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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Branding Rescues America

As the United States of America continues its journey through its dark, dreary depression (I know, it's technically a recession, but I'm actually referring to its citizens' states of mind), it seems no political, economic or social leaders can come up with any practical solutions to our problems. By practical, I mean something other than a scare tactic or a distraction. Let's face it, terrorism, illegal immigration, Obama's birth certificate and global warming are all grist for the tabloids' mills, but when you get right down to it, the fundamental solution to America's problems is jobs -- or the current lack thereof. And no matter how many sex scandals or scare tactics you throw at them, the American public isn't buying any of it. They need work.


One doesn't have to cite John Maynard Keynes or Adam Smith to know that if people don't have money, people don't spend money. And if people don't spend money, nobody makes money. But if you're going to increase jobs in America, there are two important lessons you're need to learn:


The first lesson is that capitalism and businesses run rationally on cold, hard numbers. Businesses do what they can to lower costs - especially human labor - in order to maximize profits and undercut their competitors' prices.


The second lesson is that the first lesson is usually false. And here's why:


While it seems intuitive that businesses obey the first law, the truth is that most businesses - and certainly the American consuming public - are anything but rational. As I often tell my clients, if every business decision were entirely rational, all purchases would be determined by price. What American businessmen, policy-makers and politicians overlook is that most decisions made by humans are non-rational in nature. This would explain, for example, why dopes stand in line for hours to pay double retail for Apple iPads and iPhones when dozens of other competitive products do far more at substantially lower prices.


Of course, my being a branding guy, you must know where this discussion is headed. But if you don't, keep reading, because it makes a lot more sense and can be deployed with the real results everyone wants but nobody seems able to deliver. Bear with me and see if this doesn't add up for you:


Consider that, as I've published, branding is getting your prospects to perceive you as the only solution to their problem. If you accept that the purpose of branding is to create the perception that there's no place else to shop, your brand becomes the only game in town. You can charge whatever you like for whatever you sell. If you're branded properly (and that's a big "if"), you should be able to place two identical products on a table and have consumers buy yours at a 20% premium -- simply because it's your brand they're buying.


Now consider this: What if an entire country had a brand strategy? What if "Made in USA" were developed into a true, actionable brand strategy (rather than hacked together by some feel-good political cronies)? I'll tell you what would happen: American businesses could sell American products and services at higher prices, simply because they were American. Those higher prices could afford American labor, which would keep jobs here in America, because after all, to be "made in the USA," you have to be, well, made in the USA. Think it can't work? It already has. And I can prove it. Just ask yourself this one simple question:


Which country commands the highest price for a wrist watch?

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