead, your brand and product image are an investment that should earn you a return many times the money you put into them.
Brad Farris provides small business consulting in Chicago with Anchor Advisors, Ltd. Anchor Advisors has been helping business founders to achieve growth since 2001. From building a strategic business plan to optimizing employee retention strategies, Anchor Advisors will help you to own your course.
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