A Journey of a Thousand Steps

When it comes to the media, it is usually the big brands that get all the coverage. I mean, flip through any magazine or switch to any television channel, and we generally see familiar brands hogging all the attention. It is an obvious outcome given the kind of financial muscle they have (although the converse is not true by any means). However, the reality is that most brands don’t have access to significant resources to pour into their brand-building activities. They can’t spend millions of dollars sponsoring Formula 1 races or buy prime time advertisement spots on CNBC. So what do these businesses do to stand out?

The big brands spend big bucks to influence perceptions. They want to occupy a place in the minds and hearts of the public. And they keep on peppering the media landscape with advertisements to ensure that they enjoy top recall. Unfortunately, the marketplace doesn’t segregate businesses in any way. Hence, the small minnows have to find ways to compete with the big sharks to survive. The first step to doing this is to understand that it isn’t usually possible to compete with the big brands directly. The one exception I can think of is when you own a patented disruptive technology that can change the game. Google, now a giant itself, was a great example of this.

In general though, when there isn’t money available to drastically shape perceptions, it is better to focus on the delivery aspects. This can happen through paying attention to detail and improving continuously. Most brands fail to do this in their quest for growth. In other words, they compromise on the brand promise for quick short term returns. Unless a brand adds layers and layers to strengthen its core, it will start feeling the pressure from the competition. It is only when a brand truly engages in improving itself through small, steady steps can it hope to compete with the brand biggies.

A brand built on money has popularity but not necessarily character. Smaller brands need to demonstrate character through understanding their customers better and providing a highly level of customized service. This goes a long way in building strong brand associations that generate customer loyalty. While bigger brands may profess to do the same, the reality is far from different in many cases. As mentioned earlier, brand character can also be built through the small details. It can be as small as providing an extra feature on your website or something more elaborate like creating an app for your customers.

In summary, small brands can compete on a bigger stage through really listening to customers, delivering on their promises and continuously working on enhancing the brand experience through working on the smaller details.

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