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.
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
It’s tempting when your product all but parallels that of your competitors to be drawn into a meaningless war: a fight for market share that revolves around devaluing (looking to price the other guy out), trivial pursuit (nit-picking on features in a bid to show technical advantage) or overshadowing (spending up large in mainstream media in a bid to raise “awareness”).
The problem with chasing competitive preference is that brands spend far too much time focusing on the competitive aspects and far too little insight on identifying where the preferences could lie.
All three approaches above are looking to provide consumers with reasons to buy, but while they may change perceptions, they actually do little to change affinity. It’s a distinction that’s easily overlooked. Changing what consumers think of you for now does not automatically translate into a shift in how consumers feel about you – especially in the longer term. They may, as a result of the above actions, see you as offering them more value, they may like the fact that your product contains ingredient X, you may even feel more familiar to them – but unless you have the pockets and tenacity to maintain the fight, and unless you too are prepared to up the ante even further in response to competitor activity, advances are tenuous.
If there is still little to distinguish what you offer and what others offer in their minds, you have not dismissed substitution because you have not changed the equation in their heads. You may have convinced them temporarily that they are getting more from you than they’re getting from the other brand, but the comparison is still quantitative not qualitative.
A reason for buying, on the other hand, provides a buyer with an incentive to chase a result. And the lesson from brands like Moleskine is that when you change the outcome for consumers, you change who they prefer and why they prefer.Read More
Change is hard. That’s why the future can look so much like the past. And why brands and the marketers who manage them often lose their edge. For those marketers who see comfort zones as a dangerous place, we have designed a unique experience around brand strategy for you. One that challenges the thinking about brands and brand management. And one that breaks free from yesterday’s marketing conference format.
The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, Featuring John Sculley of Apple and Pepsi Success
For two days next week, May 16 & 17 in San Diego, California we will focus on the most important concepts in brand strategy in a competitive-learning workshop where marketers compete and learn in teams. The walls are down — no podiums, no stages, the experts are embedded in the teams. Next, let’s look at the agenda, which does not include the BIG surprises we have planned.
Wednesday May 15th, 2013
Meet & Greet Mixer 7:00-9:00 pm at The Andaz Hotel Rooftop Pool, where you will meet your teammatesRead More