illustration of car
August 15th, 2018

“Brand’s not important. It’s all about the product.” No, no, no, no, no!!

Too many mid-size US product manufacturers don’t put enough effort into their brand. This is true in both commercial B2B product categories, as well as—believe it or not—in consumer categories. I’ve heard presidents of companies, from commercial kitchen equipment to apparel to garden tools, say, “Brand is not important in my category. It’s all about the product.” I’m dumbfounded every time I hear it, which I’m sure they notice as I scrape my chin up off the floor.

Listening to their reasoning, I can almost follow their logic regarding the overwhelming importance of product quality, product performance, and product reliability in their category. But the truth is:

The only reason brand is not important in their category, is

1) they (and their team) don’t think it’s important, and

2) no company has made brand important—yet.

Inevitably, a high-performing brand will come along and prove them wrong.

Take, for example, the president of a garden tool company who dismissed the importance of brand. Within a couple of years, his major retail clients, Home Depot and Lowe’s, extended the reach of their exclusive brands—Ridgid and Kobalt respectively—into the garden tool category. I’m sure most readers will know how that story ends—lower margins, less control and leverage, and a vastly compromised value proposition.

In apparel, I understand how important product quality is—craftsmanship, finish, materials, design—but when someone says, “That’s a great shirt. Where did you get it?”, it’s a big loss for the manufacturer if only the store or website is named, but not the brand.

I’m no clothes horse, but there are a couple of shirt brands* I purchase regularly because they’ve endeared themselves to me as brands. The products are great, somewhat unique, and people do ask about them. And because they are true brands and have created a relationship with me, I have a story to tell and recommendation to make.

It’s a shame when product manufacturers neglect the potential of their brand. Especially considering our crowded global markets, nanosecond attention span, and like-and-share economy. The opportunities have never been greater for brand to be an important, valuable, and differentiating factor in a buyers’ decision and ongoing purchase behavior.

At BOLTGROUP we know that brand is more important than ever, and that it’s an untapped opportunity for a large number of manufacturers. Brand is a latent force waiting to be harnessed for profit, share, and value creation.

So, don’t relegate your brand to the name on your factory wall, your logo and tagline, and a paragraph of reminiscent history on your website. Instead, take stock of your brand’s potential. Evaluate its current position in the minds of your customers and end users (and in relation to your competitors). And make adjustments to its proposition based on your purpose and the differentiated position of value you want to own in the hearts and minds of your target market. Then put it to work—at every touchpoint.

This is not hard to do, but will take time, soul-searching, contemplation, and ultimately, a commitment to building the meaning and value of your brand with your audiences.

We call it “Turning brands into high performance assets.” It’s what we do.

* Those two shirt brands I mentioned:

For the most comfortable island shirt you’ll ever wear, check out the Cotton Lawn products at

For a distinctive look in dress casual shirts, get in touch with my friend Lucky at

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