Greetings from Riga where I am running a two-day session on branding for Latvian companies. I arrived to discover that, by way of a very Baltic introduction to the session, the organizers had drafted a delightful parable to explain the importance of branding.
Aleksander lived in Liepaja. One weekend he decided to travel to Riga to find a wife. On Friday night he met a beautiful girl called Alina.
They sat and talked and finally Aleksander asked her to marry him.
“Why should I marry you?”, she asked. “Marry me because I am tall, 175cm.” Alina thought about this for a while but then she saw another boy on the dance floor. She stood up and began to walk away. “Why will you not marry me?” asked Aleksander. “Because that boy over there is 5cm taller than you so I should marry him instead,” she replied as she disappeared.
On Saturday night Aleksander met another wonderful girl called Sandra.
They sat and talked and finally he asked her to marry him.
“Why should I marry you?” Sandra asked. “You should marry me because I am rich, I have 50 Lats in my bank account,” said Aleksander. Sandra agreed immediately and off they went for a celebration dinner. After their meal Aleksander received a bill for 45 Lats. As he was paying the bill Sandra began to walk out.
“Why are you leaving me?” asked Aleksander, “I thought that we were about to get married.” Sarah looked sad and replied: “I wanted to marry you for your money but now you don’t have any left so I don’t want to marry you any more”. And she left the restaurant.
With a big sigh and his five remaining Lats, Aleksander took the bus back to Liepaja. He sat next to a pretty girl called Diana. To pass the time he told Diana the whole story. Then he talked about his interests and his life.
As they got off the bus, Diana turned to Aleksander and said, “I will marry you”. Aleksander was confused. “Why would you want to marry me? I am not the tallest man in the world nor am I the richest.”
Diana replied: “I want to marry you because I have fallen in love with you. There may be people who are taller, or who have more money, but no one can be more like Aleksander, the man I love, than Aleksander!”
The moral of this story is that brands always win. If you try to build your business by promoting only the features of your product, inevitably one of your competitors will eventually better them. And, like Alina, your customers will desert you.
If you build your business by offering the lowest prices you will also fail. Your customers, like Sandra, are only with you for financial reasons.
And eventually, when someone offers them even lower prices, they will immediately leave you.
When a company has a strong brand, it creates a sustainable long-term advantage. Just like Diana, they are with you because no one can be more you than you, and your chances of keeping your customers happy and loyal are infinitely greater.