Most of the marketing problems that brands face in today’s market are self-inflicted. And unlike other functions within a business that could be affected by extenuating circumstances; for the most part, when it comes to marketing, a brand’s execution or lack thereof—completely lay at the feet of those that manage the brand.
Understanding that harsh reality, many marketing managers focus their attention solely on the one thing that could help save their job—short-term sales. A totally understandable solution, right?
But the problem a brand faces when focusing primarily on short-term sales success is that in doing so, all of its marketing efforts will revolve around placing an emphasis on simply securing a sale. Which often has the opposite effect when it comes to persuading people to purchase what it is that you’re selling, other than maybe a one-time purchase.
That’s because long-term, people support brands for reasons much greater than the products or services that they actually sell. Which is why what you sell should only be a byproduct of something much bigger.
The reason people prefer purchasing byproducts
Earlier this year, the movie Air, starring Matt Damon and Ben Affleck, finally hit the big screen. The film is set in 1984, and dramatizes Nike’s pursuit to sign a then NBA rookie that you might have heard of named Michael Jordan to an endorsement deal.
The film received rave reviews and resonated with millions of moviegoers—especially startup founders because while it may be hard to imagine today, prior to their partnership with Jordan, which began in 1984, Nike was a fledgling brand that only had an estimated 15% market share of the basketball shoe market.
But due to a combination of both Jordan’s greatness on the basketball court, as well as Nike’s brilliant marketing campaigns amplifying that greatness—the Air Jordan sneaker became an instant hit. And has flown off store shelves since its debut in 1985; becoming a star product for Nike and serving as the impetus for the brand’s now total dominance of not just basketball—but the entire sneaker market.
However, the reason why millions of consumers fell in love with the Air Jordan sneaker isn’t because it was a marvel of manufacturing that was far superior than every other basketball sneaker on the market (which it wasn’t). The Air Jordan sneaker became a cultural phenomenon because it served as a byproduct of Michael Jordan’s greatness. The sneaker simply embodied everything that made Jordan a larger-than-life icon. Something that people on every continent in the world wanted to be a part of.
Why simply selling your goods or services isn’t enough
Innately, people long to realize their life’s stories’ happy ending. And that happy ending, as it pertains to your brand’s products or services, consists of helping your target audience remove a particular problem or obstacle that is preventing them from experiencing their optimal outcome.
That optimal outcome could consist of:
Being considered “Cool” by their peers.
Receiving more admiration and attention from others.
Becoming more attractive.
Receiving more compliments.
Feeling less pain.
Having better health.
Having more fun.
Becoming more knowledgeable.
Finding love or companionship.
Regardless of what it is that you sell, it should only serve as a beneficial byproduct. A proverbial ticket to enter the world of what your brand actually represents. That world should touch people emotionally while also serving as the solution to whatever problem that is preventing your target audience from receiving their optimal outcome.
“You rarely think of a brand unless you associate that brand with a solution to a problem.” Writes Donald Miller and J.J. Peterson, co-authors of the book, Marketing Made Simple. “If you want to be remembered, associate your product or service with a problem to a solution.”
Examples of brands that do a great job at selling byproducts
Now that you know just why simply selling your products or services isn’t enough to compel people to purchase what you’re selling long-term. And that people are far more likely to purchase your products or services if they represent something much bigger. I think that it would only be fair if I provided a few examples of brands that have done a great job at focusing on selling byproducts; as opposed to simply selling products.
Nike — When was the last time you saw a Nike commercial that focused on how well their products are manufactured? Probably never. Am I right? Instead, Nike focuses on selling what their brand stands for. Which is inspiration, greatness, and overcoming adversity. And every product that has the Swoosh on it is an embodiment of that.
Gatorade — Similar to Nike, Gatorade is a brand that has never relied on highlighting the quality of their ingredients as the reason why consumers should drink Gatorade. Nor has Gatorade ever made the claim that they have the healthiest sports drink on the market (for obvious reasons).
What Gatorade is great at is focusing their marketing efforts towards inspiring consumers to tap into something deeper than themselves to achieve their athletic goals. And also like Nike, Gatorade utilized Michael Jordan’s likeness and greatness to help propel (no pun intended) that message. Another reason why millions of kids around the world wanted to Be Like Mike.
Harley-Davidson — I’m convinced that if Harley-Davidson sold golf carts instead of motorcycles, they’d still have one of the strongest brands in the world. That’s because Harley-Davidson isn’t a product-based brand. It’s a lifestyle brand. Harley-Davidson represents rebellion. And their motorcycles and merchandise only typifies that rebellion to consumers.
Red Bull — What does an energy drink have to do with snowboarding, Formula 1 racing, skateboarding, and skydiving? Well, when it comes to Red Bull, the answer is everything! Red Bull is a brand that represents excitement, boldness, and adventure. Something that resonates deeply with fans of the brand. The actual Red Bull energy drink is only a byproduct of those things.
It was social psychologist and customer & user behavior specialist Dr. Liraz Margalit, who said, “People don’t buy products or services—they buy emotions.” By focusing on what your brand represents to your target audience emotionally, you could sell them just about any product or service—as a byproduct of your brand.