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At The Blake Project our sole focus is helping organizations create brands that build and sustain trust. Branding Strategy Insider is an extension of our efforts as brand consultants to help marketing oriented leaders and professionals build strong brands.

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Big Data

Using Big Data To Shape Brand Experiences


TESCO Brand Strategy

What can Big Data do for a brand? It depends on how it’s used.

TESCO, more than any other large-scale, global retail brand, had committed to customer research, analytics, and loyalty as its marketing and operational edge. When it comes to behavioral data and loyalty programs, TESCO was the standard-bearer, the bar-setter, and it set the bar very high. With all of this phenomenal data, why then is Britain’s largest retailer in trouble?

In a recent HBR op-ed, Michael Schrage, a research fellow at MIT Sloan School’s Center for Digital Business opines, “Tesco’s decline presents a clear and unambiguous warning that even rich and data-rich loyalty programs and analytics capabilities can’t stave off the competitive advantage of slightly lower prices and a simpler shopping experience…Despite its depth of data and experience, today’s Tesco simply lacks the innovation and insight chops to craft promotions, campaigns, and offers that allow it to even preserve share, let alone grow it.”

Big Data is just more data, hopefully better data. Insights are just more data too. It’s the distinction between insight and actionable insight that transform data into a dynamic component in brand storytelling. What can data do? To answer that, we start with the end in mind: What do we want data to do?

Knowing what role we want data to play will tell us what data we need, where the data will come from, and how long it will take to glean insights from the interactions that we measure.

Gavin Heaton offers this insight into retail disruption:

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Brand Launch

Maximizing The Brand Launch


Brand Launch Strategy

Most brands get launch. They understand how to make a splash for a product on a day. But what do you do between splashes? How do you keep top-of-mind? And more importantly, how do you stop the inevitable awareness fade as the ripples from your big splash die away? If you’re Walt Disney, you start introducing shorts between your new features, just to keep up awareness of your most popular and lucrative characters. And you do so knowing that such a cue will reactivate interest and re-kick merchandise sales.

Cross-referencing in order to cross-sell. Nothing new in that – except that here it’s happening at a launch. When Disney released Cars 2 for example, audiences were reintroduced to the key characters from Toy Story in a six-minute short. As Albie Hecht observes in this article in BusinessWeek, “It’s a way to extend the characters and the brand without its fans waiting two or three years for a new movie.”

There’s a lesson here.

It’s tempting for brands to think of their products as separate offerings within an overall branding portfolio. They co-ordinate launches to work alongside one another. But what Disney’s strategy shows is how simple and cost-effective it is to provide customers with added-value experiences based on other brands in the stable that they already know and to use these to maintain relevance and top-of-mind between launches without cannibalizing on new offers. All Disney has essentially done is take a format that everyone knows – the movie short – and to elaborate it into an enter-mercial (my new term for a short-movie length commercial that entertains).

Just as interesting is where this development might point other brands.

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Brand Strategy

Building An Obsession Based Brand


Brand Strategy

When you apply the concept of provenance to brands, it becomes a concept centered on systematically and competitively ‘localizing’ what you’re about rather than diversifying to try and meet the generalized needs of the wider world.

So it’s about having a narrowcast brand: one focused to the point of obsession on a specific area of passion. Provenance is also about those other valuable ideas that the word in its original meaning conjures: focus; love; purity of thinking; authenticity; deep knowledge. That obsession can then be marbled through every aspect of the brand: language; environment; innovation; strategy …

People may worry that such devotion to a single idea will stifle adaptability, but my experience is that brands that see the world through the lens of an idea they subscribe to passionately are also able to find latitude and opportunity within that idea while growing a strong and devoted following. Far from being restrictive, being obsessive provides a framework for creative approaches.

The way I see it, brands increasingly have three powerful emotive strategies going forward: they can rule the world (scale); they can seek to change the world (activist or cult); or they can kiss the world (obsession).

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Brand Strategy

Keys To Avoiding The Brand Graveyard


Brand Strategy Graveyard

It’s been said on too many occasions that actions speak louder than words. Said so often in fact, that many brands today seem to have a disregard that borders on disdain for taking the time to really think through what could make them outstandingly competitive.

In today’s manic, results-driven world, fewer and fewer people, it seems, feel they have time to strategize where their company and their brand needs be heading, and how to retain their edge. It’s better instead, they believe, to just get on with the business at hand.

Everything happens now. And as a result, considered is an idea that seems to have passed its use-by date.

Execution is the mot du jour. The best way to solve any problem is to do something. In fact, not just something, lots of things. Kevin Roberts calls this, “ready, fire, aim”. I call it stupid. Looking to reaction and sheer activity to get you out of trouble relies on the fallacy that doing something has got to be better than doing nothing. In fact, they strike me as equally dumb, because chances are that if indeed you are in trouble, you are where you are because of what you have been busy doing up until now. Indulging in more of the same action parallels having another drink to try and cure alcoholism. It’s just as likely to deepen the problem as fix it.

Remember that lovely moment in the TV series Blackadder when the General says they’re going to throw more men over the top at the enemy and take them completely by surprise. Captain Blackadder queries the surprise element of repeating an action that the British undertook “last time … and the time before that … and the time before that .. and so on” Precisely, says the General, and that’s why it’s so clever. Because doing what we’ve always done is the last thing that the enemy will expect us to do again.

As Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

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Brand Value & Pricing

Rebranding Your Price


Rebranding Pricing Strategy

As technology and globalized business models continue to deliver efficiencies and new opportunities, every sector will face disruptive pricing that in effect re-costs what the market would otherwise pay. Many of those movements will naturally be downward; others will lift the entry point. Amazon has effectively reframed the cost of books; Samsung and others are resetting the cost of owning a tablet; Tesla has redefined what an electric car is and also the cost of owning one.

But in response to competitor moves, so many brands make pricing changes without making changes to the brand at the same time. They simply react. As a result, their brand either ‘loses value’ or  ‘becomes more expensive’ for no good reason – or at least none that the consumer can see. By simply shifting what Tim Smith has referred to as the “value exchange” without repositioning the premise by which they compete, these brands have in fact deteriorated both: there is less sense of value; and there is therefore less sense of exchange. Consumers are either getting more or less value than they were getting – for no reason that has been clearly articulated to them.

Rebranding your price is a useful strategy for brands who find themselves needing to adjust their pricing in competitive landscapes and who have the ability to improve, adjust or diversify their offering quickly so that brand, value and pricing align. It works because it effectively links what you’re asking with what you’re offering and what your consumers value.

If you are going to price up, you will of course need to use what you have access to in terms of innovations and value-adds to make the purchase feel more valuable. Or if pricing down, look for ways to actively make your brand more attractive to more people. Because as Seth Godin so rightly points out, “Every great brand (even those with low prices) is known for something other than how cheap they are.” 

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