They say that perception is reality, and when it comes to having a great brand versus a great product, this adage becomes even more profound.
In marketing, both offline and online, there are two competing schools of thought. In University 1, marketers believe that the product is more critical to a company's success. Students and professors of University 2 diverge, thinking that brand is more important than the product. Here, we're proponents of the University 2 school of thought - that having a great brand is more important than selling superior products.
Why do more people believe that having a great product is the key to a company's success?
Logically, it makes sense that a great product comes before a great brand. The thinking goes that the product comes first, then a great marketing strategy is built around the product to influence perception. If a company has a superior product, then the goal of the marketing department is to communicate the product's unique features and benefits effectively.
It's simple, logical, and intuitive that a company would first develop a superior product and then work on developing a marketing or branding strategy to move the product. But while this may seem accurate on its face, this line of thinking completely ignores a key component of human nature; that perception is reality.
Why is the brand more important than the product?
It's counterintuitive, but having a great brand is more important than having a great product. Why? Because of perception. In reality, there are no "facts," when it comes to which product is better. There are only perceptions that your target customers hold that drive their purchasing decisions. Think about the ongoing feud between Apple and Microsoft supporters or the iPhone versus the Android. It's impossible to pin down which product is factually superior, as opposed to which product the customers perceive as being better.
Also, which is easier? Creating a "better" energy drink than the most famous of all energy drinks, Red Bull, or changing people's perception of Red Bull? Perception is not only the key to creating a "superior" product and building a great brand; perception is also difficult to change. Once someone's perception of a brand is established, it's hard to change it. Unless a great brand does something idiotic, it's nearly impossible to damage a customer's positive perception of a brand.
What do businesses need to create perception and build a great brand?
Differentiation - It's better for brands to be different than to have a superior product.
Believability - Become a market leader to influence positive perception.
For businesses, establishing positive perception in their target audience's minds is the way to build a great brand. And a great brand is superior to having a great product. But this isn't binary. Product is also essential to a company's ultimate success; it's just not as important as great branding.
What do you think is more important?