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Dickeson--Create Brand Recognition For Your Print Operation

June 1999
"I don't know your company. I don't know your product. I don't know you. Now what was it you wanted to see me about?"

That's my best recollection of the caption on a cartoon published by McGraw-Hill many years ago showing a crusty purchasing agent addressing a perspiring young salesman. I've never forgotten it. I can't think of a better illustration of the value of a brand.

These days we hear a lot about "branding," the value of a "brand." In the world of sports, for example, we recognize personalities such as Michael Jordan or John Madden as "brands." I glanced at the title of a magazine article by management guru Tom Peters the other day, urging that you regard yourself as a brand.

We all know that McDonald's and Coca-Cola are brands known worldwide, as are hundreds of other items from breakfast foods to autos. What the brand owners have done is create a perception—a word or a name that creates immediate recognition and association. That perception, that brand, or as we used to say, that image, creates a unique identity for the company, product, service or personality, which differentiates it from others in the same field.

Expect More, Pay More
You expect more, you think you get more, and you'll pay more for an established brand. That's a fact of life. The Michael Jordan brand can sell sneakers and long distance phone service. And Jordan makes fabulous sums for the power of his brand. So does football commentator Madden, whether it is for Ace Hardware or Dr. Pepper.

For many years, I've been urging commercial printers to stop the nonsense of setting prices for their print conversion services by marking up their imagined or "virtual" costs. Price is customer-perceived value constrained by competition. Pricing is unrelated to cost. It's a perception of value. As Al Ries puts it in "The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing," a brand is "a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect."

Say any of these words, "Blockbuster," "Compaq," "Volvo," "Tide," "Kleenex," "Kodak," "Xerox" or any one of many, many others and, instantly, there's a picture in your mind of what these are, what they stand for. You'll pay more or buy more of these branded things than of a generic. You'll pay more for Bayer Aspirin than you would for the exact same generic aspirin.

It's easy to think of commercial printing as just a generic service—a "shelf" item. But there's something special that builds a repeat clientele for each printer, isn't there? It's not just the lowest price, because there's generally always another printer with lower prices. What is it that is special, that is that peculiar "something?" It's simply that "something" that makes your company unique, worth a price premium for the customer's perception of value.


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