The Blake Project

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 Licensing

Should You Extend Your Brand Via Licensing?


Apple Brand Licensing Strategy

Companies extend their brands via licensing for a variety of reasons. Licensing enables companies with brands that have high preference to unlock their brands’ latent value and satisfy pent-up demand. Through licensing, brand owners have the ability to enter new categories practically overnight, gaining them immediate brand presence on store shelves and often in the media. Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits that make licensing so attractive to brand owners.

By licensing their brands, companies are able to satisfy consumer needs in categories that are not core to their business. When Apple launched the iPod a number of years ago they revolutionized the way in which people listen to their music. The iPod was so successful that its quick acceptance created an immediate need for accessories such as armbands, adapters and auto chargers. Apple could have chosen to manufacture and distribute these accessories themselves. Instead, Apple decided that these accessories were not core to their business expertise and therefore chose to satisfy the need through licensing. By licensing the iPod brand, Apple enabled a tremendous number of companies to produce all kinds of terrific products to make the iPod more user-friendly and to enhance the listening experience. Examples of licensed products for the iPod include the Bose Sound System with iPod docking station, the Nike+ running shoe, auto adaptor kits, armbands and many other products. All of these accessories are sold by licensees.

Some licensors see licensing as an opportunity to “test” the viability of a new category without having to make a major investment in new manufacturing processes, machinery or facilities. In a well-run licensing program, the brand owner maintains control over the brand image and how it’s portrayed (via the approvals process and other contractual structures), positioning itself to reap the benefit of additional revenue (royalties) and brand exposure through product displayed through new channels and incremental shelf space. For example, Rubbermaid gained additional revenue and brand presence by licensing kitty litter containers that are sold in the mass channel core to Rubbermaid, and specialty pet shops core to United Pet Group, the licensee.

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Brand Strategy

10 Ways To Achieve Brand Leadership


Achieve Brand Leadership

Marketers often talk about being a brand leader as if it is one thing. But there are many different ways that a brand can distinguish itself in a marketplace. The critical decision for brand owners is deciding how you will lead and why that will work.

1. Scale – The immediately obvious strategy. You build a bigger, more imposing brand than your competitors; one that enables you to heavily influence critical market rules. You use this size and market dominance to become the looked-for brand in your sector across the world. This strategy focuses on footprint and familiarity but of course it takes time, acuity and plenty of capital.

2. Price – You can develop brands that attract above-market margins because they’re craved. The focus on margin-per-product means you can pursue leadership through returns, so size is actually far less important. You can even be low profile. This strategy focuses on excellence and esteem. You’ll fight the price-cutting imitators though all the way to the bank.

3. Thinking – You can drive what the market talks about by putting your brand at the epicenter of what gets discussed. Thought leader status will get you attention and coverage which will in turn increase your overall presence and potential influence. Your biggest challenge will be to convert that reach into bankable returns.

4. Likeability – You can be the brand that everyone would like the others to be and the one whose behaviors, products and attention to detail are quoted as exemplary. You’ll need a powerful and compelling sales funnel to convert all that love into dollars. And public emotion can shift quickly, so while this is an enjoyable option it’s not necessarily a bankable one.

5. Change – You can rock the boat. You can drive shifts in performance, mindset, reach, payment, interest, audiences and/or product. You can be the research-driven brand that everyone looks to for next actions; the brand that never sleeps. Not everything you do will score a home run (perhaps it’s not intended to), but you’ll need at least one shape-shifter hit to make all the prospecting worth it.  

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Brand Strategy

Dull And Boring Offers Opportunity For Brands


Brand Strategy And The Opportunity Of Dull

A colleague of mine made an observation recently that if you really want to make significant changes as a brand, you should go all out and look for something…dull. That’s right, find something uneventful, even pedestrian – and poke it for opportunities.

