R&D… & B? Why it’s Never Too Early for Branding

Some products seem to sell themselves – great ideas driven by clear market needs. But what about products and services that meet needs consumers didn’t even know they had? If it wasn’t for “Shark Tank’s” propulsion of Scrub Daddy, I would have never known I needed a sponge with a smiling face. Alas, I bought three.

To sell a product like that, you need to start thinking about branding early. Yes, even in the creation stage. It may seem a little “cart before the horse,” or, heaven forbid, like mandatory team building before your morning coffee. But I’m not talking about full-fledged logo identity and campaign concepts – I’m merely talking about asking the right questions.

During the research and development (R&D) stage, you’re usually asking “What?” and “How?”

  • What problem will this product or service solve?
  • How can we make it work?
  • How can we produce it affordably?

During brand development, it’s all about the “Who?” and “Why?”

  • Who will use my product?
  • Who is the potential competition?
  • Why should the consumer believe in my product?

Early exploration of these branding questions can steer your product development to success.

  • Form a strategic focus for your product. Identifying your primary audience can help determine features of the product that will be important to them, like whether it needs to be easy on arthritic hands, or fit in a cup-holder, or be gluten-free.
  • Make category management easier upon launch. Is this a basic, inexpensive model or the deluxe one with all the bells and whistles? If it’s a completely new idea, how do you describe it? What can you compare it to?
  • Keep stakeholders on board. A product flop could be rooted in an internal struggle to communicate the concept to company stakeholders. Strong branding early on can help sell the idea to the parties that greenlight your product. 
  • Create customer loyalty. A little early branding also helps sell your idea during product testing with focus groups. Along with important tactical feedback about the product, you can get feedback on your messaging to help realign your understanding of what’s most important to the consumer.

When you’re ready to launch that product that’s going to change the world, or solve that need, or even make washing dishes a bit more entertaining – launch with a brand you believe in, and your audience will believe in it, too.

Ultimately, your brand embodies a promise to a consumer. Jimmy John's promises to be freaky fast and fresh, Coca-Cola promises to bring a smile and GEICO, well, they’re going to save you a certain amount of money on car insurance in a certain amount of time. More than a tagline or catchy slogan, your brand is forged in how your customers use your product and how your product’s brand makes them feel.

Don’t let the lack of a compelling brand stunt your audience’s ability to receive it.  Luckily, you don’t have to go at it alone. Your brand has a story, we’re here to help you tell yours

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