The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
In the old days, marketers sought to identify a target consumer and would then spend millions to catch her at the right time, in the right place, with the right message. Success was like winning the lottery, you were never quite sure what you had until the results were in.
In the digital age, we identify a target market; bombard them with banner ads, online videos and tweets. If we get a good response, we bombard them some more. Has anything really changed?
The truth is that while media has been transformed, marketing practice has not kept pace. We throw budgets into different buckets, but the decision-making process remains much the same. You develop a theory of the case, test it in-market and then, if it goes well, do it some more. A true digital revolution in marketing has yet to take hold, but it has begun.
Who Is The Consumer, Really?
An often-repeated lament has been that we waste half of our advertising budget, but just don’t know which half. It continues to resonate because increasing marketing efficiency is an obvious and compelling way to improve profitability.
Conceptually, the simplest way to increase efficiency is to prevent wastage. By targeting the right consumer at the right time, in the right place, with the right message, we can get the most out of a marketing budget. In other words, fish where the fish are. Put your time, effort and money where they can do the most good.
In practice, however, targeting becomes more problematic. If 60% of your consumers are women, should you ignore men? If 35% of your consumers are 18-24, does that really mean that you should spend all your money on college students? A recent Catalina study found that over half of brand sales come from outside the demographic target.
We need to stop thinking about target consumers and start thinking in terms of consumer networks. Just because the daughter buys it, doesn’t mean the mother (or father or brother) won’t and beyond consumers themselves, there are advocates and detractors that can affect a purchase as well. They all matter.
Consumer Journey Or Drunkard’s Walk?Read More
This past week, marketers from diverse consumer and B2B brands gathered in San Diego to embark on a hero’s journey to create new value for their brands at the premier of The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World. And what a journey it was!
For two days, these intrepid marketers blazed a new trail in brand management for the 21st century. Working together in teams of 10, and energized by an unusually informal and competitive learning environment, The Un-Conference participants brought an amazing level of enthusiasm, creativity and skill to a variety of learning exercises designed to challenge the conventional wisdom about brand strategy and brand management.
All the barriers to interactive participation were torn down – no podiums, no stages with talking heads, no formalities – just the creative energy of presenters and participants working together on the most important concepts in brand management in our post media, post marketing world.
To set the informal tone of The Un-Conference, participants gathered the evening before for a welcome cocktail reception on the rooftop of the Andaz Hotel that offered amazing 360 degree views of downtown San Diego and a wonderful opportunity to get to know one another and learn which team they were on before the conference. The uniform for all was jeans.
To get things started, Derrick Daye, Managing Partner of The Blake Project and Master of Ceremonies for the event, introduced participants to an interactive card game created especially for marketers known as “Brandingo: The Brand Management Safari”. The game of Brandingo was a critical and entertaining component that made the competitive learning sessions throughout The Un-Conference much more fun and engaging.
Based on a safari theme, participant teams could collect, trade and even gift their Brandingo cards to bolster their overall team scores during the competitive exercises created by The Blake Project Senior Partners. As in the marketplace, the competition among the teams was fierce!
The Un-Conference: Day One
Kicking off The Un-Conference, participants enjoyed a compelling story of innovation and transformation from John Sculley, former CEO of Pepsi and Apple. With grace, wisdom and humility, John shared his fascination for innovation and transformation through his early years at Pepsi, where he lead the product development and marketing initiatives that transformed Pepsi into the leading soft drink brand in America.
In discussing the idea of “creating new value” in the hyper competitive soft drink category, John shared the fascinating story of how Pepsi brought to market the two-liter plastic bottle coupled with innovative distribution strategies which changed consumer’s consumption behaviors.
While arch rival Coca-Cola focused on selling more bottles, Sculley and his team realized early on Pepsi wasn’t in the business of selling bottles, rather they focused on helping consumers at home keep a ready supply of liquid refreshment conveniently in their refrigerator. This simple insight led to the advent of the two-liter bottle and changed forever how soft drinks where marketed and sold in the grocery store channel.
Of course, participants listened intensely as John shared the critical lesson about value creation learned from Steve Jobs during his tenure as CEO at Apple at the dawn of the personal computer era – “zoom out, connect the dots, zoom in and innovate”. John shared with intimate detail the genius of Steve Jobs to see what others around him could not see, then with laser focus and hyper restrictive boundaries, Jobs and his design teams would innovate the beautiful products that would forever change the world.Read More
Being non-popular is not the same as being unpopular. Brands that are non-popular are simply not prepared to do whatever it takes to court popular favor. They do their own thing, their own way – and look to attract cult followings via like minds. But brands that have become unpopular have lost likeability. That’s a disturbing development if you’re trying to be liked by as many people as possible.
