The more you give away, the stronger your brand becomes
In primary school days, way back in the ‘80s, we used to sing a school assembly song by folk artist Malvina Reynolds:
‘Love is something if you give it away, give it away, give it away. Love is something if you give it away, you end up having more!’
It came to mind when thinking about the subject of this blog post. Knowledge sharing follows a bit of a similar pattern.
The more knowledge you share, the more you earn in respect and reputation.
It’s a central strand in any successful brand’s messaging. To unpack that statement a bit, let’s just remind ourselves what we mean when we speak about brand messaging.
Brand messaging is the clear and consistent articulation of your brand’s VP sweet spot. (VP being Value Proposition, of course.) That sweet spot is typically the area of your speciality and/or expertise that resonates most strongly with chosen segments within your target market. An overall value proposition can be made up of several aspects, but there should be a central thrust to it that carries the most weight to it.
To actively share the knowledge that underpins your expertise can seem counter-intuitive. Isn’t that giving away the very thing that sets you apart? Well, it might do. But there again, others may well catch up with the knowledge you have, but if you burn your credentials into the mind of the market first, they’ll struggle to unseat your position as ‘the real experts’ – the ones that actually developed that approach or way of thinking.
And this is why a structured knowledge sharing strategy becomes a key part of effective brand messaging. It substantiates the claims of expertise that you make and demonstrates that customers can depend on you. And it can also have an upward-managing effect on your brand, forcing you to review what expertise you do have to offer, and potentially helping to clarify where you really add most value.
Volvo is an early example of a knowledge sharing approach helping to build a brand.
The Volvo brand became synonymous with the word ‘safety’ throughout the second half of the 20th century. In the first instance, this was because their R&D team focused on innovations that enhanced safety of drivers and passengers alike. Their current website has an impressive page devoted to ‘A heritage of safety innovations’. The three-point safety belt, the booster cushion for children, SIPS (Side Impact Protection System) and WHIPS (Whiplash Protection System). They couldn’t follow the evolving name convention with FLIPS for their anti-roll system, as it conveyed the wrong impression, so that became ROPS (Roll-Over Protection System), and so the list continues.
But it wasn’t Volvo’s extraordinary track record of safety-focused developments that really burned their brand reputation into the minds of the public. It was their generous approach to sharing their developments across the industry. Rather than guard their patented three-point seat belt as a USP, they made the technology freely available to other car manufacturers, to encourage adoption and improve the life chances of people all over the world. Similarly, with other subsequent developments, such as SIPS, Volvo shared the engineering secrets in order to enhance safety for all car users, not just those travelling in a Volvo.
Analysts agree that it was the altruistic approach to sharing their knowledge that firmly embedded Volvo’s reputation for safety expertise. If other car companies wanted to adopt Volvo’s kindly gifted technology, they clearly must be the ‘masters of safety’. It built a brand strong enough to sell during the GFC for around $1.15 billion, and to retain a strong position in the car industry despite being a much smaller player than the giants like VW Group. And it also gave Volvo the reputation of being a brand that acts with conviction and purpose, which has positioned it well to take a leadership position on another ethical consideration: environmental protection.
To share full details of product development IP is clearly not the right strategy for all companies, especially SMEs. Two to three years of market advantage gained through unique product features is not something that every company can afford to give away.
But actively sharing the knowledge and insights that helped to identify the need for that development is a must.
We work with all types of B2B companies, helping to develop and execute substantial content programmes that demonstrate their expertise and inspire confidence. And we also create the platforms on which the knowledge can be shared, such as online learning sites – read our recent case study here.
In a world where anyone can launch a business, create a website, and simply sell goods, the reassurance of experience and expertise are what sets a company apart. Share your knowledge to prove you have them.