When I was in college, I went to IKEA religiously. Whenever I needed a new nightstand, bedside lamp, or desk, I knew that I could throw $20 at the problem and get a decent product from the Swedish superstore. They were inexpensive, but they still looked nice, and I could put them together fairly quickly.
However, IKEA's fast, cheap, and easy brand narrative also meant that I never shopped there for anything serious. IKEA products, for the most part, were disposable.
And whether you're a B2C or a B2B brand, being disposable is never really a good thing, especially when you're creating your brand narrative. And still, we see a lot of companies that focus on the "cheap" brand narrative.
Is it problematic or effective?
In my experience, it depends on one thing: the message you're ready to commit to. That's why the faster, cheaper, and easier narrative can be so problematic.
Selecting The Right Brand Narrative
A brand narrative is your story, an intentional message that you're sending to your consumers. And since your brand narrative will inform all of your branding and promotional materials, once you decide what your narrative is going to be, you have to stick with it.
If you start out as a cheap solution, that's what your customers will know you as. You can't make cubic zirconia seem luxurious, and you can't charge a premium on a Big Mac. That's why you need to intentionally choose a brand narrative that you plan to stick with in the long-haul.
Here's more context about why these cheap and quick brand narratives tend to go off the rails.
Cheap Doesn’t Convey Quality
When you promise to be cheaper or faster, customers are glad to get a discount or quicker service. But they always question why they're getting it for so little. That's because cheap doesn't always convey quality.
However, you can offer a high-quality, low-cost product. Consider brands like John Deere, Levi's, and Folgers Coffee. They're more cost-effective than competitors, but their brand narratives focus on quality and value instead of their price tag.
You can find a better alternative than "cheap" with one of our preferred brand voice exercises, the MindMeister. We use the MindMeister to identify what kind of tone is appropriate, based on actual examples of companies.
It Doesn't Portray Confidence
I get a ton of LinkedIn InMails. A majority of these messages obviously come from a template. They have the same “Hi Melissa!” introduction, thanking me for connecting with them or being a part of their network. Then, they immediately pivot to selling me something, asking me to sign up for a trial, or if I can connect them with my boss.
I rarely respond to these types of messages. And it’s not because the individual isn’t articulate or polite. It’s because the templated outreach feels disingenuous. It also seems a little desperate. Because when you lead with a “cheap” brand narrative, it sends a cheap message.
The “I’ll take whoever I can get,” approach doesn’t foster meaningful relationships; it doesn’t build trust and does not portray confidence in your product or service.
You want to build a brand narrative based on the confidence you have in your products and services. You want to focus on what it can do for the customer.
Once You're Cheap, You're Cheap
It's hard to repair a negative image after something so controversial. It's why a lot of people still think that Facebook is stealing or selling our data, or threw away their Livestrong bracelets.
It's the same when your audience perceives you as a cheap brand.
Consider Payless Shoes. In November 2018, the company did an experiment to help show the quality of their product, setting up a fake boutique store they called Palessi. They invited "fashion influencers" to shop there and determine the pricing of the shoes, with some influencers offering hundreds of dollars for a pair.
I'm not convinced the experiment did Payless any good. It brought the focus back to their price tag (cheap shoes) and pointed out an unfortunate truth: once the influencers learned the shoes were from Payless, they weren't as impressed.
The problem is in their name alone: Payless.
As a result, they spend a majority of their marketing trying to convince shoppers that their shoes are just as good as anyone else's, despite the price tag. And the average shoe shopper doesn't want to be reminded that they're buying cheap shoes.
You want a brand narrative that customers see themselves in, and no one wants to see themselves as cheap.
Your Customer Needs To Invest, Too
HubSpot is the best marketing automation platform out there, period. And while one could argue Pardot or Marketo are viable alternatives, unless there's a good reason not to get HubSpot, HubSpot is what people typically want.
Because when people buy HubSpot, they're buying HubSpot, which means something. It's not just marketing automation software. And while HubSpot could easily lower their costs and get more customers, they don't. Instead, they make the customer invest in their inbound marketing and sales processes.
HubSpot wants to know that you'll make an effort. That's what will foster long-term relationships. A lower price tag will attract people who will use HubSpot for a month or two, then drop off.
Moving Forward With A Strong Brand Narrative
Often, when you lead with a "cheap" brand narrative, it's because you don't see the value in what you're selling. You think that customers won't buy unless it's accessible. However, for your relationship with your customer to be long-lasting, it has to be a partnership. An investment must be made on both sides.
Your customer needs to invest in your brand, in your message, in your product as much as you need to invest in giving them an exceptional experience. To assess whether or not your brand is compelling enough, check out our Brand Character and Voice Workbook.