Moving from Product to Brand – A Rev Ithaca Workshop

The Burns Group is a branding and advertising agency in NY founded by the former chairman of Saatchi and Saatchi – one of the world’s largest global advertising agencies.  The Burns group houses, BGiN, a small start-up that is approximately a year and a half old. BGiN is intended to provide affordable and accelerated in-depth brand building resources that young brands need. A core part of BGiN is the BGiN internship program. The program provides Cornell start-ups the opportunity to spend three weeks in New York working with branding field experts to solve a branding problem their product is facing. During the internship, the interns work on brand strategy and brand design and gain branding expertise through daily workshops, mentorship from leaders in the industry they are launching their business into, and great networking opportunities. At the end of the internship the start-ups exit with a brand both visually and strategically.

Some of the key takeaways from the workshop are as detailed below:

What is the difference between a product and a brand?

A product tends to meet a consumer need whereas a brand is the thing that gets to what the consumer wants. A product delivers function where as a brand delivers emotion. A product is also often housed by a brand. Consequently, if the entrepreneur thinks at the brand level, even if he or she only has one product, there is a greater possibility to be more expansive and create other products within the brand. However, if the entrepreneur defines the business around the product, it makes it extremely difficult to create other products.

Why Brand?

Branding is what drives choice. It curves loyalty and is what allows the product to command a premium. Without a brand, the product becomes nothing other than a commodity. Companies that fail to invest or think about brand often find themselves in a very competitive situation where everything is interchangeable. Also, the brand serves to protect the IP of the product developed.

How do you get to brand particularly when you are at the early stages of business development?

First, it is better to think about the brand earlier rather than later, even with the scant resources of a start-up. This is because it creates the path forward for the company. To do so, start thinking about the why rather than the what of your product or service? For example, Gatorade, launched as a sports drink. It was essentially defined by what it was. There is a sea of competitors when defined as a sports drink; even water is a competitor. It also made it hard for Gatorade to differentiate itself.  However, with time Gatorade re-defined their brand around sports nutrition, which is the why. By doing this, Gatorade was able to build products around an elevated need, which led to a new product category being developed (nutrition) and ultimately an expansion of the Gatorade product line.

Therefore, when defining a business, every entrepreneur should think about what problem he/she is solving. The way you solve that problem, which is the product or service, may change over time but the problem or need that is being solved, endures with time. Also, by defining the why, the entrepreneur creates purpose within the start-up and provides a bigger opportunity to be expansive in the marketplace. Part of creating a brand starts with defining a clear positioning statement: Who you are targeting, what your frame of reference is, what category do you play in, what is the tangible consumer benefit that you provide, and why should they believe that the benefit is true.

Check out Rev’s upcoming workshops here.