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.
Everybody wants a brand that’s different. The irony of that statement is intentional. It belies the conservative manner in which most brands approach competitive difference. They say they want to be distinctive to consumers but often, in their heart of hearts, they actually want to align (read conform) with the rest of the industry. One of the key issues for that is an uncertainty on the part of brand makers and decision makers to find a starting point.
In some ways that’s actually less difficult and daunting than it first appears. Begin with a premise that is truly one degree away from your rivals. By logically progressing that premise over time, and with strong discipline, you will build a brand that is consistently and markedly different.
Here’s 50 ways you can create a meaningful difference for your brand:
- Go slow in a world of speed. Each Rolex takes a year to manufacture. The perception that a longer process is needed to build the world’s best timepiece also reinforces the value.
- Use country of origin to your advantage. Brands from Switzerland are highly associated with precision and fine craftsmanship. Seek to build brand associations with countries that support your reputation for service, manufacturing, innovation etc.
- Behave differently. Online shoe retailer Zappos has built its advantage on an iron clad return policy and customer service that goes above and beyond, breaking down the perceived barriers of selling and buying shoes online.
- Look different. Apple always looks like Apple. Diesel always looks like Diesel. Absolut Vodka always looks like Absolut. They’re in a sector but they don’t look like part of the sector.
- Be the underdog in a sector where everyone else wants to be top dog. Nantucket Nectars started “with only a blender and a dream,” and Clif Bar proclaims that its founder once lived in a garage. Underdogs win the compassionate consumer. Look for the underdog story you can tell.
- Be truly and unapologetically shocking. Benetton’s “Unhate” campaign ruffled feathers on almost every front. But – and this is critical – the outrage you generate must link to a solution and that solution should be your front. Otherwise, you simply risk shouting into the wind.
- Expand your appeal. “Discover” an untapped audience in your sector and, by drawing them in, intensify the sense of community around your brand and the interaction that people have with the brand. Enterprise Rent-A-Car did just that by offering leasing at a time when competitors did not. By serving this unmet need with attention to customer experience, Enterprise became the world’s number 1 car rental company. Apple too saw what others did not. No one was asking for an iPhone, but an untapped audience emerged when new value in the form of a cell phone was introduced.
- (Re)Invent a category – and own it. UFC became the fastest growing sports organization in the world by redefining the reach and the audience for mixed martial arts. Today, UFC produces more than 30 live events annually and is the largest pay-per-view event provider in the world. Swatch differentiated from other watch brands by focusing on self-expression rather than precision.
- Create a new category. The Toyota Prius, the Nintendo Wii, and Red Bull are all brands that created new categories, outside the established norms of their product category. By stepping outside the bounds of their categories, these brands created a space that they can call their own.
- Tell a story that defines you and is unique to you. The story may be about your founder as in the case with Virgin and Richard Branson, your heritage like Hickory Farms or the value you bring to the world like Coca-Cola’s Open Happiness. It may also be based in imagination – like the thought that Keebler elves make Keebler cookies. Or perhaps it’s a story based on your highly guarded secret – only two people in the world know Coca-Cola’s formula. Your story may also be about the source of your product, service or inspiration.
What makes a brand story engaging to customers and effective in motivating them to buy? In our experience, there are eight fundamental characteristics of a motivating brand story.
1. It’s relevant: Brand stories that aren’t meaningful to people will have no impact. Thus, companies should make sure they know what’s important to their customers—whether by conducting traditional customer research, using analytics, or monitoring the chatter on social media—and build their stories around what customers are thinking. Often that can mean creating different versions of the same story, each tailored to a particular need, concern or area of interest.
2. It’s credible: While people love to be entertained by the stories coming out of Hollywood, that’s typically not the case when it comes to corporate narratives. People asked to consider buying a product or service, however subtly, want to know that they’re not dealing with smoke and mirrors. They generally don’t like to take a leap of faith in their dealings with product or service providers, but rather, want proof that what they’re buying “works.”
3. It’s compelling: If a brand story can’t grab the intended audience and hold their attention, it’s either not worth telling or it’s not being told in the right way. What makes a brand story compelling is generally a combination of factors—subject matter, words, imagery, sound and others—all working together to create an experience in the minds of readers, viewers or listeners.
