Turn Your Single Product Brand into an Authentic Corporate Identity

by Oct 18, 2022Branding, Resoundcast

one product

Turn Your Single Product Brand into an Authentic Corporate Identity

by | Oct 18, 2022

Is your brand imprisoned by a single product? 

Don’t worry…we know someone on the inside who can help you escape. Some guy with an insane plan and a blueprint of the prison facility tattooed all over his body. 

Once you’re out you’ll be on the run, wanted by the Feds—and of course, you’ll be caught up in a steamy love triangle. 

But don’t worry…we’re gonna get you out of here. 

Let’s Try This Again. 

All right.

Now that Prison Break’s out of my system…let me properly introduce this month’s branding topic, along with the overarching question. 

If your company finds itself branded all around ONE product, how does it pivot away from that? 

Should it? 

If so, then how does a company with a Johnny-One-Note product line rebrand itself so that people see a unified, authentic, corporate identity that stands behind all of its products? 

To anchor this in a real-world case study, how does a company like Axon, (formerly Taser International, the company known for building Tasers comes to mind…) steer away from being overly defined by one product in the first place? 

Tough questions…but if you feel like one product or service has put your brand in prison, here’s our thoughts on making a break for it. 

Before You Rebrand

Count the cost. 

Rebranding your entire organization is a huge endeavor, so before you go down that road, think broadly and strategically. Consider the big picture of your brand, your products, and where you might be heading.  

A little more about Taser International, which dominated the market for Tasers and then, (surprise, surprise), became singularly identified with selling Tasers. While Taser had other products, breaking out of the one-product prison came at a price — rebranding their entire organization as Axon Enterprises, a supplier of body cams, drones, and all kinds of law enforcement accessories. 

While we can chalk up Axon as a success story — one of a challenging, but necessary rebrand from a single product brand to a broader corporate identity — consider them an exception.  

They’re also a good case study of why establishing your organizational brand clearly, purposefully, and early on can give you a sense of where you want to go beyond one product.  

Brand Like an Extended Family

If your company houses multiple products, define your brand in a way that allows it to house all of those products in a cohesive, authentic, and yet recognizable way. 

Piece of cake, right? 

We grant that it’s not a trivial undertaking. But if your company houses multiple products, developing your brand into one that can lend full support and identification with all those products is well-worth the thought and planning. 

When it works, it’s pretty phenomenal. 

If you think of companies like Apple or Nike, you see that this strategy of an overarching, organizational brand is one that drives demand for all the products they sell. Sure, the products themselves have their own brands, many with their own unique identities. But they all carry traits of the overarching corporate identity. 

They’re all part of the family. 

For a fun analogy, you can think of a household brand as similar to the royal families that ruled England in an unbroken dynasty. Every member of the family shared a recognizable surname, not to mention a set of colors, a legacy, and a distinct family crest. While some of those royal families had to rebrand themselves (I’ll tell you about how the Windors of Windsor Castle weren’t really the Windsors some other time), the concept of a royal family name leads me to another situation one where companies and brands need to be careful because the single product is a person. 

When Everything’s in A Name 

You’ve probably heard of Dave Ramsey. If you haven’t, he’s a financial guy who became a household name for his advice about getting out of debt. He’s also known for Financial Peace University. But while his main thing, the one that he’s been doing for a long time, is finance, budgeting, and getting out of debt, Dave Ramsey has also built a larger platform, with guest speakers appearing on his show and weighing in on a number of topics.  

You might think, well of course, Dave Ramsey…makes sense that his brand and company are going to be wrapped up around his identity as a person. But the truth is, in the branding and B2B industries, many firms face unique challenges because their brand is based on one person.

The individual-as-product legacy persists in accounting, tech, and even in law. While it’s often common practice (particularly in law, where a firm that was established by two or three people will take their last names as the brand), having a brand based on one or a few people comes with its own liabilities.

Legacy Isn’t Everything

For example, having a brand name like ‘Schmidt, Miller, and Johnson’ makes sense if the imprint and legacy of those individuals still animate your company’s community, network, reputation, and current operations. But if those original founders are long gone and forgotten…a team of new leaders might be stuck carrying on a name few people recognize. 

Of course, a founder’s legacy can be memorable, and for a successful company, it’s usually a net positive. Companies carry a founder’s name, or a historical brand name for this very reason. 

But if an individual’s legacy has completely dried up, and taken any inkling of purpose, or recognition with it, that can do a huge disservice to the brand. Over time, the name gets institutionalized. It becomes a single product that really doesn’t mean anything about the original people…even if those two or three generations out in the company still reference them. 

Having a person’s name as a brand brings both risks and benefits. In a similar way, having your brand or company associated with a single product raises the stakes. While a name runs the risk of drifting into irrelevance, a single product that defines a whole brand or company might tarnish the company if its reputation suffers.  

