One of the brightest, most prominent feathers we have in our client cap here at DeanHouston is our nearly 30-year relationship with OPW. The Cincinnati-based company is a global leader in developing fluid-handling, management, monitoring and control solutions that propagate the safe and efficient handling of petroleum- and chemical-based fluids from the refinery and production plant to commercial and retail points of consumption.
This year has been an especially proud one for OPW, as the company celebrates 125 years in business.
That landmark to longevity serves to honor a company that has truly made a difference over the decades, but it can also function as a reminder that there can be immense value in revisiting (and, if called for, refining) a company or brand’s value proposition.
You see, OPW was not always a developer of loading systems, tank gauges, fuel-management systems, fuel dispensers, valves, fittings and hundreds of other products that have set new standards in fluid-handling reliability, efficiency and safety. In fact, when Cincinnati entrepreneurs Vincent E. Tresise and Joseph E. Hausfeld founded what they called the Ohio Pattern Works in 1892 – with an initial investment outlay of $390 – they envisioned a company that would manufacture wood and metal patterns for, among other things, grave markers.
It wasn’t until 12 years after its incorporation, in 1904, that the company began focusing its efforts on supplying products for the petroleum industry. Over the years, OPW, which officially changed its name to OPW in 1948, has refined and revised its mission and vision, with the needs of the market and its customers playing a significant role in determining its direction. Because of this willingness to remain flexible in its mission, today OPW and its various subsidiaries have operations in a total of 15 countries on five continents while employing more than 3,800 people globally.
It also remains a company that continues to read the market and one that is proactive in reimagining the value proposition of its brand, and reaps the benefits.
What You Can Expect To Gain
That is the overarching lesson here: All companies understand the value of a well-though-out brand value proposition and the roles and functions it serves. A lot of focused, thoughtful effort goes into creating a value proposition. An effective one will succinctly capture the most valuable and meaningful brand promise and, consequently, how best to develop the most motivating brand strategy – from positioning to targeting to messaging – that satisfies the needs of the customer base.
However, in many respects the value proposition is a time-stamped piece of work. It is created based on the beliefs, attitudes and “facts” of the day. As time marches on, though, “perceived wisdom” can become “old wisdom.” Some of those beliefs, attitudes and “facts” will undoubtedly change.
Over time, these changes can have a significant impact on the brand’s value proposition, in terms of either the “fit” with customer needs and/or its relevance in a competitive context. Hence the value (if not the need) to occasionally revisit the value proposition to assess if it is based on current and valid reasoning and still capable of conveying the “right” value message to the “right” customers.
Revisiting a value proposition does not mean conducting a start-from-scratch or throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bathwater reconstruction project. Rather, it should be a thoughtful, proactive review that is used as a means of assessing the factors, reasons and assumptions that it was originally based upon.
A useful tool for this exercise is the Brand Triangle.
Determining the state of the market and customer needs as they relate to the three points of the Brand Triangle is much more helpful than performing a checklist-style review. An open-minded review of the three triangle points will help determine the current “value” of the brand and, by extension, the optimal relevance of its value proposition.
By really focusing on how the brand is viewed in relation to the three triangle points, a detailed aggregation of what is “known” about the brand can be compiled. Then, that information can be used to assess the current state of the brand’s value proposition. Healthy debate can be used to challenge the brand’s current, or perceived, state:
- Is it still valid?
- Is it fresh?
- Is it up-to-date?
- Is it complete?
- How do we feel about it?
The answers to these questions will let you know if the content of the value proposition can benefit from being enhanced, modified or kept untouched. These present-day perspectives can also be applied to improve the expression of the brand’s value proposition, notably by updating the ways that are used to define or present the value proposition’s intended meaning.
A deliberate, thoughtful, disciplined review of the value proposition will build confidence that any changes that are made will be the right ones. Plus, the inspiration that results from a fresh consideration of the brand promise, what the customer values and what the brandscape looks like will invigorate the organization and create a new, exciting sense of purpose. A renewed sense of alignment between the brand and the team will also be forged.
A Helpful Example
Let’s take a look at how a fictional company – DH Laboratories – might approach the task of revisiting and possibly refining its value proposition.
DH Laboratories’ value proposition “promises world-class science and a consultative approach to deliver scientifically accurate results that your business can absolutely trust, backed by customer service that goes beyond expectations.”
To determine if this value proposition, which may have been defined years ago, is still valid and meaningful (or if there is an opportunity to improve), three questions must be asked and answered:
- What do our customers value?
- Within our product category and with our product(s), what are the things that customers derive value from?
- With our own existing customers, what do we know about what they really value about doing business with us?
- What can we promise to customers?
- What can we offer and deliver to our customers?
- What do we offer and deliver to our customer “better” than anyone else?
- What and who are our core competitors?
- What is the “brandscape?” That is, how do each of us “fit” and compare with each other in terms of brand positioning and brand promise?
The answers to those questions, however, are not always simple to determine. Finding the answers will call for a thorough review of the company’s current operations, the existing wants and needs of its customers, and how the market as a whole has changed or stayed the same over the years.
This review – when performed thoughtfully and diligently – can both validate existing thinking, as well as reveal reasons to challenge the established way of thinking. For a company with a brand value proposition like DH Laboratories’, assessing those questions can theoretically lead to the sought-after answers regarding how clients perceive the company.
In the end, the key criteria for evaluating the timely scope and effectiveness of a brand’s value proposition are:
- Does it have the potential to increase or improve the brand’s value perception in the market?
- Can the brand deliver on the value proposition in a believable and compelling way?
- Can it help differentiate the brand from the competition?
After the value-proposition evaluation is complete, it is perfectly reasonable to think that you might discover that no changes are necessary. In this case, one potential outcome could be, “Our brand’s value proposition is solid, and therefore there is not a compelling reason to change it or update it.” That is perfectly acceptable. Another potential outcome could be, “Our value proposition is stronger and even better than before.”
But what won’t vary, no matter the outcome, is this: You will be armed with the confidence and added knowledge that naturally accrues from engaging in the assessment effort, experience that can also be beneficial the next time the brand’s value proposition is revisited.
The smart companies are the ones that are able to proactively realize when the moment for reassessment has been reached, and know that they need to do something about it – whether it’s a tweak here or there, or a complete overhaul. The companies that can identify when the optimum time to revisit the brand value proposition has arrived, and how to best reconfigure it, are the ones that stand the best chance of being around for 125 or more years like OPW.