And the reasons, on reflection, are simple. Chances are people do whatever it is often. So it comes with scale and frequency. And secondly, if it’s that tedious, frankly the only way is up. High energy, exciting activities already have high EQ by their very nature. And they attract the most interest from brands. So the chances of doing anything breakthrough are so much harder. Dull stuff is out of the limelight. It’s dull and it stays dull for most people until someone does something to change that.

So it’s actually a lot less difficult to make the boring better: to take something that people don’t want to do or don’t enjoy doing, and to inject new elements and ideas that surprise and delight. Wii made exercising at home fun by combining it with gaming. Obvious on reflection – but it sure the hell worked. Apple makes shopping appealing (even for men) by giving even those who aren’t into IT something physical, fashionable and beautiful to fidget with. They understood that many people were completely turned off by computer stores – so they went out of their way to make shopping for their stuff feel as ungeeky as possible.

What brands should be looking for, according to Luke Williams, a fellow at Frog Design, is not so much the big pain points as what he terms “tension points”: those things that are annoying or less than perfect but not big enough to be considered problems. He cites the example of Dutch Boy Paint which introduced a Twist & Pour container featuring an easy twist-off lid and a neat-pour spout. It did away with the need to pry open the lid with a screwdriver and reduced spilling and dripping. Read the article. It’s very good.

But often brands can take this further than answering problems. They can develop ways of thinking about what they do that challenge disinterest at every level – because that’s the real issue. That’s the brand-killer.

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Brands And Digital

Brand Building In The Digital Now


Digital Age Branding

About a month ago, I wrote an article on “The Thin Brand Line.” Truth be told, lines everywhere are thinning. Even at SXSW, perhaps a glimpse into the future is inferred by this quote from Elizabeth Dole, Entrepreneur in Residence at Dell, “There was a whole convergence between [the Film, Music, and Interactive parts of the conference], reflecting that to consumers, it’s really the same thing now.”

Similarly it’s true in the way brand stewards and managers now look at traditional and digital; no longer are they co-dependent, they are fully symbiotic.

Brand building originates in the core of the brand, radiating outward in all directions like a lighthouse beacon. The radiance carries brand purpose, brand higher/social purpose, and positioning at intelligent wavelengths specifically tuned to create resonance with consumers.

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Brand Strategy

Strategically Pacing Your Brand For Change


Brand Strategy Pace Of Change

In a market filled with possibilities, there is power and focus in constraint. I pressed this point home last week in a discussion on why brands can’t just continue to add to their visual language. The argument I was getting – we need an extended palette to show the diversity of what we do and to prevent our brand looking monochromatic. My view – that adding layer upon layer of visual language to a brand doesn’t free up anything. On the contrary, it adds complexity that make no sense to buyers and that end up looking confused in the shopping aisle.

There’s always a reason to add more detail for those who want to find one: “we need to tell people this”; or “that snippet is interesting”; or “they won’t know what to do if we don’t explain this in detail”. But marketing is not about an outpouring of information, at least not for the sake of it. Marketing is about clarity and simplicity and giving people reasons to engage. Cluttered brand language systems are not clear to anyone beyond those who designed them. The consistency of brands, and the discipline that requires, is what gives them their power and equity.

Marketers struggle sometimes to pace brands to the speeds of consumers. There’s a tendency to believe that everything must change, change, change – and that brands that aren’t always adding or shifting will lose attention. All the talk of innovation and customer impatience fuels that. The reality is something different. Buyers need brands to be familiar and interesting, not one or the other.

In an address at an Evernote conference last year, Stewart Brand made these observations about societal change that are equally relevant, albeit within much shorter timeframes, for those contemplating changes to brands. Society, he says, moves and changes at different speeds and those layered paces of change are healthy: “the fast parts learn; the slow parts remember. The fast parts suppose things; slow parts dispose things and keeps things that are important. The fast is discontinuous (moves in quick cycles); the slow is continuous. The fast and small instruct the slow and big with accrued innovation and occasional revolutions. At the same time…the slow and big parts control the fast and small with constraints and with constancy.”

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