Brand Spankin' Stupid

I worked at a software company during the dot-bomb days. The marketeers blathered incessantly about “the brand”. “We must establish the brand”, “We must protect the brand”, “The brand is our leader”… It appears that the modern marketeer still has not learned that a strong brand with positive associations is not a thing in and of itself, but rather the effect of having a great product or service.

First case in point: Kyocera. When we renewed our mobile service with Verizon Wireless, they exchanged our existing phones with the Kyocera KX414. I hate this phone. The damn thing only works about half the time. The other half the time it either does not respond at all to the keys or acts like it is placing a call but really does nothing. I have to cycle power or remove and replace the battery to get the damn thing to work, just like a Windows box.

I saw a commercial recently from Kyocera that tried to convince the viewer that Kyocera produced the best printers. (It appeared from the URL at the end that Kyocera had purchased a pre-existing printer company, Mita. assures me that Kyocera is a giant company that has diversified into many markets.) Yet I will never buy a Kyocera printer. Why? Because the Kyocera KX414 is such a piece of crap. If Kyocera really wanted to ensure a strong brand, they should have never released the crappy mobile phones from their Qualcomm acquisition.

Second case in point: Sony BMG. Several years ago Sony BMG released a Celine Dion CD (in Europe but not North America, I think) that contain a copy-protection scheme that had nasty side-effects on the customers' computers. Now Sony BMG embeds a rootkit on millions of CDs. A president of Sony BMG says “We're very, very sorry for the disruption and inconvenience that this has caused to music consumers”. Given the slow response from Sony BMG, their customers do not appear to be a priority.

Many are calling for a boycott of Sony BMG and I shall not purchase a Sony BMG CD again. Even though my Macs are not susceptible to this particular rootkit exploit, I will not do business with companies that try to surreptitiously install software on their customers' computers. If Sony BMG really wanted to ensure a strong brand, they should have never released the CDs containing rootkits that invisibly install themselves.

Third case in point: iPod. The iPod is such a strong brand that it has become a genericized trademark for not only portable digital music players but well-designed products. Apple ensured a strong brand because they released a phenomenal product.

It is that simple, Junior Marketeers: the best way to a strong brand is a strong product. Or put another way: crappy products never have strong brands.


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