Brand identity is no longer built solely on what a company does. Regardless of whether they make a faster vehicle, a smarter phone or a killer app, it's how companies communicate how that product or service sets them apart from others that can make the same claims. In an effort to create differentiators, we often see companies resorting to words that actually diminish the brand value of a company, rather than enhance it.
Think about the word "cheaper," or its more prevalent cousin, "cost-effective." Both mean the same thing -- what we have is not as expensive as similar offerings. Unfortunately, while a company is hinging the value of what they are selling on the hope that consumers will spend less, they fail to make the connection between why "cheaper" equates to better.
The company that is relying on cheaper as their value is forwarding the mentality among consumers of a false economy; an action that saves money at the beginning but which, over a longer period of time, results in more money being wasted than being saved. Loosely translated; you get what you pay for. According to bestselling marketing author Seth Godin:
Cheaper is a short term hit, not a long term advantage. Cheaper doesn't create loyalty, because the other guy can always figure out how to be cheaper still, at least in the short run.
Every industry needs a cheaper alternative, but consider whether that's the audience your company wants to attract. People don't camp out overnight to buy a cheaper phone, show off the clothes they bought at a discount store or have to cross a velvet rope to play nickel slot machines.
The alternative to cheaper is quite simple. Be better. Create value.
Companies that focus on attracting those who gravitate towards cheaper risk alienating those who are seeking something better. People fly discount airlines because of price, and those airlines have effectively communicated that benefit. Their customers have a very clearly defined set of expectations when they fly, which amount to little more than a seat and the cheapest way to get from point A to point B. However, a company like Virgin Atlantic remains competitive because they take the exact opposite route. They will never be cheaper, but the experience for travelers will be more comfortable, modern and include many of the amenities reserved for luxury hotels on the ground. Virgin isn't concerned about owning the market for cheaper. In the long run, their strategy is built on appealing to those who crave better.
Better doesn't occur in a vacuum or marketing meeting. It requires understanding what your audience needs to accomplish and communicating a solution in a way that no other company has done. It's the difference between competing on price versus value. Price is nothing more to an entry point in the relationship between a company and its customers. Value is the experience the company brings to that relationship. Value is a commitment to go beyond meeting a need and actually creating an experience. So think about the one word you want your audience to describe that experience. More than likely better is the superior alternative to cheaper.