Products, Brands, Pseudo Brands and Successful Brands


“It is not factories which make profits, but relationships with customers; and it is company and brand names which secure these relationships.”                                                                                                                         – de Chernatony et al, 2010

People often ask me what’s the difference between a product and a brand. I’ll use the case of a Jamaican rum to explain. In doing so I’ll ask not just two, but four questions:

  • What is a product?
  • What is a brand?
  • What is a pseudo brand?
  • What is a successful brand?

A product or service, is a problem solver in the sense that it solves the customer’s problems and it is also the means by which the organisation achieves it own objectives. And since it is what actually changes hands it is obviously a matter of great importance. An unbranded rum at Appleton Estate in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, still in the oak cask, is merely a product.

But when the 266 year old Appleton Estate adds its brand name to the product, it becomes the world-famous Appleton Estate rum, and everything changes! There are emotional values, for example, that customers often find difficult to explain. Indeed such was the value of the Appleton Estate brand that Gruppo Campari, the Italian giant, acquired the entire Wray and Nephew Group, including several companies it did not want, just to own the Appleton Estate brand.

Now there are many ‘products’ that pretend to be brands but are not the genuine article. They are pseudo brands: not brands. They are manufacturer’s labels – “mee-toos” having poor positioning, poor quality and poor support. Such manufacturers don’t understand their consumer and see retailers only as a channel for distribution. Hmmhhh, can you think of a good example of a pseudo brand? If you can, let me know.

Finally, there is the successful brand. It has a name, symbol, or design (or a combination of these) that identifies the ‘product’ of an organisation as having a sustainable, competitive advantage. The more distinctive a brand position with favourable attributes that the customer considers important, the less likelihood that a customer will consider another brand. All successful brands have deep relationships with their customers. Check out the brand loyalty for Mercedes Benz, Apple, and yes… Appleton Estate rum.

And at the heart of a successful brand is perceived product quality. That’s why the iPhone commands 90% of the profits from the global smart phone market, Mercedes-Benz wins at both Formula 1 and the luxury car market, and Appleton Estate is, well, Appleton Estate. The finest rum in the world. Almost 200 years ahead of Bob Marley!

So what type or relationship do you have with your customers?

Herman D. Alvaranga is president of the Caribbean School of Sales Management

Sources: Creating Successful Brands, de Chernatony et al, 2010 and Strategic Brand Management, Keller, 2002


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