A brand should strive to own a word in the mind of the consumer.
What comes to mind when you think about owning a Mercedes-Benz?
If you could pry open the mind of the typical automobile buyer, you would probably find the word “prestige” closely identified with the brand. Tell the truth, don’t you associate prestige with the Mercedes-Benz brand? Most people do.
You might also associate attributes like expensive, German, well engineered, and reliable with the brand, but the core differentiation is prestige. Lamborghinis are expensive, Audis are German, Hondas are well engineered, and Toyotas are reliable, but none of these brands conveys the prestige of a Mercedes.
If you want to build a brand, you must focus your branding efforts on owning a word in the prospect’s mind. A word that nobody else owns.
What prestige is to Mercedes, safety is to Volvo. Volvo owns the word “safety” in the mind of the automobile buyer. And, as a result, over the past decade Volvo has become the largest-selling European luxury car in America.
Once a brand owns a word, it’s almost impossible for a competitor to take that word away from the brand. Could you build a safer car than a Volvo? Probably. Many brands have already claimed to do so, including Saab, BMW, and Mercedes-Benz. Could one of these other brands own the word “safety” in the mind? Probably not.
What comes to mind when you think about owning a BMW? A car that’s fun to drive. The ultimate driving machine. BMW owns the word “driving” in the mind. And, as a result, BMW has become the second largest-selling European luxury car in America.