The hardest thing about seeking to be liked is that we all do business today in an environment where criticism is ubiquitous. The ability for anyone with an internet connection to not just hold an opinion but to broadcast that opinion to the world is freedom of speech on a good day and freedom to abuse on another day. At a time when it’s easier than ever for others to get the knives out, the problem it seems to me has shifted for those on the receiving end. The dilemma these days is less about what do the critics think and rather, which criticisms should you act on and which are you better to brush off as beneath your dignity?
While every brand will quite rightly set its own guidelines, there are some clear principles that make sense to me in terms of meeting the balance between maintaining reputation and over-reacting:
1. Hold firm on your purpose, your worldview and your values.
2. Debate priorities, opinions and options.
3. Initiate or at least participate in conversations about matters that have been raised that you believe have not been properly explored and to which you believe you can bring a refreshing perspective.
4. Encourage suggestions, feedback and criticism of experiences and service. (As long as you’re prepared to reply stating what you’re going to do about what’s happened.)Read More
On All Saint’s Day 1517, Martin Luther posted the 95 Theses on the door of Castle Church, sparking, in the eyes of many, what would become the Protestant Reformation. Whether or not he actually did post the Theses (of course there is historical debate) and what that generated are off-topic, but the action of pinning your colors to a statement of beliefs for all the world to see lies at the core of building and articulating an opinionated brand.
Brands build trust through behaviors. And behaviors should be based on clear principles. Those principles should bring your purpose to life by laying out the clear psychological guidelines within which your brand operates. They are, when done well, an inspiring précis of your organization’s worldview.
Martin Lindstrom made the brand case for opinion for me in this post several years ago when he wrote: “The fact is that consumers are tiring of perfectly polished brands. Inoffensive brands. … Brands without well-defined opinions will find it increasingly difficult to gain traction in the market place. The challenge is to ensure that the opinions are in tune with the core values of the brand. That they are authentic, and not an opportunistic and superficial play for attention by deception.”
Diesel’s famous “Be Stupid” is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a wonderful mix of observation, grace, defiance, sarcasm, insight and counter-intuition that lays out Diesel’s anti-smart stance, including the fabulous assertion that “Stupid is the relentless pursuit of a regret-free life”. You’re left in no doubt as to Diesel’s abiding philosophy, and the case is put in such a way that the viewer is pretty much asked to choose one way or the other, stupid or smart.
So what’s the basis for a powerful manifesto? Jean-Claude Saade captured it nicely here with the thought that there are 7 doors to connection between people and brands:Read More
This article in Time on how to get the most out of Apple is a reminder that there is a noticeable difference psychologically between a brand that discounts (even if it’s only occasionally) and a discount brand. Apple does discount – but for selected parts of its range or for specific reasons: change-over on a model, for example. The most important thing is that they don’t give that impression.
Apple’s approach is to treat price as a reliable indicator of value. By not overtly or uniformly discounting, they maintain the value of the brand by making products that excite customers and they continue to charge for them at that level of value until there is a good reason not to do so. In other words, Apple’s ethos is never discount an Apple product while people are most excited about it – no matter whether that is days or years after it was first released.
But while Apple have worked hard to position themselves as a full-price, full value brand, that’s not always the case. As the article points out, “With the exception of the iPhone and the iPad, Apple products are typically discounted within eight days of first hitting the market …” Surprised? I was. But “As for the most in-demand Apple products—iPad and iPhone—there doesn’t seem to be much financial incentive to delay your gratification. The price for either is unlikely to change by waiting a few days, or even a few months … discounts have basically been non-existent until it’s time for Apple to introduce the latest new-new model.”
Even when Apple discounts, the wider motivation seems to be to give customers entry points to the Apple universe. By lowering the price of a laptop, they invite customers into their world, knowing that they will then be pre-disposed to go Apple all the way. At least that’s my theory, and it’s one I think extends to the pricing of their new operating system. Lower the barriers to entry to get people involved, but retain the pricing and the aspiration on the iconic products that people continue to be excited by and around which the world of Apple pivots.
Such an approach seems worlds away from the volume-driven approach taken by discount brands that advertise serial sales to drive up their top line. But as I’ve said many times before, there’s nothing wrong with that model if you’ve built your business and your brand around it. Smart discount brands rely on a very different perception of price though than a brand like Apple. Whereas Apple sees price as proof of value, astute discount brands treat price as a pain point. And they rely on easing perceived pain in order to generate interest. They rely on you paying less in one area but more in others to help balance the load. Just like with Apple, it’s a feel-good balancing act. The difference is that one brand makes itself known for discounting and the other doesn’t.Read More