Why Do Brands Exist?

There was an excellent article in the Harvard Business Review, September 2004, titled "Customer-Centered Brand Management" by R.T. Rust, V.A. Zeithami and K.N. Lemon. It focused on a discussion of the purpose of brands.

The article posed the question, "Is the brand developed for the company or for the customer?" Their answer was that, "Brand management still trumps customer management" and they stress that this tactic is increasingly incompatible with growth.

A graphic in the article shows the brand manager can try to gain customer attention by using free samples, brand awareness, image advertising, attitude toward the brand, ethical corporate behavior and brand ethics. All of these factors become the brand equity. However, value equity (what the customer gets for the money) and relationship equity (the relationship of the company to people and the environment) will also be considered by the customer when choosing a particular brand.

Therefore, the final decision on whether to buy a particular brand is made by the sum of the value equity, the brand equity and the relationship equity. These three factors will determine the customer equity. When a company increases the value equity, the brand equity or the relationship equity, it will increase the customer equity. The higher the customer equity, the more likely the customer will purchase the brand.

Thus, brands should exist to serve the customer, not the customer exist to serve the brand.

Another article that supports this approach appeared in the August 2004 issue of Fast Company magazine. In "The Good Brand," Linda Tischler writes about trends that show brands are less about what we consume and more about who we are.

One of her trends indicates that brands must be authentic, citing the fraud committed by Enron and WorldCom. New customers are much more likely to scrutinize a brand to find the truth behind the image.

Another of Tischler’s marketing trends indicates experience will be the expression of the brand. She cites several companies that have spent little on advertising but have used word of mouth and customer satisfaction to be the communicator of their names or brands. Amazon.com is one company she cited.

My personal experience with this company proves her point. I have purchased books from Amazon.com for several of my family and friends. I was able to search by subject, review the book’s content and then purchase what I found interesting and have it sent directly to the person on my gift list. In addition, I purchased several marketing and management books for myself. Since then, I have received information on new books or other books previously published that might be of interest to me on a regular basis.

Amazon.com’s e-mail name is their brand, and I believe they have the value equity, the brand equity and the relationship equity to be my brand of choice. Therefore, my experience is the expression of this brand. 

Coke Versus Pepsi

One of the very interesting marketing trends in Tischler’s article is that brands can be hard-wired into our brains. She cites work done by Professor Montague, a neuroscientist at Baylor University College of Medicine.

During his daughter’s summer vacation, he tried to keep her occupied in his laboratory. He and his daughter lined up a group of volunteers to re-create the Pepsi Challenge. Their results were very interesting. The blind taste test showed that the subjects had a clear preference for Pepsi, but, when they were told which of the samples were which, their brains started to switch brands. For those who liked Coke before the taste test, the brain image of Coke in their nervous systems caused them to change their behavior and switch their choice back to Coke.

Thus, Montague showed that power of the Coke brand was enough to override an objection or preference. This type of test may soon be used by many companies to determine the effect of their products on our minds.

Another article in the October 2006 issue of the Harvard Business Review addressed a very interesting side of branding. In "Embrace the Dark Side," Michael Fanuele indicated that brands like Ivory soap have brought "good clean fun" to families for 125 years. Sears, Kraft and Tropicana have spent years presenting a vision of "sweetness and light."

That vision is now considered outdated and has lost its draw. These artificial images are now considered "fading stars" and customers no longer believe them. These brand messages are trying to sell a fairy tale in a reality-TV world. Fanuele indicates that "imperfection can actually be a source of great appeal."

After reading his article, I believe there is some truth to the concept. I’ll share a few examples I can think of.

When President John F. Kennedy gave his inaugural address, he may have stunned many when he said, "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Many Americans answered that charge by helping others in the United States and other parts of the world. Thus, the Peace Corps was developed after his address.

My second example is the Marine Corps’ recruiting commercials. They don’t say, "Come with us and we will give you a college education" or "You will see the world." They merely say, "We need a few good men." This ad "embraces the dark side."

Fanuele cited an example with a product. It was a battle between Prego and Ragu spaghetti sauces. Prego was winning by advertising that it had "chunkier and meatier" sauce. Ragu had a thinner sauce and tried to compete head-on. Sales slid for over 10 years with this approach. Ragu studied their customers and found that, while grown-ups liked Prego’s chunkier sauce, young teens and children preferred Ragu. So Ragu became the kids’ delight. This ad campaign turned a decade of decline in sales into a growth market.

After pondering all this branding information, I’ll share a few ideas that might be used in our horticultural businesses.

