Over the past few months I’ve been following, very intently, the story about the fall of what was once a mighty American brand. Last week Uber fired almost two dozen employees and this past week, its CEO resigned following allegations of harassment, discrimination and inappropriate behavior. As a result, the ride-hailing company is struggling and deservedly so, to save whatever Brand Value they have left after such toxic revelations about its workplace were made public.
Some of you might remember an article I wrote around the "Netflix Culture" slide deck which, on slide four states:
Many companies have nice-sounding value statements displayed in the lobby, such as
The next slide then drops the grenade:
Enron, whose leaders went to jail, and which went bankrupt from fraud, had these values displayed in their lobby:
Enron never recovered its Brand Value and never will. UBER is fighting the same battle but on a different front. While it offered something different from a technology perspective, it ignored the importance of being relatable. Another example of that fatal flaw is that two of its “values” that employees were measured against were listed as being, “fierceness" and "super pumpedness." How can a brand create value from that kind of foundational vernacular?
At its core, brand value is THE most important thing a company needs to not just succeed but to avoid failing in a deprecating, embarrassing, deserving way.
Seth Godwin, in my opinion, best described how brand value should be defined. Seth wrote:
A brand’s value is merely the sum total of how much extra people will pay, or how often they choose, the expectations, memories, stories and relationships of one brand over the alternatives.
The opposite of brand value in the water and wastewater market is being seen as a commodity with no inherent distinction or value beyond the alternatives available in the industry.
A common misconception that I hear all the time from manufacturers in this market is they think most engineers and contractors are cheap and only want the lowest price. However that’s only true if you’re only giving them the same bland choices with no differentiation and thus no value. That is the exact point when consumers start to look at price.
When you look at other industries and recognize a company’s success in creating brand value there is one constant above all else that is apparent. They all have an ability to provide something that is not readily available. Or more plainly stated, it’s scarce and in short supply. I call this a Brand Value Wedge.
So I know what you’re thinking right now. How can we really develop a Brand Value Wedge from a product offering standpoint? Relax, I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to and in fact shouldn’t count on small differences in product application to build and sustain you core Brand Value. So then what? The answer is one word and one word only … information. By freely offering educational, informative, and entertaining content, your brand accomplishes a number of things that can’t be achieved by any other means. First, you are displaying approachability. Potential customers begin to see you as a trusted partner instead of a sales shark. Second, you are offering them something that is quite scarce in this market, relatable and relevant information. Most vendor-driven “content” may be relevant but it’s far from relatable. Remember, the goal here is to have them eventually buy from you instead of all the alternatives that exist and are at their disposal. Be valuable, be interesting, be relatable, be a resource, and most importantly, be a brand that stands for something while letting your content build the foundation.
Image credit: "Uber e táxis em São Paulo," Núcleo Editorial © 2016, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/