Quality and Brand Value

In the common parlance, Quality and Brand value are freely interchangable words. But for those in the know, they are quite different. An unknown player, can deliver quality from day one. But it takes years of hard work in delivering quality, to build up the brand value. Large media budgets help buy brand recognition rather quickly, but building trust in the brand takes time. As a busy player in innovation and indigenous solutions, we deal with these ambiguities everyday.

While the purists may have their text book definitions of quality and brand value, we in our small team debated and defined quality as

‘Systematic and consistent delivery on implied and explicit promises’

Every word here matters. Some everyday examples help explain this definition.

Darshini restaurants in Bengaluru are know for quick delivery, warm, tasty food, and for being fairly cheap. That is the ‘implied’ promise that goes with the chain. If an outlet can deliver on that promise consistently, he has excellent quality. That, he does not give you a seat or a table cloth on a table, is a matter of service model and brand positioning. Air Deccan had an excellent quality if they could manage to stick to their schedules. That they did not serve free meals is a matter of brand positioning. Reaching on time was an implied promise.

An interesting example of explicit positioning, reminds me of old railway time tables with advertisements of hotels near railway stations in their back pages. These advertisements specifically promised running hot and cold water. This class of hotels did not automatically imply this facility. A premium hotel does not have to, it is implied as a bare minimum.

At some point in time, the general quality emanating from certain regions start rubbing off on their regional or national brand. It is human nature to generalise or profile and this is to simplify complex data for human understanding. This profiling impacts the premium, the products command, irrespective of whether every induvidual product deserves it or not. This profiling, like reputation, stays long and gives or denies premium for the products. This also robs the customer to benefit from outliers or changing trends if any, that buck this trend.

The words systematic and consistent are self explanatory. Underlying systems are necessary to ensure quality consistently. Without systems, once in a while you will randomly meet the specs, but that is a co-incidence. A car which is not steered will veer off the road very soon. Systems can be informal or formal, much depending on layers and numbers of poeple it has to be communicated to.

The tolerance on the specifications permitted/ accepted is matter of brand positioning, and consistently meeting this is the underlying quality. Good to remember that this tolerance always trades off with pricing.

In engineering goods, it is an easier case. Every raw material used can be tested, besides the quality of workmanship. The performance shows up in the testing. All this is witnessed and certified by reputed third parties. An unkown player can prove to have same production values and performance as a high brand value player. If the design and technology is indeed superior, this is apparent very soon.

The quality can be proven to be same if it really is so. The only diffentiator that can be claimed by a long standing brand is product lifecycle. The veracity of a respectable lifecycle is proven for an old established brand, and is only a claim for the new entrant. While a well made product can be logically expected to have a respectable life cycle, this has to be seen by an average consumer to be recognised as a dependable brand. Buying a car is a classic everyday example. That is the process and timeline for brand building.

Ironically, the sale is happening today and the new player cannot wait that long to sell.

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