Product Branding: With a Little Help from Six Sigma

Product Branding

There is no dearth of advice and wisdom from marketers when it comes to product branding. Open the business section of your newspaper or surf to a marketing site and you’re bound to come across articles on the subject. We’re not sure though if anyone has discussed product branding within the framework of Six Sigma.

One argument is that product branding is more of a creative endeavor, calling for ideas from management, sales, marketing, public relations, advertising, and maybe even engineering if the product is highly technical in nature – like a wind turbine. Six Sigma, on the other hand, lies at the other end of the scale and is more rigid, more methodical and more statistical. So someone is likely to argue that creativity and rigidity don’t make a good mix.

That point is well taken. On the surface, Six Sigma does look like a hard climb to Mount Everest with all its fancy tools and statistical equations. In fact we could joke about it and say, “Six Sigma is so hard to understand that people have to train in the martial arts to implement it properly.”

This is what we propose: why don’t we take just one essential component of Six Sigma to carry out product branding? Why don’t we take the rigor and discipline component and apply it to product branding sessions? By borrowing from the teachings of Six Sigma master black belts, we might discover things about the product that weren’t aware of.

Rigor and discipline – that’s all it takes.

Disciplined and Rigorous Product Branding

Six Sigma’s DMAIC is a structured problem-solving tool that ties in very well with the product branding process. Why do we need to brand a product? By asking this question, we trigger a series of other questions and steps that will lead us to successful product branding.

To begin: why do we need product branding?

The first step: define what we need and what we’re going to do.

Possible answers: (a) because we’re losing market share, (b) because we think that our product doesn’t have a firm market niche, (c) because consumers don’t know much about the useful features of our product, (d) because we’re not selling enough of it and hence, we’re doing something wrong.

Still in the definition phase of DMAIC, the next question is: so what do we do to solve these problems?

Let’s solve them in phases:

Phase 1: study our company in depth and apply that knowledge to the product so that the product actually mirrors the company’s mission, goals and achievements.

Phase 2: how did we project the company and brand to consumers in the past? What were the main messages and were they effective?

Phase 3: let’s reinforce phases 1 and 2 with hard data. What should our research cover?

  • customer survey: how often do our customers buy our product? Would they recommend our product to friends and family? What features of the product are most useful? What features need to be improved? Would they pay more if we added more features? Do they think our product is worth the cost?
  • distributors’ survey: what comments have they heard about the product? What’s the rate of repeat orders? Rate of returns? Is there a specific geographical area or a specific age bracket that favor our product the most? Are distribution channels for our product in sync? Are there late deliveries, too much inventory, etc?
  • marketing survey: is there something wrong with the way we go to market? What kind of words should we use for our product? Are there any feasibility or market studies that have been conducted for our type of product? Can an accurate reading be obtained regarding competitor products? Are our logo design and tag lines making the grade?

Phase 4: analysis and improvement. Now that we’ve completed phases 1 and 2 (essentially a communications issue) and phase 3 (essentially a data-driven issue), why don’t we analyze what we’ve got and propose improvements after we’ve reconciled the statistics?

Tailor Six Sigma to Your Needs

The wonderful thing about Six Sigma is that running parallel to its rigor and discipline requirements is its flexibility. A small-sized company that makes $100K in revenues yearly can’t run the same Six Sigma program of a $5 billion company. Large companies like GE and Walmart need more than just rigor and discipline. They may have to use the different Six Sigma tools, charts, graphs and metric analyses in their product branding efforts.

A smaller company with fewer people could simply take a few of the Six Sigma concepts and use them for their unique purpose.

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