Branding is a one of those awkward marketing terms steeped in mystery and misunderstanding. While most people think it’s more to do with logos than anything else, there’s another misapprehension that it’s the preserve of fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies as opposed to service-based businesses, such as leasing and rental firms.
Branding began to be taken seriously in the UK about thirty years ago, at a time when mergers and acquisitions were rife and negotiating lawyers were keen to understand the values of intangible assets, such as brand names. Before this time, no-one had seriously thought how much a brand name was worth. Now, we’re presented with brand value tables, with glitzy consultancies claiming that the likes of Apple have brands worth in excess of $170bn. Whatever the rights and wrongs of brand valuations, one thing is clear; these amorphous entities are worth something.
And if leasing firms can better understand what their brand is (and how it’s different from its rivals), then this could become a significant area of competitive advantage.
So, why should leasing and rental companies be bothered about their brands now? Firstly, I believe that the market has matured to such an extent that the fleet industry is no longer just about the metal; it’s about service too. And, while accurate predictions of future car values still underpin the profitability of the business, companies with a strong brand will inevitably outperform the market when it comes to client retention, profitability and new business acquisition.
Secondly, the advent of social media, digital platforms and globalisation all help to make branding more effective and achievable for a far wider scope of businesses that was previously considered.
Branding is no longer the preserve of the big boys. I believe there is a huge opportunity for enlightened leasing and rental firms to create strong differentiation in an increasingly crowded and competitive market. We are doing more projects looking at brand personality, value propositions and points of differentiation for organisations in the logistics, vehicle component and training fields. All very different sectors that demonstrate how branding can be used in non-FMCG markets.
Topics such as mobility, access to transport, workplace efficiency and the green agenda all offer firms in the vehicle leasing arena big prospects to differentiate themselves. More sophisticated transportation packages – not just lease cars – provide huge opportunities for product development. Meanwhile the soft skills of customer service – throughout the life of the contract – present new challenges for firms willing to take engagement and relationship management to new levels.
Branding is the glue that binds these crucial areas of differentiation together. It’s the unseen conductor that presents your organisation’s great work and people in a compelling and coherent story. It’s what will create a clear divide between mediocre and world-class leasing firms in the next ten years.