Chances are, if you’re a REALTOR® or an entrepreneur, you have sat in a room with at least one other person and bounced adjectives against the wall to try and clearly identify your “Brand”
Are the words “Cutting Edge”, “Exuberant”, “Trustworthy”, “Youthful”, and “Pristine” really representative of your brand? What is your brand? The name of the product or service you are selling is not the only thing that matters. Is it the feeling of safety and security that comes with backing a winner? What David Ogilvy describes as the “intangible sum of a product’s attributes”?Is the feeling of safety and security tha tcomes with backing a winner? Is a brand simply the thoughts and feelings that someone has about your company when they see your name or logo? A brand comes from its strength, which can be harnessed for growth. I’m about to go all-out on this subject.
The moment you start thinking about a business project, you are also starting to create its brand. You don’t have complete control over your brand. You and your team have a lot of influence over your brand, even though you may not always be able to control it. There are two places where your brand lives – in the soul of your business and in the mind of your consumer. You can never fully control it because it doesn’t entirely belong to you. Other people’s perception of you is just as important as your name or any adjectives used to describe you.
Your brand is present in every professional interaction you have, whether you know it or not. An old gas station that is known for their huge Cinnamon buns has a very unique brand, even though they probably never had any high level marketing & operations meetings about it. The soul of your business is your brand, and for many entrepreneurs, their business is them.
Your brand’s physical appearance is very important. This is clear to people who are not interested in business or marketing. It is easy to believe that people will buy something only because it is pretty and new, but Apple Inc. sold many iPhone 6s because they have more than just attractive packaging and a website. Unfortunately it’s not that simple…
Enter the comparative concept of Quality vs. Style. For the Ninjas, style and quality go hand-in-hand. Having style does not always mean having quality. I’d like to define both of these words below so that we’re 100% on the same page about their meanings:
The quality of something is how excellent it is when compared to other things of the same kind.
The style of the building is determined by the principles according to which it was designed.
This can be simplified to mean that quality refers to how good something is, and style refers to how it looks. After taking a look at how quality and style work together, let’s explore a few examples of how they can function independently in different situations.
- Style: You approach an attractive person at the trendy local cafe. They smell good, are very well dressed and well groomed, they have stunning features, and something about the way they are put together attracts you. You approach and strike up a conversation, only to realize that they are poor conversationalists, rude, self-absorbed, and not interested in friendly chit chat. Maybe you remember at this time not to judge a book by it’s cover.
- Quality: You approach an intriguing person at a trendy local cafe. They are dressed in hiking boots, Merino wool, and a hand-knit toque while carrying an outdoorsy backpack. They are on a mission and you want to learn more. You approach and strike up a conversation. You and this person end up drinking your coffee together and discussing the adventures they have been having, you share stories about your travels and collective appreciation for nature. You exchange phone numbers and head your separate ways.
When you focus on Style, you often have very little substance left. When you focus on quality, good style usually follows. For your consideration, another scenario:
- Style: A relatively new Chef really wants to make a splash when opening their new restaurant. Chef hires an interior designer to make the space reflect their amazing vision and a graphic designer to create a trendy-chiq logo. Chef hires a live band, gives beers away at 50% off, advertises in all the local papers and blogs, purchases a fancy ice luge, hires the most charismatic staff, and personally walks into all of the neighboring establishments to invite them for a bite and a sip. The place is booming on opening night, until the first round of meals go out to customers. Frozen meats, packaged goods, produce that has been sitting for days, tiny cuts of steaks that are overcooked and smothered in a cold sauce, salads that are drowning in dressing, stale bread, weird ketchup, and so many more small food-related disasters. Needless to say, many people will not be returning to this restaurant.
- Quality: A relatively new chef really wants to make a splash when opening the new restaurant. Chef finds a small space that fits the budget nicely. Then Chef invites family and friends to help restore and decorate the space, and prep it for a professional kitchen and customer seating. Chef creates an exclusive invite-only list that contains only 50 names, and some plus-ones, among which are some notable food-writers and critics. The morning of the grand opening, Chef heads down to the local produce market and hand-picks the ingredients for that day’s menu. Then heads to the fish market to pick up fresh seafood. Chef returns and creates small versions of each dish, and let’s the few staff members taste and learn about the items. When Chef opens the doors, customers are charmed by the unique space, and are excited to try the food. Once they have a taste of Chef’s grilled halibut mini-burgers, their hearts have been won over. The restaurant receives stellar reviews and 50 initial customers turns into a line up out the door each evening.
