Brand Matters

“All they want is the cheapest price,” Steve recited as he flashed me a “and don’t tell me any different” expression. I patiently replied, “No. You are wrong. Brand matters. Your brand matters. And Diamond Certified helps your brand matter more by elevating it and giving it greater meaning and influence. Steve, you face two futures. It’s your choice—if you want to build a company that grows in profit and entity value, you’ll choose to build your own premium brand and use Diamond Certified to help you do it. Every day that your company’s brand is seen as Diamond Certified, it grows in premium value. Diamond Certified is feeding your future. The alternative isn’t pretty: grinding out low-margin work from the bottom of the customer pool.”

Owning a local company isn’t for the faint of heart, and we all need an occasional pep talk to give us long-term perspective. This conversation with Steve actually happened about five years ago, when the bottom fell out of the market and he was laying off staff, just trying to survive. That day, Steve decided to fight through the recession with a premium brand. He showed a lot of grit and hung in there, continuing to use Diamond Certified to help him build his brand. Today, Steve’s company has grown in revenue and brand value. He hasn’t added back all the staff he once had, but he says his company now operates better and is more profitable, and he has been relentless in using Diamond Certified to build his premium brand every day. As Steve says, “Diamond Certified builds my future.” I couldn’t have said it better myself!

My Shocking First Brand Test Case
I’ll share a personal story that taught me a great lesson about how much brand matters. When I was a young teenager, I started working directly with the public via part-time jobs. Over time, I started to notice how good brands were more influential than good people. I was impressed by how often potential customers wanted good brands regardless of whether the salespeople were any good. I also noticed that the best salespeople used their own communication to build up the good brand even more.

I became sold on the power of building and nurturing a distinct brand, and at 19 years old, I got my first chance to play the brand game. I was in Boulder, Colorado and decided to start a Christmas tree lot. I named the lot “Our Mother’s Best Trees” (a reference to Mother Nature) and set about creating a distinctive logo. I wanted our location to match the look and feel of our brand, with striped poles, signage, etc. To further differentiate my brand, I didn’t buy my trees from the local wholesaler; instead, I travelled to Washington for fir trees and Wyoming for pine trees. The human part of unique branding was easy because I personally served many of the customers. I even promoted the “Mother’s” brand in local newspapers and on the radio.

The first year was successful, with $13,000 in gross sales. The following year, I started a second location with the same brand and sign. Sales grew, and each location generated more than $20,000. In my third year, as an “all grow’d up” 21-year-old businessman, I was ready for my first real Brand Matters test. I opened two new locations: one with the “Our Mother’s Best Trees” branding and the other with a new “Happy Trees” brand. Happy Trees was in a good location. I assigned one of our top managers to run it, supplied it with the exact same trees as the “Mother’s” locations and priced the trees identically. I even ran separate advertising for Happy Trees. Here are the sales results: Mother’s Location #1 = $27,000; Mother’s Location #2 = $29,000; Mother’s Location #3 (new) = $23,000; Happy Trees Location (new) = $11,000. Same trees. Same prices. Same quality staff. Yet the new location sales that used the “Mother’s” brand more than doubled the new location sales of the “Happy” brand. Indeed, brand matters. Premium wins.