• We need to get off the green thumb concept and exploit the dirty hands reality. Gardening is work if you do it yourself. However, that work provides you with exercise and also peace of mind. It gives you a quiet time to do, think and reflect, time to create something of beauty and peace. Gardening is like painting a picture. If you have the knowledge and practice, you can produce a work of art.

• Create a company that says, "Yes, gardening is work, but we have everything you need, the information, the plants, fertilizer, pest control, containers, tools and accessories to make it easier. We are the ‘How To Do It’ Center for gardening."

• If you don’t want to work, we have the people who can do it for you. We can provide professional landscapers and gardeners to install and maintain what you want. The Big Box stores offer these services on many items. They contract with professionals to do the jobs.

• To address "I don’t have enough time to do gardening," why not create more time for the customer? Why not a garden center that is open 24 hours a day in the spring and early summer?

I’m sure you can think of many more ideas. You may carry national brands, you may use your company as a brand, or you may be a brand yourself. If you have a great grower, you might brand them, i.e. instead of "Paintings by Picasso," "Plants by John Jones." Whatever the brand, it must have value equity, brand equity and relationship equity that result in customer equity. Also, think about the dark side of branding – you might be able to use this as your niche.

A great spring starts now! Happy branding!

Leave a Reply

More From Finance/Operations...
PP&L CAST 2015 intros

April 22, 2015

6 Breeding Companies Serve Up New Varieties At Pacific Plug & Liner

Pacific Plug & Liner’s theme this year, Labyrinth, a conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants, was perfectly topped off (pun intended) with fascinators for the women and newsboy caps for the men. The PP&L team dressed their part to act out the gothic “conservatory of the world’s most captivating plants.” Truly, the displays looked like they practically popped out of a catalog, and the costumes were a nice touch. Retailers take heed, the fully merchandised displays at Pacific Plug & Liner are worthy of emulating. We’ll let the pictures tell the story of all the fabulous variety introductions presented at  Pacific Plug & Liner’s 2015 California Spring Trials, where Cultivaris, Cohen Nurseries, Histil Nurseries, Jaldety Nurseries, Southern Living/Sunset Collection and Pacific Plug & Liner all highlighted their 2016 introductions.  

Read More
Speedling 2015 CAST intros

April 22, 2015

Speedling Inc. Presents New Varieties From ABZ Seeds, Hem Genetics, Thompson & Morgan, Vista Farms & PSI

You name it, we saw it at Speedling's California Spring Trials location in San Juan Bautista, where five companies showed off their new introductions for 2016.

Read More
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Latest Stories
PittMoss on Shark Tank

April 22, 2015

PittMoss Wins On Shark Tank

Mont Handley, president and CEO of PittMoss, appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank on April 17 to try to get the “sharks” to invest in his peat moss alternative. Three investors from the TV show contributed $600,000 to PittMoss for a 35 percent stake in the company. Check out this clip from ABC’s website in which Mark Cuban, Kevin O’Leary and Robert Herjavec discuss getting on board with the product. PittMoss is an alternative to sphagnum peat moss, made up of a mix of proprietary additives and recycled paper rescued from landfill space. Handley founded the Pittsburgh-based company in 1994. What started as a small experiment grew into a full-fledged business with the help of funding provided by an EPA SBIR grant and Pittsburgh’s Idea Foundry. Today, PittMoss is available to commercial greenhouses and nurseries from Michigan to Maine to North Carolina, with plans to grow. To learn more, visit PittMoss’ website, or check it […]

Read More
Syngenta logo

April 15, 2015

Syngenta Names Chris Freeman Senior Key Account Manager…

Chris Freeman is the new senior key account manager for Syngenta Flowers, Home & Garden's Commercial Sales business in the Americas, effective March 2015. Freeman, who joined Syngenta in 2006, carries more than 25 years of experience in the agriculture and floriculture business.

Read More
Lake Buchanan_LCRA

April 10, 2015

USDA Designates Areas Of West And Southwest As Drought …

The ongoing drought has resulted in disaster area designations in counties across nine Western and Southwestern states, including Texas, where some reservoirs are at or near historically low levels.

Read More

April 9, 2015

Altman Plants’ Online Cactus Shop Shows Strong Sa…

Altman Plants recently opened its new Cactus Shop, an online retail store that sells a variety of cactus and succulents. The store is a take-off of Altman’s original wholesale business, as the company started as a mail order catalog.

Read More
Dummen

April 8, 2015

Dümmen Group Welcomes Jim Devereux And Andrew Konicki T…

Dümmen group recently announced the addition of Jim Devereux and Andrew Konicki to its team. They are the newest members of the Key Account and Broker Support team for Dümmen, and will be responsible for building, developing and maintaining current broker and grower customer relationships.

