A few years ago I worked with an electronics manufacturer in Asia, helping them to build a consumer brand that was timed around the launch of a new product in North America.
They had achieved great success as an Original Electronics Manufacturer (OEM), creating products for all the top technology brands. It was an obvious next step for them to sell under their own name. But in the early days there was a rub between the way the business had operated in the past and how it needed to operate as a consumer brand. I realise now that this issue was more about behaviour than anything else – it needed a cultural u-turn.
Their success as an OEM was in many ways now their weakness. They still had the mindset of a supplier. Their business was built around service – meeting the needs of customers, no matter what. As OEMs journey to build consumer brands they often mistake ‘consumers’ for ‘clients’. It goes like this – “If the customer wants red, let’s make it red”. In the absence of a strong brand position, the instinct is to revert back to an approach which is more about pleasing than leading. This is in contrast to consumer brands where the relationship between brand and consumer is more subtle and peer-like – it’s as much about saying ‘no’ as it is ‘yes’.
There’s no doubt the move from OEM to consumer brand comes with a bucket of challenges, but perhaps the biggest is cultural and about staking a position.