One of the greatest
fears most writers share, especially “serious” writers, is relevancy:
Is what we have to say going to be meaningful to the people with whom
we are trying so hard to communicate?
Obviously, we think what we have to say is important, otherwise we wouldn’t
try. Or, at least you hope that’s the way things work at this end of
the keyboard. But, there is an inescapable insecurity that every writer
knows the minute the “send” button is pushed and your document is no
If you are serious about what you have to say, you
know that a part of your soul, a piece of your very essence, travels
with every manuscript that is sent. And that is enough to make you
contemplate every word just to make sure the margin for
misunderstanding or misinterpretation has been minimized, if not
eliminated altogether. As a writer, you have to because you never quite
know what’s going on at the other end of that manuscript. You never
quite know what is going on in the mind of the reader.
example of this would be branding and the importance of creating,
supporting and maintaining strong brand identities. I think it’s
important. And because I think it’s important I’ve been writing to
manufacturers and members of the distribution community about it for
the better part of 25 years. But it’s not always that easy trying to
figure out how that message is being received.
If the quality of
that message or its effectiveness is to be measured by what we’ve
witnessed over those 25 years, I’m not sure I would be willing to
judge, our efforts or my efforts, as being successful. We’ve watched,
helplessly, as many of the brands we’ve all grown up with, have become
We’ve watched their strengths erode, and confidence, both theirs and ours, evaporate.
been told that branded products are too expensive, that the difference
isn’t always justified because too much of that difference is spent
delivering and reinforcing a strong brand presence and top-of-mind
awareness, and not on the products themselves.
And yet, a recently
released AASA field study exploring the preferences of service
professionals like me, taken from three different regions of the
country and involving both technicians and owners, clearly demonstrates
that no one who is serious about their profession or their customers
was willing to take a chance on products that didn’t have a strong
Why isn’t that demonstrated as clearly in the field
as it is on the pages of the study? I think I may have an answer and
the answer is choice. There are times the opportunity to exercise that
preference, a strong brand preference, is taken out of my hands.
are times my choices are limited, if or when they exist at all. There
are times when all I can purchase is that which my suppliers are
willing to offer. There are times when my insistence on quality as
defined by a branded part is ignored.
There are times when my
definition of quality, a definition based upon brand experience and
performance, is discarded and, the words “just as good as” are
suddenly used to describe a part or a particular company with no
history and no lineage.
There are times, like yesterday, as I was
desperately trying to find a new radiator for a customer’s vehicle,
that no one had a radiator I would install. So, I went online only to
find that each call took me right back to the same 800 number, the same
Web page, the same unknown company and the same unfamiliar brand.
may be the greatest of all times in an industry filled with more
choices than we’ve ever known before. But more choices don’t always
translate to better choices any more than more words equal a better
manuscript. Sometimes, the best choice is a familiar choice an old
friend you’ve known and who knows you. Someone or something that
doesn’t need a lot of rhetoric to let you know who they are or what
they are all about. Someone with whom you share a common history, a
history that speaks for itself, clearly and without misunderstanding or
the fear of misinterpretation.
Without old friends like these,
shop owners like me may find themselves crippled by what seems like too
many choices, so many, it feels like there aren’t any choices at all.
At least, not the right ones.
If you allow your brand to become
corrupted, your message to become vague, ambiguous, misunderstood or
misinterpreted, the people with whom you are trying so hard to
communicate may not understand what you mean or have to say until it’s
too late and no one really cares but you.
If you fail to recognize
the importance of what your brand is, has accomplished, or can become,
you just may find yourself dealing with the consequence of another kind
of choice. One you may not appreciate at all.
co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA.
Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.