Which restaurant would you prefer to eat in, the Stylish one or the Quality one? This just proves that you can’t make up for a lack of quality by adding a lot of style. When focused on quality, style usually follows without much extra effort.
Pirsig, you really should If you haven’t read “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” by Robert M. Pirsig, you should definitely read it. Pirsig, we highly recommend it – a valuable quote from it’s pages reads:
” According to the author, modern technology typically has an appearance that is so depressing that it must be covered up with a style in order to be accepted. This makes it worse for people who are sensitive to romantic Quality. Now it’s not just depressingly dull, it’s also phony. If you put together two things, you get a description of modern American technology that is pretty accurate. This would include stylized cars, outboard motors, typewriters, and clothes. Refrigerators that are designed to look aesthetically pleasing and stylish, containing food that is also designed to look appealing, in kitchens that follow this theme of style and design, in houses that maintain this overall aesthetic. Trendy plastic toys for children who are trendy and stylish like their fashionable parents at Christmas and birthdays. If you’re not yourself stylish, you’ll eventually get sick of it. The problem is that style is being used to cover up the ugliness of the technology, instead of focusing on creating something beautiful and high quality. The people involved only care about style, and not about creating a product that is actually beautiful and worth people’s money. Quality is not something that you can just add to something like decorations on a Christmas tree. The quality of something must come from its source.
How does this Quality vs. Style topic tie into Brand? Let me bring it full circle…
Your brand is part of your organization whether you have refined or accentuated it or not. The quality of a brand is important because it affects the experience a customer has with the brand. The things you use every day, the team you work with, the ingredients in your product or service, and the quality of life you create for yourself and others is your brand.
You could be a brand that is known for being low quality. A very small amount of people eat at McDonald’s because they believe the burgers and nuggets to be of high quality. Despite the bad press, millions of people still eat at McDonald’s every day because it is convenient for them. The people in question may not have time for a sit-down lunch one day, or may need a snack after a night out, or could be getting a quick snack for the kids after school. McDonald’s serves their purposes differently. McDonald’s was the first restaurant of its kind in the 1940s in that it only had drive-through ordering with no indoor seating. This was a key factor in the McDonald’s brand at the time. In the early 2000s, they introduced their first Dine-In location, which significantly changed their brand. When McDonald’s expanded internationally in 1967, their brand changed again. In 1971, McDonald’s once again updated their brand by introducing Ronald McDonald’s posse, which featured kid-friendly characters like Mayor McCheese and the Hamburglar. In 1987 they added fresh salads. In 1996 they launched their website. In 2009 the McCafe went National. These small business changes have had a big impact on the development of the McDonald’s brand.
But did their salads include market-fresh lettuce and tomato? Did their McCafe taste like a latte from your preferred local roaster? Was the Hamburglar really the best person for your children to be around? The McDonald’s brand reflects quality, despite the surface level of bright colors, happy clowns, and giant golden arches. Not really. Even though McDonald’s is one of the biggest companies in the world, there are two ways to interpret a brand: the characteristics and soul of the brand, and the brand’s marketing and design.
Style and quality are working together to create a perpetual force that pushes the company forward.
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If you’re still with me, thank you! Thank you for reading this text, it was quite long. You are almost finished. I wanted to leave you with a quote that the Ninjas have been hanging on to for a while. This is from Simon Sinek’s TEDTalk:
“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.”
The reason why you do something is the soul of that thing. So the soul of your business is why you do it. People naturally want to feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves. People want the companies they do business with to represent their own personal brand, and to make them feel more like themselves. Do your customers think of your business as “cutting edge,” “exuberant,” “trustworthy,” “youthful,” and “pristine?” Are you really selling what they want?
We hope you remember some of this next time you’re in a room with people, trying to identify your “brand” by throwing around adjectives.