4. It’s persuasive: Great stories don’t simply keep people interested. They also excel in motivating people to do something—and for companies, that typically means ultimately buying something from them. Similar to the previous hallmark, persuasiveness is not the result of any one factor. But imagery and words generally play a dominant role in making a connection—emotional, intellectual, or both—with customers and moving them to action.Read More
This article in Harvard Health Blog in many ways mirrors why consumers take comfort in choosing branded products generally:
- Having a brand name means they know what to ask for
- They believe in the quality that they associate with the brand
- The distribution system believes in the brand
It got me thinking about the differences between a “lovemark” and a “trustmark”. Both are words used to describe the effects of branding, but while some brand marketers (including the originator of the term “lovemarks”, Kevin Roberts) seem to use the terms interchangeably, and while I too have tended to treat them the same way because they are emotionally-motivated, I’m starting to wonder whether a distinction should be made.
If there were a distinction, it might be this. Lovemarks want consumers to behave passionately. Trustmarks encourage consumers to behave faithfully.
Not every consumer product purchase decision is governed by passion. Security, well being, companionship … these and other human needs are compelling but not necessarily as buzzworthy as the latest technology release. As consumers continue to be concerned about, and wary of, bad behaviors, compromised replicas and misleading claims, the search for trustmarks has also broadened. Now it doesn’t just apply to obvious areas such as food and health – it’s increasingly a deciding factor in areas such as banking, investment and insurance; areas where passion doesn’t necessarily drive consumer decisions.Read More
Marketing is in the midst of an ROI revolution. The arrival of advanced analytics and plentiful data have allowed marketers to demonstrate return on investment with a degree of precision that’s never been possible before. The opportunity is enormous. In our experience, companies that adopt this marketing analytics approach can unlock 10–20 percent of their marketing budget to either reinvest in marketing or return to the bottom line.
To date, however, the reality of marketing analytics has fallen short of the promise. Just 36 percent of CMOs, for example, have quantitatively proven the short-term impact of marketing spend, according to the 2013 CMO Survey (and for demonstrating long-term impact, that figure drops to 32 percent). That means that almost two out of three CMOs are using qualitative measures to show impact, or aren’t measuring impact at all. Moreover, the previous year’s survey showed that 63 percent of projects do not use analytics to inform marketing decisions.
This lack of an analytical approach has traditionally formed a barrier between marketing and finance. One financial services CMO told us how CFOs typically perceive his function: “We’re going to give a certain amount of dollars to those guys. They’re going to make ads and do whatever it is they do. And let’s hope it generates demand.’”
To reverse this perception and to get greater bang for marketing’s buck, we believe that CMOs must become true collaborators with CFOs and adopt a marketing ROI approach that’s driven by analytics.
It doesn’t need to be complicated; in one company, a marketing department saved 20 percent after simply benchmarking the money they were spending on external agencies. And at another — a consumer packaged goods company — a series of strong brands had evolved in separate silos. Only when they began to really analyze their marketing costs did the company realize that it was spending three times the industry benchmark on coupons and 50 percent more on research. It was also using more than 50 different market research companies to conduct similar tasks.Read More
Habits are powerful, but occasions may be even more so. I think they engage us so effectively because they combine time and focus. And because of that, they provide permission – it’s OK to behave this way or that. It’s OK to do something you wouldn’t do on any ordinary day.
If you’re a smart brand, you’ll find a way to hook into that; to link what you’re about to what people are thinking about on specific occasions. You’ll give them a reason and a way to excel at the emotion of the moment.
On Valentine’s Day it seems appropriate to look at a brand that used the occasion of declaring love to forge one of the most powerful marketing campaigns of all time.
De Beers have turned a diamond into the embodiment of eternity with their sublime catch-phrase ‘A diamond is forever’. They’ve linked the optimism and romance of occasions like engagements and weddings with the promise to stay together ‘till death do us part’. They have encapsulated all that in a single symbol that is desirable, exceptional, immediately recognizable and intended to be presented on a specific occasion of peak emotion and worn from that moment on.Read More