If, for example, Dave Ramsey appeared in all the tabloids as debt-ridden, disheveled, and camped on the street begging for change, what would that do to Financial Peace University? 

Nothing personal, Dave. 

Just using you as an example. 

Think About Where You’re Headed 

Companies might fall into the single product band pipeline because they’re concerned about the bottom line. They’re focused on finding a product-market fit that will make them profitable, or maybe one that will keep the lights running for another quarter. They want to get that first product to work, so they’re excited. 

After all, nothing beats a wildly successful, life-changing product…like the fidget spinner. 

Like Taser International, it might be tempting and easy early on to let a single product become the entire organization’s brand. But in time, most companies are likely to start building products and services that may not fit into that original product’s identity. 

This is where wrapping your whole brand around one successful product becomes a prison. When you start offering other products, your corporate identity is stuck…and it’s going to be time-consuming and emotionally draining to pivot the brand from being so tightly bound to the product and not to a larger, purpose-driven identity. 

For most companies making this pivot, the antidote is a complete rebrand. 

Before they get to that point, emerging companies need to think about where a particular product might take them one day. 

Is the brand they’re building one that’s only embodied by one product? 

Or are they tapping into some deeper purpose, and a vision of how any products and services they offer will make the world better in a particular way? 

You’re More Than a Single Product Brand

Better yet, what if brands or companies start to realize that they’re not their products, but rather, they’re a set of ideas? A way of thinking, visualizing, and problem-solving that approaches problems in a unique way?

What if a company’s purpose, values and way of thinking and approaching problems are baked into every product it makes? 

What if that purpose should be? 

In my experience, and having studied, helped, and worked with hundreds of B2B brands, a successful brand is one whose unique philosophy infuses and characterizes each of its products. 

A successful brand thinks carefully about what it does, how it sounds, and the message it’s sending…and people notice that. Over time, and as they get to know what that brand really values, loyal customers learn to trust it…and this trust carries over when that brand or company rolls out new products or services. 

If you think about a brand like Husqvarna (one that makes top-notch chainsaws), there’s a reason why customers respond well to all of their products, and usually welcome new ones. It’s because Husqvarna’s values carry through in every one of their saws. When they make a new one, people know it’s going to be powerful and reliable, just like its brothers and sisters. 

The same goes for corporate identities like Nike. Their ‘Just Do It’ philosophy is evident in everything they do. Their vision of helping people achieve athletic victory transcends demographics, geography, and even specific products. 

People trust a brand (and its products) when the brand’s philosophy informs everything it makes and does. 

Start With Intentionality

So…you’ve got a purpose and a vision. How do you carry that purpose, vision, and brand philosophy through every product and service you offer? 

Great question. 

As with most parts of authentic branding, forethought, and intentionality lay the groundwork for any brand strategy session or discovery process. Thinking carefully about what your purpose is, and how your products and services express that core purpose also helps you when it comes time for brand expression and even things like fitting your product to the market. 

But remember, the flip side of authentic forethought is a kind of passivity: building your brand on whatever works, whatever the founder’s name was, or whatever’s successful. 

Not choosing and defining the track you’re on might mean having it defined for you. 

Rebranding Remedies 

There’s something to say for branding agencies. 

For rebrands and thorny branding problems, bringing in some help means valuable, outside perspective. That could be a branding agency like Resound, or it could even be setting time and resources aside for a thorough self-audit. It meant mean talking to your customers, colleagues, and team members, and then using all that input to make some thoughtful branding decisions that build on a true identity. 

And even if your brand is heavily associated with a product, that might not mean you need to break out of jail…or that all your branding efforts are sunk. 

Rather, let a successful product take you back to your roots. Ask yourself: in what ways does this product, its success, and how people respond to it reflect the truth of my organization? What we’re all about? Our vision of how one corner of the world can be a better place through the work we’re doing? 

Now we’re talking. 

While the journey may not end there, looking at your products through the lens of values, identity, and underlying purpose puts you in the driver’s seat. Rather than being passive and sailing wherever the wind takes you, you’re thinking good and hard about the track you’re on and where that track might take you. 

Remarkable Comes in All Shapes and Sizes

While there’s no silver bullet to the dangers of becoming associated with one name or one product, the branding process pins a lot of hope on one, easily forgotten fact. 

You’re already remarkable.

Even if you create one product and sell it exclusively to an island population in the North Atlantic. Even if you’ve let one product and its success take you down a track you’d rather not be on. 

If you’d like some help working through your values, your purpose, and how the products you offer might set you on a certain brand path, you’ll find wind for your sails in “You are Remarkable,” my book on B2B branding from the ground up. 

And if you’re just joining me, check out more of my hot takes on building authentic brand identity in the articles and podcasts posted on Resound’s website. 

Or reach out to the team and we’ll get started. 

Until next month, happy branding. 

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