Ahead of this post, I give you full permission to tell me that I’m talking out of my butt. I’m drinking a delicious McDonalds iced coffee. I prefer their brand over Starbucks and over Dunkin Donuts (which is sacrilege in Massachusetts, where I live). In my neck of the woods, they use a special Newman’s Own blend. It’s delicious. And this relates very much to the part of branding that we don’t much think about.
When guys like Dan Schawbel define personal branding (and personal is somewhat -very?- different than product/service branding), they say this: “Personal branding is the process of how we market ourselves to others.” (Dan’s definition.) That’s part of the puzzle, I will agree, but it’s certainly just one part.
You see, the very best brands in the world do something not addressed in the above definition. They work on perfecting a product/service, and then owning distribution.
Distribution. A platform. The ability to move product by establishing a channel or creating a viable touchpoint to a channel. That’s what’s missing in these definitions. The focus of conversations about branding is quite often about telling people what your product is about, or making sure people know who/what you are/represent.
Distribution’s where it’s at, though. Who gives a crap if you pour all kinds of great intent and messaging into your product if no one knows who you are? Who cares if someone knows who you are, but they can’t reach you?
Distribution. McDonalds built as many burger joints as they could as soon as they got the formula down on making a great, repeatable experience. They built them everywhere. In Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser writes about how ruthlessly they built, often times building new McDonalds across the street from the other one, in a kind of Darwinian battle for dominance.
It’s distribution. The mafia (all of the various iterations) existed as methods to bypass the “official” distribution channels. Distribution is that part of the puzzle.
Distribution and Its Value to Brand
Once you have distribution, you can experiment. You can add things to the mix. McDonalds is pushing hard on their McCafe brand. Why? Because they pretty much have hamburgers down. In fact, they have chicken down (sorry, KFC, but really…). So coffee it is. Why not take on Starbucks and Dunkins? They tried pizza and Mexican, but nothing much happened there.
Product stretch or diversification is something that can happen only after there’s enough distribution to make it work out.
Jack Welch ran GE back in the day. After, he wrote an amazing book, WINNING, about business. He leveraged that into a great career as a speaker and a media maker, among other things. Most recently, Welch is offering up a branded MBA (not new, for sure: others have done this less formally before). This is what one gets when one has both a great brand and distribution.
That’s the part that we have to think about, work towards, and build. That’s where the work has to go. That’s the hard part of the puzzle.
What’s your take?
Photo credit TonyTheMisfit