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Why a Branding Strategy Blog?

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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Brand Growth

7 key considerations for brand expansion



As marketing teams finalize plans for the year ahead, the logistics of making growth happen should be strongly influencing the targets you set.

Most of us would agree there are four ways to strategize for growth: increase the share you hold in the markets you are strong in; develop new products for those markets; extend your reach by finding new markets for your current brands; and develop new products that cater to new markets.

But while the strategies themselves are well-known, your capacity to expand is of course directly proportional to your capacities to generate demand and to fulfil. It’s tempting to pluck a number that’s x percentage points above organic growth. But as the old direct marketing adage goes – be careful what you ask for, because it might just come true. Here’s 7 factors I suggest you look at to navigate a responsible course between stretch and over-reach.

1. Access – will your distribution strategy allow you to grow volumes of either current or new lines to the extent you need to? If reach is finite and static, your ability to physically deliver into market will bottle-neck. What have you done to open up access – and is doing so in keeping with your brand’s position in the marketplace?

As my colleague Brad VanAuken points out here: “Distribution contributes to customer brand insistence in two ways. First, it increases brand accessibility so that brand preference is more likely to be converted to brand purchase. But, more importantly, it increases brand exposure, which increases brand awareness … The only situation in which extensive distribution may not be right for your brand is if it is positioned as an upscale or luxury brand.”

Will you be available, not available or too available as a brand for the targets you are setting?

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Brand Purpose

Brand Example: A Higher Brand Purpose


Whole Foods Brand Strategy

Brand purpose is the foundation for brand story. Consider this most brilliantly executed example of how higher brand purpose begets flawless story staging and storytelling, illustrating the more elaborate a scene is — props, staging, ambiance — the easier it is for customers to imagine themselves in it.

Whole Foods Market is positioning itself to be the world’s healthiest grocery store in a new campaign called, unsurprisingly, “Values Matter.” The awareness campaign boldly asserts in the narration “We want to know where our food comes from, what happens to it… how it is caught.”

Why do customers want to know? Because customers need to believe that choosing Whole Foods Market is the better choice, better for them as consumers, but also better for the environment from which the food is harvested. The backstory of what has happened to food before it arrives at the market makes the only story that really matters possible.

This awareness campaign should ignite a good deal of curiosity, and the “Values Matter” website does not disappoint. With clear leading content, users are immediately given control over how deeply they want to engage the brand with three, very human, very behavioral selections which easily allow users to build upon the curiosity sparked by the campaign in a way that matters to them, in the ever precious time they have to spend.

  • Show me: Food, People, Planet
  • I want to: Learn, Do, Both
  • I have: Seconds, Minutes, Longer

Whole Foods Market embraces the experience mindset by understanding that price and selection are less important than belief and desire.  It speaks with refreshing authenticity in a language all its own, and helps craft memories that customers want to repeat, if not extend. By following what customers want, Whole Foods Market has found its higher brand purpose.

Sponsored By: Resonate. Reach audiences based on why they choose brands.

Sponsored By: The Customer Experience Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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Brand Culture

Changing The Brand Culture – To What Purpose?


Change Management Strate

Organizations tend to speak about purpose and change as if they are separate subjects. Increasingly, we’ve been asking whether the two could and should be much more closely linked, prompting a shift in question from “Change – to what end?” to “Change – to what purpose?”

If we could focus change on ideas that were more universal than corporate and that spread the perceived benefits more broadly, would that make a difference to the success rate? Because right now, the emphasis on change programs to accelerate growth is not working. John Kotter’s assertion that change, as it is currently implemented, mostly fails is well canvassed and, it appears, time-proven.

Around 70% of large-scale change programs fail to meet their goals – and a key reason for that, according to Gary Hamel and Michele Zanini, is that organizations cannot resist managing the implementation of change rather than looking for ways to psychologically and systematically embed it. In effect, the authors suggest, most change programs are too late, too self-serving, too autocratic and too engineered to succeed.

In a world fixated on agile and nimble companies, creating a business that can adapt – and innovate – quickly is difficult. The means moves faster than the minds and at a pace that significantly exceeds habit, embedded behaviors and culture. Simplistically the failures seem a classic case of “the process” over “the people”.

Perhaps a better way forward would be to look at change through an entirely different lens.

The alternative Hamel and Zanini suggest is the introduction of change platforms that syndicate and democratize change across the organization, that are based on initiative rather than mandate and that encourage free-form experimentation and adaptation rather than project-managed milestones. Such an approach, they assert, encourages wider and more accountable participation, fosters honest conversation, diversifies solutions rather than seeking to close everything down to a single answer and seeds local experimentation that can then be refined in a less risky environment before becoming part of the full way forward.

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Brand Growth

Brand Success: Ideas Or Access?


Global Brand Growth

As scale focused brands continue to push their footprints further afield in the search for growth, big distributors, both online and off, offer strong and proven channels through which to reach consumers. Such channels are very attractive – they are major brands in their own right, they bring kudos and market credibility, and of course they have huge client and follower communities. But the share of the asking price that those distributors demand in exchange for that increased market penetration can put them at odds with those who create/ manufacture/ produce.

At stake: who gets to decide price, margin and even quality? The creators – who believe that the idea does not exist without them? Or the distributors – who are of the view that the idea won’t sell without them? The dilemma – who is most effective in realizing the value of the brand? The answer, according to Christine Arden, is whoever touches the customer last.

Increasingly, the price of greater access is the commoditizing of the value of the idea – or at the very least, pressure to make the idea more and more available by making it cheaper. That’s clearly the case with Amazon and the big publishers. It’s also why Taylor Swift said she divorced Spotify this week.

Chris Anderson once said that technology marches towards free. I wonder whether access does the same. As distributors and large retailers gather more data about consumers, gain greater and greater footprints and as the channels they control become ubiquitous, there seems to be increasing pressure to promote volume in order to keep the cash flowing. If you’re a brand in this network, that brings with it huge pressure to continue to drop the take-home amounts in order for the distributor’s take-up model to work.

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Brand Management

Focus Your Brand On Cause Not Effect


Customer Behaviour

Communication is just one tool to convey brand message. Marketers and brand strategists are not employed by companies to create communications – they are employed to create change in consumer behavior. Instead of deluging customers with messages about the point a brand is trying to make, imagine how a brand might let customers experience the point it’s trying to make.

This subtle, but powerful shift moves customers up the ladder of marketing effectiveness*. Instead of absorbing a message (theoretically), customers begin to interact with the brand (practically).

Customer Experience

Take credit cards as a first example: Most of the revenue made by credit card companies comes from card use. Many card companies have automatic budget alerts, monitors, trackers, and smartphone apps – these all help customers perceive they are better in control of their finances as they have something easy and practical to help them economize. They go beyond the message by designing an immersive program that encourages sustained interaction with the product. Who doesn’t want more control of their finances? And what card company doesn’t want more point of sale and transaction fees? A win for both, and the message is only a small part in the program design.

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