“A business exists because the consumer is willing to pay you his money. You run a business to satisfy the consumer. That isn‘t marketing. That goes way beyond marketing.” --Peter F. Drucker
You hear a lot about the importance of “brand names” in the market place - especially in terms of supporting the brand and what it stands for. Truckers are more than familiar with this concept because they are some of the most “brand loyal” customers you‘ll ever fin. I mean, I‘ve talked to countless fleets and owner-operators that stick with Peterbilt, Kenworth, International, Mack, Freightliner, Sterling, Western Star, Volvo, you name it, and wouldn‘t switch truck brands unless you paid them.
(Of course, with the national average price of diesel fuel now at $4.21, they might be more easily swayed by a lot of greenbacks.)
Yet, seriously, while much of the brand loyalty in trucking comes from a certain mystique or character built up around each particular brand of road iron, a lot has to do with the dealerships and service behind each nameplate. Even when a trucker is considering switching brands for something lower prices or touted to get better fuel economy, the service he or she has received over the years gets factored into the decision.
I remember talking to veteran owner-operator Chuck Racine a while back as he shopped around for a new truck. For years he‘d owned Kenworths, but found himself willing to consider different brands if he could get better fuel economy. In the end, however, his long-time relationship with his Kenworth dealer in Evansville, IN proved to be the tiebreaker. Their service over many years kept him loyal to the brand and put him behind the wheel of a new T660, one equipped with a 2007 emission-compliant engine to boot.
(That's Chuck Racine on the right, in front of his old truck, talking with Billy Paxton, VP at Paxton Van Lines, Chuck's employer.)
That‘s why focusing on your own brand - whether you‘re a fleet or owner-operator - is so important, almost like a “mantra” these days. (And “mantra” is a term from India meaning words or vibrations used as “spiritual conduits” to instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. It originated from the Vedic religion of India, later becoming a fundamental part of both the Hindu and Buddhist religions.)
I‘m going to let Professor Jerry Osteryoung from the college of business at Florida State University continue this line of thought, as he has some interesting points to share of the subject. Professor Osteryoung, as usual, the floor is yours:
“Branding is such an important element of marketing and the vision of the firm as it represents the promise to meet a customer‘s needs. Branding is concept that covers so much more than marketing. As branding is such a critical element with any firm, I am going to write a series of articles on this very important concept. This is the first of these articles in the series branding dealing with brand promises. A brand promise is the just a set of expectations and guarantees that a company offers to its customers.
(Probably one of the most recognizable and premier brands in the world today is Walt Disney World.)
As Peter Drucker says, customers buy your products and services and you must satisfy the customer. Branding is the way a business satisfies the customer besides prices. Just look at Apple or Disney who have great brands that came from years of working and developing their own brand. Not only must brands bring customers in the door, but also once they are there they must deliver on their promise. What would happen if Disney had a dirty park?
It is so important to understand that a brand is not yours but it resides in the customers mind. That is for a brand and a brand promise to be successful; it must be always viewed from the viewpoint of the customer.
While a cute logo is okay, what really differentiates a brand is the brand promise. Just look at Coca Cola whose brand promise is ‘The Real Thing‘ and how much they can charge for their brand over other non-branded drinks. Southwest Airlines has always had a brand promise related to price and FedEx‘s brand is “peace of mind.” When FedEx started its brand promise was delivery by 10:30AM. It still has this delivery time as part of its core values but it has changed the brand to reflect changing values in our society.
With any brand promise it must be customer-centric. If it is not related to the customer, it just is not effective. Additionally, some brand promises have to create a new industry classification, just look at Red Bull. They knew that the cola and citrus market were saturated as well as sports drinks. Red Bull used as a brand promise to ‘revitalize body and mind.‘ Just look at how this customer centered brand promise that clearly differentiates it from other industries. Disney‘s brand promise is ‘family fun entertainment.‘
Volvo car‘s brand promise has always been ‘safety.‘ I bought both of my kids a Volvo as I recognized this brand promise and it meant so much to my wife and me as it gave us piece of mind. Volvo is trying, however, to update this brand image for the 21st century.
(Vehicle testing being conducted at the Volvo Safety Centre in Sweden. Volvo cars, it should be noted, is now owned by Ford Motor Co.)
Bank of America‘s brand promise is ‘The Bank of Opportunity.‘ In order to get to this brand promise they analyzed the strengths in all of their businesses. While they used hard data to come up with this brand promise, there was so much that was not quantifiable. They had to use judgment, creativity and flexibility.”
Good points, I think, and one truckers of all shapes and sizes can use in their business. For in these tight times, every advantage you can gain with the customer - especially in terms of keeping them for the long haul at a good rate - is critical.
You can reach Professor Osteryoung by e-mail at [email protected] or by phone at 850-644-3372.