Read More
Gov._Jerry_Brown_California

April 8, 2015

California Institutes First Ever Statewide Mandatory Wa…

California Gov. Jerry Brown announced April 1 that, for the first time in state history, action will be taken to implement mandatory water restrictions, with the ultimate goal of reducing water usage by 25 percent. As Californians are pushed to conserve more, growers will need to think about how demand for products will be affected.

Read More
DNA-logo

March 31, 2015

DNA Green Group Will Acquire Rijnplant

DNA Green Group and Riknplant have finalized DNA Green Group's acquisition of Rijnplant, meaning that the breeding and propagation activities in pot and cut anthurium, bougainvillea and heliconia will transfer to DNA Green Group.

Read More
AFE scholarship_Ryan Dickson

March 25, 2015

AFE Educational Grant And Scholarship Application Deadl…

Apply now for American Floral Endowment (AFE) scholarships or educational grants. Applications can be found online. For educational grants for 2015-2016, applications must be submitted no later than June 1. Scholarship applications are due May 1. AFE will award $40,000 in scholarships for 2015.

Read More

March 23, 2015

UF/IFAS Appoints Joseph Albano As Director Of Mid-Flori…

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) has a new directors for its Mid-Florida Research and Education Center (REC) on Apopka, Fla. The role has been filled by Joseph Albano, a research horticulturist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture with more than 25 years of experience.

Read More

March 17, 2015

Pike Nurseries Implements Employee Stock Ownership Plan

Independent garden retailer Pike Nurseries has announced it will become an employee-owned company. Pike Nurseries management has combined with its sister corporation in California, Armstrong Garden Centers, to operate under an established Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP).

Read More
GrowIt! App Wins Gold At Design100 2014 US Mobile & App Design Awards

March 10, 2015

GrowIt! Mobile App Now Available For Android

The mobile app GrowIt! Garden Socially can now be used by gardeners with Android-based smartphones. Now available on the Google Play Market, GrowIt! helps users find plants to fit their lifestyle and connect them with other local gardeners.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Second Annual GreenhouseConnect Will Bring Growers and …

Following a successful inaugural event in Tampa last fall, Greenhouse Grower has announced the dates of its second annual GreenhouseConnect: October 26-29, 2015. Representatives of an expected two dozen leading greenhouse operations from across the U.S. will join senior-level suppliers at Rancho Bernardo Inn in San Diego for several days of one-on-one strategic meetings, a growers-only roundtable, informational sessions and a variety of networking events.

Read More

March 4, 2015

Maryland Green Industry Associations Unite

The Maryland Nursery and Landscape Association recently announced that it is expanding its reach to include the greenhouse industry, meaning it has become The Maryland Nursery, Landscape and Greenhouse Association (MNLGA). The change comes as a result of the planned dissolution of the former Maryland Greenhouse Growers Association and the invitation for those members to join the existing and renamed association.

Read More
IPPS Sharing Plant Production Knowledge Globally Logo

February 25, 2015

International Plant Propagators Western Region Sets Ann…

The annual meet for the International Plant Propagators' Society (IPPS) Western Region has been set for this September. It will take place September 23 to 26 in Modesto, Calif., and will include learning sessions, tours to local nurseries, a research poster display and poster presentations, various networking opportunities and an awards banquet to close the event.

Read More
myers industries Lawn and Garden Logo

February 24, 2015

Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn And Garden Business Sold, N…

The management of Myers Lawn and Garden Group, along with Wingate Partners V, L.P. have recently acquired the Myers Industries, Inc. Lawn and Garden business. The new company is named The HC Companies, and will continue as a North American leading provider of horticulture containers supplying the greenhouse, nursery and retail markets.

Read More
american-hort-logo

February 17, 2015

AmericanHort Announces New Board Members

AmericanHort recently announced the election of new officers and members to the board of directors. Each will assume their positions on the board during Cultivate’15, July 11 to 14 in Columbus, Ohio.

Read More
All American Selections

February 17, 2015

All-America Selections Elects New Officers, Names New J…

While meeting during the Flower and Vegetable Seed Conference in Tampa, Fla., hosted by the American Seed Trade Association, All-America Selections elected new officers for a two-year term. Read on to learn about the new officers, as well as all of the new judges that were added in 2014.

Read More
Greenhouse Grower.com on your desktop, on your phone, on your tablet

February 11, 2015

GreenhouseGrower.com Relaunches With Responsive Design …

Greenhouse Grower magazine, the nation’s leader in profits, production and education for greenhouse growers, announces the launch of its completely redesigned website, GreenhouseGrower.com. The new design is the product of direct user feedback and GreenhouseGrower.com analytics, and includes responsive design for ease of mobile use.

Read More