The Truth About Brands

Roi Agneta

The Truth About Brands

The very best brands are built around a simple truth that establishes a reference point for everything that follows.

Ask the average person what "brand" means to them and you will get a wide range of answers. One definition that I think really nails it comes from Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon: "Your brand is what people say about you when you are not in the room".

One of the best ways to convey ideas that are a bit abstract is through stories. Think of all those great fables you read when you were young and how the message stayed with you throughout life! So, here is a story about a brand.

Joe the Barber

Joe's Barber Shop was a neighborhood success story. Everything about his business said "I care about my clients": a sparklingly clean shop, the very finest equipment, a very cool, self-service espresso machine, and a complimentary shoeshine included with every haircut.

Joe's customer-first approach was repaid with client loyalty, and word-of-mouth was the only brand marketing he needed. Life was good.

One morning Joe arrived at his shop and was shocked to see that a new barbershop had opened a few doors down from his establishment. The real shock, however, was this sign prominently displayed in the window:


Joe was distraught. He had never dealt with competition before and was unsure how to react to this obvious threat to his business, especially since Joe's pricing was much higher than Sal's.

That evening Joe returned home and delivered the news, with an air of resignation, to his wife. "How can I possibly match that low price?", he lamented. "Even if I cut expenses, maybe do away with the coffee and free shoeshine, I still can't get anywhere near that price!"

His wife shook her head and gave him a loving smile. "Joe", she said, "people don't come to your shop for a haircut, they come because you make them feel good about themselves."

That night Joe tossed and turned in bed. His wife's words echoed in his mind - it was encouraging and he knew she was right (she was, after all, his wife, just sayin...), but then the reality of competing with a $5.00 price point pushed him back into despair. Finally, in the wee hours of the night, he had his epiphany.

The next morning Joe added a new sign in his shop’s window:


The Moral of the Brand Story

Sell the solution, not the product!

Joe’s wife understood that his brand - his foundational story - was based on the simple truth of making people feel good about themselves. His approach to business delivered much more than just a haircut - he delivered on an emotional level that customers could identify with as well as satisfying their practical needs. 

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