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Branding — if done correctly — is invaluable to a business

Published: Monday, May 21 2012 9:32 p.m. MDT

Not only did Subway change the agenda, but now all the other fast-food players are trying to catch up and join the innovative agenda created by Subway.

Here's another example: Years ago, the only way to enjoy a clean and fresh mouth was to brush your teeth. To improve upon this process, chemists invented Listerine. They created a new agenda, declaring that a clean mouth and sweet breath required medicine. The liquid tasted nasty, but it had to be "mediciney" in order to convince people that eliminating bad breath required the killing of germs in the mouth.

The old agenda was changed, and Johnson & Johnson sold gazillions of bottles of Listerine and became a billion-dollar brand.

When the folks at Proctor and Gamble decided to enter the mouthwash category, they knew they had to make a choice: beat the competitor with a similar product or change the agenda again.

P&G's solution was Scope. Management declared, "It kills germs but tastes good." When Scope television ads asked the question, "Why suffer with medicine breath," we all responded by buying Scope by the five-gallon barrel and thereby displaced Listerine as the top mouthwash brand.

Scope, even now, continues to dominate as a result of that decision to deliver a better-tasting mouthwash. Killing germs effectively and sweetly became the new agenda. Looking back on this event, we might think to ourselves, "How simple was that?"

It's always that simple. No matter what we are selling, we should respond to the current wishes of our customers and provide solutions they haven't even considered yet.

We should also understand the direction of our competition and then find a way to dominate the current agenda. If we can't dominate it, we should aggressively establish a new agenda that's in our favor and will be wildly embraced by consumers.

The topic next week will be creating a "drawer" in the consumer's mind. I look forward to your comments on branding. You can connect with me at www.AlanEHall.com or at @AskAlanEHall.

Alan E. Hall is a co-founding managing director of Mercato Partners, a regionally focused growth capital investment firm. He founded Grow Utah Ventures, is the founder of MarketStar Corp. and is the chairman of the Utah Technology Council.

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