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Is your brand stronger than your product?

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Ever worked with a brand where you’ve completely drunk the Kool-Aid and, in your mind, that brand’s products are categorically the best?

I’m torn about whether that’s a good thing. I’ve always kept a degree of separation to allow me to be objective, whether I’m working for a challenger brand or a dominant market leader.

But sometimes I wonder if that pure belief in the product you’re working on is crucial for a campaign’s success. Does that enthusiasm pass on to the consumer? Especially if, being frank, your product isn’t that different from other things in the market.

There are loads of examples of market-leading companies in their position thanks to a strong brand rather than their product offerings. You’ve probably already pictured a couple of examples.

It’s tempting to be cynical about this but if you’ve marketed an unremarkable product towards dominance then you’re at the top of your game.

Take Beats by Dre, for example. The phenomenally successful brand, founded by hip-hop icon Dr Dre, designs and sells headphones and speakers. They’ve become many people’s go-to brand for quality headphones, but ask an audiophile and there’s very little chance they’ll point you towards a pair of Beats. Instead Beats has used a combination of brand positioning, celebrity endorsements and an understanding that music is about personal identity to make itself many people’s first choice.

Would that have happened if Beats wasn’t run by Dr Dre and his belief that he was making the objective best headphones around?

Another example is Chilly’s water bottles, which has become the default option for people who want a reusable water bottle despite there being plenty of other metal water bottles on the market with similar functionality. Chilly’s focuses on sustainability and allows people that buy into the brand to feel like they’re doing their bit of the environment. Chilly’s isn’t about the water, it’s a symbol for people to say they care.

I don’t know if Chilly’s would be as successful if its branding team approached the project with the attitude of “OK, how do I flog another water bottle?”

Where’s the line? Do you stay detached and approach things objectively? Or do you be more subjective and approach work with the belief the product is perfect?

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