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Brand Equity - Worth Safeguarding
by: Marcia Yudkin
The state government of Vermont has taken aggressive steps
to safeguard the state's brand equity. That's the monetary
premium attaching to tourism or products linked (honestly or
not) to this bucolic home of around 500,000 souls.

Does your company have brand equity? If so, people place
more trust in your quality and a higher value on your
offerings than on a no-name competitor's. If so, the cachet
of your brand envelops any new venture you launch right from
the start.

The general public believes "Made in Vermont" means "Made by
humans, not faceless corporations." In contrast, according
to brand experts, "Made in Connecticut" or "Made in
Michigan" add no extra monetary worth to a product or
service. If a state can be more than a state, you can stand
for something too -- do you?

In building and guarding a brand, think first about what
values you would like to stand for. Volvo has linked itself
to safety, BMW to the driving experience, Mercedes to
luxury, Saturn to no-haggle buying. Marlboro stands for
rugged individualism, Hallmark for warm and thoughtful
relationships, Steinway for performance-level quality.

Brands also have a personality. Nike is confident and
active, Joe Boxer is kooky and unconventional, Starbucks is
comfortable and cultured, Microsoft is geeky and no-
nonsense. The personality is built up not only through
advertising but also through product design, display design,
Web site design, a company's public relations image and of
course customer experiences in dealing with the company.

Price factors into brand identity too. Without looking at
price tags, we know that a certain item sold at Neiman
Marcus costs more than the comparable item at Kmart. Buyers
reason in the opposite direction too. If they're not
familiar with a brand and perceive the price as absurdly
low, they'll create a bargain-basement image for the brand,
while if they perceive the price as expensive, they'll
imagine what they would get on buying as luxurious,
aristocratic or masterful.

After you invest in creating a brand for your company, don't
be quick to change it. Chances are, you'll tire of it years
before the public does. Repetition and consistency imprint
your company identity and image in the minds of potential
and actual customers. Imagine how disturbing it would be to
run across a yellow-and-red IBM sign in a childlike logo, or
a flowery, garden-themed ad for the perfume Opium! With a
coherent, stable brand identity, you'll enjoy more repeat
business, greater customer loyalty, easier word of mouth and
eventually lower marketing expenses.

You'll know your brand is worth something when you start
seeing poachers, imitators and other unscrupulous types
trying to trade off the investment in your brand. It's
worth hiring a lawyer to shoot off a cease and desist
letter, where that's legally warranted. After all, our
fourteenth state isn't allowing folks manufacturing in
Indonesia to claim a Vermont connection. You should be the
only ones presenting themselves to the public as you.

Marcia Yudkin is the author of the
classic guide to comprehensive PR, "6 Steps to Free
Publicity," now for sale in an updated edition at
and in bookstores everywhere. She also spills the secrets
on advanced tactics for today's publicity seekers in
"Powerful, Painless Online Publicity," available from .


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