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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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Brand Strategy

Every Brand Must Dream And Inspire

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Every brand must be inspirational

Positivity comes with benefits if this article on the optimism bias is anything to go by. While, collectively, our view of the future can swing in synch with the news, the budget or the crime stats, one study found that 76% of respondents were optimistic about the future for their own family. According to the author, “Even if that better future is often an illusion, optimism has clear benefits in the present. Hope keeps our minds at ease, lowers stress and improves physical health.”

The take away for brands is obvious. Clearly, there is merit in espousing a clear and positive view of the way forward. It’s not enough to just inform. Brands need to inspire, because that optimistic prognosis of what lies ahead holds real opportunities in terms of engaging and involving people. It humanizes brands.

Optimism, I surmise, also aligns directly with our worldview. In other words, what we look forward to is a world that is most like the world we believe in and want to live in. Politicians of course understand this instinctively. So, it’s interesting isn’t it, that so many brands deal in the present, without building a clear bridge to that tomorrow. They do so because their commercial imperatives tell them such containment is realistic – but in point of fact, perhaps articulating an optimistic future is an underpinning opportunity to cementing long-term loyalty.

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Brand Strategy

Branding And Brand Repositioning Examples

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Nike Brand Evolution

Today on Branding Strategy Insider, another question from the BSI Emailbag. Seth, a VP of Marketing from Seattle, Washington writes:

“Can you or your colleagues think of or recommend any good examples of branding and / or brand repositioning that I could share with our executive leadership team to help them understand in more concrete terms the branding initiative I’m trying to lead them through? It could be either:

Brand Repositioning
A good example of a well-known brand that used to be positioned as X, and then changed their brand position to Y, with evidence of how they infused that new brand into everything they do? One example I’ve used before is Southwest Airlines, but I don’t really know their story, and can only cite one or two examples of evidence.

 Branding
Even if the company didn’t reposition themselves, can you think of a good example where a company has infused their brand position into everything they do—their business decisions, their recruitment efforts, the products and services they offer, how they design their customer interactions and touch points, etc.?

Any thoughts you have would be welcome, as I really want to demonstrate the power of effective positioning and branding to our team to get them on board with this important work.”

Thank you for your question Seth. Marketers today have the distinction above all others in their organization of not only having to be successful practitioners of their craft, but excellent educators / defenders of the value of their work. I’m happy we can help you make your case. Here are some well-known examples:

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Brand Marketing

The New Criteria For Brand Conversations

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Adidas Brand Campaign

This nice piece on the Adidas campaign (thanks for sharing, Dan Ball) draws attention to the need for brands to shift from talking up their products to talking with their customers about the things that matter to them. In this case Adidas puts Luis Suarez out-front and uses the occasion to start a discussion on people’s reactions to those who are successful with the hashtag #therewillbehaters. As Adidas’ director of global brand strategy, Stefanie Knoren points out, “If you put up [this] hashtag…it is not just enough to talk about new boots. People are expecting a conversation around that with you.”

Increasingly, brands are placing their products and its values and beliefs in the context of a wider discussion. The danger? That the issue overwhelms the product and consumers are more interested in that than what you are trying to ship. Or they’re not interested and give the messages and the product the cold shoulder. The opportunity? To reflect an ethos that people are drawn to, that lifts their esteem of your brand and shifts their inclination in your favor.

It doesn’t always work of course. Ask Starbucks. And at times, it can feel like sensationalism almost for the sake of it. But where the discussion links with, and elaborates on, an aspect of the brand story and/or the brand’s long held stance on a particular matter, this ‘wider conversation’ approach presents an opportunity to extend the platform on which you sell.

So if you do want to engage this way, how do you make sure that the conversation has enough steer to stay on-course without feeling heavy-handed?

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Brand Strategy

Is Your Brand A Choice Or An Option?

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Brands Need To Be The Choice Not The Option

Just getting a presence in most markets can be hard work. One of my friends is finding that in the beverages game – a longer runway than he and his partners expected, and a lot more patience required as well. Long days, he says, having to justify every inch of shelf space you’re allocated.

Same with being a speaker or a consultant. But doing all the work to get on the map just elevates you to the status of another option.

That’s not the same as being a choice.

Options form part of the line-up for how customers decide. Choices are a conscious decision in themselves. Option means you’re available, you’re on the list, in the books. You’re a speculation. Choice makes you an active decision, one part of yes/no, either/or. You’re known, you’re quantified, you’re considered.

Now if you’re in the business of selling variety – like supermarkets, book stores, speakers’ bureau, search engines – options fill out the stock book. They reflect well on you because they prove that you can tap the market. They give you a long tail. And they give your clients the sense that they have the full pick of what’s available. Chances are, for that reason, if you’re in the business of selling variety, you welcome options (or at least the best options) with open arms.

Being the option isn’t quite so glamorous. It may have boosted your ego to have made it past reception, but if you just stay an option, frankly, you’re making up the numbers. And it’s easy to forget that, in order for the market to continue to work efficiently, for every brand that becomes a choice, so many more must either become or stay options.

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Brand Strategy

20 Questions Every Activist Brand Should Ask

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Levis Water Less Campaign

As more brands seek to engage in what Denise Yohn has referred to as the “cultural conversations” of today, they encounter reactions ranging from strong endorsement to cynicism about their motives. Starbucks, for example, hit turbulence with its Race Together campaign. (There’s an excellent analysis of why here.)

Levis on the other hand seems to have had an easier ride with its Water<Less campaign. Patagonia’s Don’t Buy This campaign was hailed by many as honest, genuine and utterly in keeping with their beliefs.

As Prof Americus Reed points out in the article, the fundamental difficulty that Starbucks faced was intention vs execution. It’s all very well to have to a good corporate heart, but steering a path through public skepticism is no easy task and doing so in a way that is straight-forward to implement and that fits into consumers’ busy lives has its challenges.

Inevitably, with the decline in trust in business following the Global Financial Crisis, companies have had to work harder than ever to convince consumers and the media that their motives are genuine. Clouding the issue are the brands claiming that they are doing good through their activities. The sheer volume of businesses making these assertions has turned Corporate Social Responsibility into something of a brandwagon. There’s a lovely piece by Henk Campher in which he categorizes participants into 5 categories, ranging from Snake Oil to Activist. In so doing, he draws an interesting distinction between Purpose brands and Activist brands. Purpose brands, he says, want to make the world a better place; Activist brands want the same thing, but with more edge.

Putting in place a campaign that draws attention to a situation within a wider communal or global context requires deep planning that is well aligned to brand strategy, ties directly to proof elsewhere and extends well beyond the planned life of the campaign itself. Whether you’re a purpose brand looking to make a stance or an activist brand looking to achieve more change, here’s my checklist to make sure you achieve your aims as an “opinionated brand” and stay on the right side of consumers:

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