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 Management

Inaction Strategy: Greatest Threat To Brands


Brand Leadership

“I never worry about action, but only inaction.” ~ Winston Churchill

There’s a simple, human reason why behaviors happen time and time again. We are creatures of habit and familiarity. It is much more comforting to keep hammering away at what we know than it is to stop, reappraise the problem and completely redesign the playbook.

Relentless speed and ubiquitous impatience have spawned an approach to strategy based on “not enough time”. The underpinning philosophy is that there are either not enough minutes in the day to do the thinking, or even if these can be found, the strategy will be outmoded by the time the company gets to implement it.

Wrong. It will almost certainly take far less time to strategize the road ahead than it took to get into trouble. And it will cost a whole lot less than reacting to another bad snap decision.

However, those who hate change can always fall back on a simple tactic. If in doubt, raise more doubt…

“What if it doesn’t work?”

“But it’s not working now.”

“OK, what if it makes it worse?”

We’ve all been in those meetings.

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Brand Culture

4 Monumental Shifts In Brand Culture


Customer Brand Experience

The context for cultures is changing.

In four vital ways.

Firstly – the relationship between customers and companies is shifting as social media dissolves the traditional divide between the parties. Specifically social has shifted the goalposts in terms of familiarity. Facebook, Google and Twitter have brought consumers closer to brands than ever before. And as people shift their relationships with brands, the processes that link customers with brands and their cultures are also changing. Those relationships are becoming much more interactive and increasingly they’re taking place in real time.

Actually, the underlying relationship is changing in an even more fundamental way still. Increasingly brands are transforming from individual purchase decisions to shared values or belief systems and brands are bonding with their customers on that basis. That shift has major implications for how brands organize and run their cultures. Looking forward, brands cannot expect to simply market products. And a culture cannot simply expect to service that market and the brand’s customers. A brand, its culture and its customers now not only need to concur on a distinctive belief system, but also to interact and build trust and loyalty as a community on that basis.

Secondly, and in parallel with the above, consumers now want to deal with brands that fundamentally understand them and interact with them as human beings. Really, it’s those interactions and the experiences generated by those interactions that increasingly make brands valuable. It’s then that customers decide whether they want to form a relationship with you, or they’re “just looking thanks”. If you’re a high-touch brand, it’s actually the people that make touchpoints magical.

Because of that, the role of the people within a brand is also retrending. Specifically, as quality relationships become the key decider for customers, the emphasis for people inside a culture shifts to establishing and building what they have in common with customers rather than what they are looking to get their customers to do. And as a result, it’s inevitable in my opinion that people working for a brand will transit from makers, guardians and sellers to socializers and curators.

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Brand Purpose

Brands Require A Higher Purpose


Purpose Driven Brand Strategy

It’s not what you sell. It’s what you stand for.

Beyond being simple, clear and inspirational, enlightened brands should seek an elevated purpose and articulate a point of view which stands for something. It’s not about just being, it’s about meaning. Articulating brand purpose goes beyond creating a set of inspiring words, but also contributes both internally and externally to long-term vitality, richness and success. Higher purpose branding goes beyond the functional benefits provided to consumers, extending to include emotional and social benefits.

At work here is a trend JWT Intelligence calls “Mindful living” which speaks to an increased awareness that our digital lives and ‘always on’ mobile connectivity are causing us to miss out on a more present, conscious experience.

Weapons of Mass Distraction

Larry Rosen in Psychology Today coined the term “Weapons of Mass Distraction” to describe our technological obsession with smartphones. A study conducted by Pew l found 67% of young adult cell phone owners check their phones for calls, messages or alerts without any vibration or ring. Another study conducted by Baystate Medical Center in Massachusetts and University of Indiana-Purdue also studied this “Phantom Vibration Syndrome” with most participants imagining their device vibrating at least once every day.

There is no shortage of reports on how addicted we are to technology. But we’re not addicted to it, we are obsessed by it, and the most important difference between addiction and obsession is chemical. Unlike addiction, where the brain is trying to create endorphins or serotonin, etc., obsession seeks to decrease neurotransmitters that are related to anxiety (this can include elevated, excited, and positive moods). In other words, brains too wrapped up in and around technology are saturated with “downers” which runs the risk of decreasing our potential to experience joy.

Joy is the emotion which makes the feeling of happiness possible.

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Brand Marketing

Brand Signal Or Brand Noise? 8 Indicators


Brand Messaging Signals

In economics, signalling focuses on the ability of one party to effectively convey information about itself to another party. That was relatively easy pre-Internet. Brands simply pushed claims into the marketplace through a range of set-play media actions and waited for consumers to react. The ability of a signal to reach an audience rested almost entirely on the message itself and the media budget.

As we move now from a world in which asymmetric information has prevailed to one in which perfect information, or at least more transparent information, is closer to the norm, marketers are grappling with a landscape where they must balance a new abundance of signalling platforms with a maddening overload of market noise. To be heard above the din, they must think through not just what they signal and how, but also why and to what effect.

As Allen Adamson has said: “Branding is about signals – the signals people use to determine what you stand for as a brand. Signals create associations.” Brands that simply telegraph what others are saying will only add to the  background volume – making it harder for any signal to stand out. Extending Adamson’s observation, lack of signal creates disassociation, a brand that people are not inclined to feel part of, or even to be seen with. The price of noise is commoditization. And as the noise increases, profile fades and brands drown.

There’s clear correlation to me between market leadership and signal leadership. The brands that are listened to are the brands that consumers turn to for guidance. According to this article in strategy + business, market leaders that lose their preeminent position have only a short time in which to regain the top spot – before they risk slipping back into the field. That timeframe it seems can be counted in quarters rather than years.

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The Rising Influence Of Marketers


Brand Marketers

The reason why companies have worked photocopy business plans for so long is because they never thought to work any other way. It just seemed too risky. The rise and rise of producer nations, in the words of Michael Porter, “riveted attention on implementation”. Watching Japan, then China and India continue to progress, many companies fell further into the action trap. They believed that the only way to outrun their immediate competitors and their looming Asian rivals was to, somehow, out-do them.

But as Michael Porter has commented: “It’s incredibly arrogant for a company to believe that it can deliver the same sort of product that its rivals do and actually do better for very long…It’s extremely dangerous to bet on the incompetence of your competitors” – and that, he says, is what companies are doing when they rely on operational effectiveness for competitive advantage.

My sense is that operational effectiveness and efficiency currently account for about 50 – 70% of perceived competitive advantage, but that percentage is falling. It’s falling, because of course consumer expectations continue to rise – ironically as more and more best of breed thinking is installed – and consumer emotions continue to change – as more channels give consumers unprecedented access to brands and to each other.

As quality becomes ubiquitous, it’s harder and harder to gamble on incompetence.

And it becomes easier and easier for consumers to change brands for no reason whatsoever other than what they feel. Because the actual risk in doing so is getting smaller and smaller thanks to best-of-breed.

All this makes for an irrational economy. And the irrational economy plays by very different rules.

As Avi Dan points out in this article in Forbes, “Customers are now able find out much about the company they wish to engage with: where and how a company makes its products; how it treats its employees, retired workers, and suppliers; how much it pays its top executives; how seriously it takes its environmental responsibilities and the like.”

The criteria is no longer what they get. It’s just as much what they know – and therefore feel.

The role of Chief Marketing Officers in such a world, Dan goes on to say, is “to meld the internal and external faces of the enterprise”.

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