Branding Is About Longevity and Consistency; Just Ask Justin Bieber

These past few weeks we’ve all seen and heard about Justin Bieber’s multiple arrests. We’ve seen the headlines, read the articles, listened to it on talk shows. It’s been mainstream news, more so than important relevant world topics. Our society loves celebrity gossip. We love to worship athletes, entertainers, and other celebs. The amount of publicity he’s received is disheartening to say the least, but that’s a whole other story.

One morning this past week my daughter wanted to listen to Boyz II Men’s “Motown Philly” on one of our drives. I love when they reference music on my iPod, not this single of the day from some made up band using auto-tune and a ton of publicity. I had to oblige her and put it on right then and there. Why not right?

As we’re listing to “Motown Philly” from Boyz II Men’s Twenty CD – shameless plug, we actually designed the album artwork for Twenty and a few others so they hold a special place on my iPod – my daughter says to me, “you know Boyz II Men did a song with Justin Bieber.” Well first, no I didn’t know that, and second shame on them for collaborating with him. So I looked it up and sure enough there was a cappella song they did together in 2011. Oh how the Biebs has fallen from grace in less than three years. He’s getting some seriously bad advice.

Justin Bieber – Fa La La (a cappella) ft. Boyz II Men

When it comes to branding your business or your products you need to think about longevity, consistency, a reputation and mantra that will transcend time. Branding is about managing your reputation on a long journey, not being a flash in the pan one hit wonder. It’s about being the right thing at the right time and growing with your consumers.

A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person. You earn reputation by trying to do hard things well.
– Jeff Bezos, Internet entrepreneur, investor, founder and CEO of Amazon.com

Over the past two decades I’ve been involved in many, many product launches and branding adventures. We’ve experienced some tremendous successes, some mistimed attacks, and some ill advised trendiness. As I tell people all the time, a bad product in a great package will outsell a great product in a bad package. But when you combine a great product in a great package you can’t keep up with the demand. Now that’s a great problem to have.

About eight years ago we worked with a young group of guys that were trying to launch a brand of Russian vodka. The owner’s last name was Bang. Now there are immediate cliché campaigns you can come up with to market Bang Vodka but none of them are going to allow you long lasting notoriety like a Grey Goose has established. We tried desperately to steer them away from the clichés but they were young men and they thought it was cool. They had some initial success and then BOOM. Gone.

Over my 20 year career I’ve been involved with a few cool products that unfortunately were launched too early in the development cycle. A few of these were AR’s Phantom loudspeakers, Audiovox’s Home Décor and Audio Solutions’ Audio Mounts. All of these were really cool products that hit the market a little (or a lot) early, tremendous ideas but consumer awareness and acceptance just wasn’t their yet.

Launching a unique product before its time requires a ton of consumer marketing to generate awareness, tell the consumer why they want it, need it, must have it and create the demand to sell through. Without that kind of marketing campaign these products must be launched after the early adopter stage and when the products they are paired with are in the mainstream marketplace.

These three product lines were understood and well received by the retail buying community because buyers are early adopters, looking for the next great idea. They didn’t sell through well at retail because consumers didn’t get it, they weren’t ready for it, and therefore after a few short months into it they were pulled from the shelves and discontinued. Sad really.

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An example of a well timed launch of a great product in a great package is Soul by Ludacris headphones. When we partnered with Soul Electronics to launch their Soul by Ludacris headphones the market was ripe for another competing product to Beats by Dre. It was early yet in the premium headphone game and having a superior product in sound quality, design and a really well done brand connection with Luda himself, the product line took flight. Their initial success far exceeded expectations.

Today Soul Electronics has various brand ambassadors and they continue to shift with the market. The one that that remains? Superior product design and sound quality. That’s the brand’s true core and it doesn’t change over time, simply the colors, fashion, fit and promotion. Those move with the marketplace.

Moral of this story? Don’t be trendy, stay true to yourself, take risks but make them calculated risks that have a chance for success. If you are going to launch a new technology early in the cycle, be sure to market the heck out of it. Consumers don’t take risks buying things that they don’t know, understand or want. Create the demand.

Back to my initial comparison of Boyz II Men and Justin Bieber, the group Boyz II Men has been the same type of group of 20+ years. These guys love to sing, typically a cappella love songs, and they continue to deliver that music to their fans. They’ve stayed out of the spotlight for negative publicity (not all PR is good PR), and they continue to evolve sticking within their brand. Justin Bieber? Well you’ve been reading about him for weeks and who knows where he’ll be in 10 years.

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