Beware of Gorging on Component Brands

There’s a trend among service suppliers to tout three, four, or even more component brands (aka ingredient brands) in their sales and marketing. These declarations show up in social media posts, web sites, and in sales proposals.

For example, service suppliers may message something like:

“Bobbsity Company is proud to announce we are now using WingSprocket anti-gravitational boots to enhance our use of SlipperySliders vendor management software protected within our cyber network of WeKnowHowToCatchHackers.”

Yeah, that’s all made up.

Yet this trend can have the opposite effect that suppliers intend. It can overwhelm customers with lots of informational pieces to remember, or worse, turn them off and drive them elsewhere.

What’s a component brand?

A component brand is a purchased service or product that suppliers can buy and integrate into their service delivery, it’s an enhancement. Components are often software as a service (SaaS) that help suppliers deliver “better, faster, cheaper” services to customers.

By focusing on what suppliers are good at, they can avoid the costs, delays, and distractions that come with developing their own technologies — and instead easily buy diverse plug-and-play capabilities.

What’s the problem with using component brands?

While suppliers’ intentions may be to show they are advanced, innovative, and technologically savvy, introducing multiple component brands can easily backfire.

The problem is that component brands briefly flash onto customers’ radar screens and then are easily forgotten.

Brand awareness can take 5 to 7 impressions for customers to recall a brand when prompted by a product category. This may be easy when you think of cars, but which providers can you recall for steel bridge girders?

Customers just don’t get enough exposure (impressions) to component brands to achieve the impact suppliers hope for. Component brands, because they are likely less well known, are primarily empty of meaning to customers until repeat exposures associate them with value. Here’s why using component brands doesn’t work:

  • Customers have a short window of attention for suppliers’ messages
  • If suppliers are willing to push component brands next to their primary brand, which brand takes precedence in customers’ awareness?
  • Component brands won’t get enough airtime to gain traction in customers’ awareness
  • Suppliers may have unrealistic expectations for customers to quickly understand what component brands are & why suppliers are using this particular component

As a result, component brands, other than the exception below, can distract customers from suppliers’ primary brand message.

Exception

And of course there is a singular exception for the use of component brands, and it is:

  • Use of a single, universally recognizable, large platform or tech infrastructure brand can be helpful — think Microsoft’s Office 365, SAP, Salesforce, etc.
  • These major brands have already spent 100s of millions of dollars and/or years communicating their brand promise & capabilities
  • They own a place in almost all customers’ awareness
  • This exception is limited to only one major brand as proof a supplier is advanced, innovative, and technologically savvy

How to Look Advanced, Innovative, and Technologically Savvy using only 1 or No Component Brands?

In marketing pieces and sales proposals, suppliers should describe what a purchased component will do for their customers, instead of using the component brand name and logo. For example,

“Our anti-gravitational boots keep our associates moving constantly to serve you whenever and wherever you need us. They are NASA-approved, 100% compostable, and taste great.”

OK, you get the point. Suppliers, outside the single exception above, should describe what the component brand does, its functionality, and how customers benefit from that.

Component brand names shouldn’t be called out to introduce another mnemonic for customers to remember. Suppliers can use functional names as descriptors instead, such as:

  • Mobile quality inspection app
  • Biometric timekeeping technology
  • Applicant tracking system
  • Etc.

Lastly, Avoid Misleading Claims

This may be obvious but it’s essential to say: Suppliers should not describe or list anything as “proprietary” if they’re using a component brand to deliver that function.

For example, if a supplier is using Microsoft Word, they should not message to customers that

“Our proprietary word processing software is unlike any other.”

Just describe its functionality and its customer benefits and then move on.

Summary

Service suppliers in their messaging should:

  1. Avoid introducing multiple component brands into customers’ short windows of attention
  2. Instead describe components’ functionalities and how they benefit customers

Beware of Gorging on Component Brands was first published on LinkedIn.

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