Small startups are usually so caught up with creating their product, that they forget about their brand. But people’s minds naturally associate the quality of their products with their distinctive brand identity.

In today’s fiercely competitive marketplace, a strong brand identity coupled with exceptional product quality is the winning formula for success. Amidst the complexities of the current market, the lack of time, and the ever evolving tech, startup business owners and marketers often feel they need to choose, but what matters more to customers, brand identity or product quality? 

How does product quality affect brand identity?

Ad spending, website design, social media presence, and other marketing factors won’t translate to happy customers if you offer a lackluster product. In fact, it could make things worse. 

Imagine seeing well-made ads for a new email marketing tool on your social media feed. You think to yourself, “That looks like something that would help me. I’ll give them a try!” After a few minutes of using the software, you realize the product does not reflect the value proposition displayed in the advertisements. 

How would you feel the next time you see the brand? Most of us would feel disappointed and annoyed. We may even leave a comment to express our frustration. You do not want to put your customers in this position. 

In this sense, product quality can affect your reputation, number of repeat customers, and overall user satisfaction. All three of these elements are a reflection of your brand identity. 

The quality of your product or service can also impact partnerships down the road. Influencers and other businesses are not known for partnering with companies that sell sub-par products. If you have a high-quality product, it’s easier to strengthen your identity by working with well-known creators and brands.

How does brand identity affect product quality?

You’re probably wondering how brand identity can impact product quality. Before we get into specifics, let’s look at an eye-opening example. 

In 2018, the discount shoe company Payless performed a social experiment. They created a fake luxury store called “Palessi” that featured the same exact shoes as their cheaper counterpart but with one caveat: the shoes had a 1,800% markup. Shoes normally priced at $19.99 were marked up to over $600. 

Here’s where it gets interesting; they invited 60 influencers and other high-profile people to their grand opening, and attendees loved it. One shopper said, “It’s just stunning. Elegant, sophisticated.”

To the shock of shoppers, they eventually revealed that they were Payless all along. The fake brand identity created by the shoe company resulted in positive attention and praise (though the influencers were probably less enthusiastic about this setup).

This approach can be done as a one-off but it’s of course not sustainable.The lesson, however, is that the right branding can tremendously impact your short-term success. That said, product quality must match your identity, or people will stop engaging with your company just as quickly as they started. A 1,800% markup is not for everyone.

Your brand identity also affects how people engage with the content around your brand. If your upcoming brand is perceived as neutral, or even negatively, very few people will attend webinars, read content, or interact with your company on social media—their perception of your identity transfers to the products, services, and content offered on your website. 

Luckily there are a few ways you can simultaneously improve your brand identity and product quality.  

Establish your value propositions and mission

You should first establish a clear mission and values that reflect your commitment to quality and customer satisfaction. When someone visits your website for the first time, they should understand who you are, how you perceive yourself, how other people see you, and what value you bring to the table. 

In order to put your product quality on display at the same time as your identity, you should include detailed product pages on your site that clearly explain to users what they stand to gain by engaging with your brand. 

Together, these two strategies will help users get to know your company and products before they consider pulling out their debit cards.

Create a positive UX

Creating a positive user experience for everyone who decides to engage with your brand is also important. There are plenty of clever and exciting ways you can show users that you’re a caring company and offer exceptional value through your products.

For example, a relatively unknown brand can quickly build a loyal following by checking in with customers a week or two after placing their order. 

In our case, we have a customer success team that reaches out to users who buy our software. Their job is to determine if customers have any feedback or questions about their purchase. If a user needs help building their first lead magnet, a team member will take time to walk them through the process. 

I believe this strategy shines a bright light on product quality and brand identity at the same time. It shows users that the company wants to make sure they are getting maximum value for their money and cares enough to reach out and ask if they need help.

Gather feedback

Another way to grow these vital factors simultaneously is to gather user feedback. Encourage users to share how you can create a better experience overall and how you can improve specific products.

You can create polls on social media, send email surveys, and include brief questionnaires on your website. Reviewing customer feedback can help you better understand your audiences’ goals, pain points, and needs, which will help you show that you’re a well-rounded, helpful brand that’s interested in listening to customers. 

Balance your resources

You should also think carefully about when and how you draw attention to your brand.

If you spend all of your resources promoting products, people may not form a connection with your brand. But, if you spend thousands of dollars building your identity but don’t focus on your products, users may not consider buying from your website. 

I recommend using a balanced approach where you promote your products and the helpfulness of your company to a wide audience. 

For instance, you could have paid ads on social media to draw in new users while hosting helpful workshop webinars that teach people a little more about the company, products, and industry.

What matters most to customers?

The truth is people use both brand identity and product quality to determine if they want to engage with a business. 

As we learned from “Palessi,” a strong brand image can help you get attention fast. But if the products don’t match your identity, people will quickly take notice. On the other hand, it isn’t easy to sell products, even high-quality ones, to people who don’t know your brand exists. 

In my experience, the best approach is to improve both of these vital factors at the same time. The best way to do this is to develop an actionable plan for the weeks and months ahead. Think about how you can reach out to your target audience and highlight the value of your products while showing that you’re trustworthy and helpful. 

Growing your presence and improving quality in tandem will give you an amazing opportunity to connect with visitors and turn them into happy customers. 

Cover image source: Prostock-studio