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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Derrick Daye
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Brand Storytelling

Every Brand Price Point Needs A Story


Brand Storytelling Strategy

The temptation is to see story as a luxury item: something that brands implement to lift their margin. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – it’s powerful and it works. At The Blake Project we don’t think that story is just a top-end nice-to-have. Our view is that most brands, no matter where they are priced in the marketplace, need a storyline.

To understand why, first let’s think about the alternative. Without a storyline, a product is just that. It has everything it needs (hopefully) to do what it’s being bought for but that also means it’s just another detergent, car oil, computer, whatever …That makes it highly vulnerable to house brands and to cheaper versions of what amounts to ‘the same thing’. It also means markets get packed very quickly with variants of the same idea that rapidly diminish the value equation –  think of Groupon and its 425 competitors.

This problem of course only becomes more acute as you move down the value chain – meaning that at the very points in the market that are most crowded and where competition is highest, the chances of finding differentiation are diminished, and much of the marketing amounts to little more than a rowdy discounting squabble based on ‘unbeatable pricing’. Case in point, of course, those positioned in middle and lower markets should be upping their back story to compensate for this lack of differentiation.

The real power of story is that it provides context, in two senses. First of all, it helps consumers differentiate an offering by attaching more than just functionality to a product. It can also help them understand why a product is priced the way it is – up or down. The discount airline Ryanair are masters of this. Their price is a clear call to the market – don’t expect much, because you’re not paying much. And everything they do revolves on that premise. They do have a storyline, albeit an unusual one, based it seems on minimalism.

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Brand Value & Pricing

9 Characteristics Of Brands That Work As Assets


Building Brands As Assets

A lot of people talk a lot about brands as impressions: brands are how you are talked about when you are not in the room; your brand is the sum of the prompted and unprompted associations that people have of you; your brand is expressed in the ways that you are remembered. All of these definitions accurately describe the associative advantages of a powerful brand. But the critical aspect for me is that a brand today must not only look the part, it must also function as an asset – by definition that means it must be “Something valuable that an entity owns, benefits from, or has use of, in generating income.”

In order to do that:

  1. A brand must be tangible – there must be something identifiable to offer, and that something, whether it is a product or a service, must have value.
  2. There must be a distinctive and viable business model – a brand requires an efficient and competitive commercial delivery model in order to get into market and to meet demand.
  3. A brand must differentiate itself from other offerings like it in order to prosper – brands require a competitive environment in which to thrive because without such an environment the concept of a value equation means nothing.
  4. A brand must be visible to the people that matter to it – a brand must take conscious and measured steps to gain and retain their attention.
  5. A brand must engage with the people it seeks to work with – so it must have a personality that people are attracted to and it must tell a story that people want to hear more of.
  6. A brand exists to earn margin beyond the going market rate – and a brand that fails to do so joins the ranks of the commodities.
  7. It must create expectations – and those expectations must underpin the promises the brand makes in market and the values that it works by.
  8. Brands must capture who they are through a distinctive identity across a full range of touch-points – great brands are symbolized in ways that people know and that graphically capture their character.
  9. A brand must offer experiences around the goods or service it offers expressly to generate trust, connection and distinction with its audiences.

While these characteristics will be familiar to many, the implications are wide-ranging:

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Brand Language

When Branding Projects Require Rebranding


Brand Purpose

Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers everywhere. Today we hear from Ken, a VP of Marketing in Boston, Massachusetts who writes…

“I’m trying to get internal buy-in for an extensive re-brand. The terms brand or branding are not well received here. How else can I talk about this project?”

Thanks for your question Ken. As brand consultants we have seen this situation before and the reasons vary. Those less marketing oriented or less appreciative of marketing as a revenue generator might see terms like brand or branding negatively while others simply want projects like this to be communicated as more than a marketing project. Whatever the case replacing the word ‘brand’ with promise or purpose works well.

At its core branding projects are about discovery and can be effectively communicated as such without marketing jargon. Consider presenting the initiative in the context of what will be discovered and the outcomes that will lead to…

  • What unique value can we own in the minds of our prospective and existing customers?
  • What is our purpose? It’s not what we sell; it’s what we stand for.
  • What is our organization’s raison d’être, or its reason for being?
  • What promise is our organization making to our customers? Employees? The world?

Ken, I hope you find these thoughts helpful. As you continue down the path of trying to gain buy-in (seemingly a part-time job for marketers) I think you will find these additional thoughts meaningful. While brand cultures are built on language, it’s fitting I share this as well.

Do you have a question related to branding? Just Ask The Blake Project

Sponsored By: Resonate. Reach audiences based on why they choose brands.

Sponsored ByThe Brand Positioning Workshop, the Brand Storytelling Workshop Series and Brand Strategy and Customer Co-Creation Workshops

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Brand Storytelling

Telling The Short Brand Story


Brand Storytelling Strategy

Everyone has a story to tell. Not everyone feels they have the time to listen. Which is why brands need to become adept at the short story form. Increasingly, the messages that pass between brands and their customers will need to be articulated in 140 characters, 6 seconds, a shot, an update…

But brevity is not the full answer – and those who believe they can communicate exclusively in such formats will risk selling themselves short.

To master short form storytelling, marketers will need to know the long form version of their brand story better than ever. (You can’t edit what you don’t have.) And they will need to judge duration and relevance with greater accuracy. The ability to distill and disseminate bursts of interest, and to mix those short forms with longer, deeper, richer forms of expression, will decide who flourishes and who withers.

Sponsored By: Resonate. Reach audiences based on why they choose brands.

Sponsored By: The Brand Storytelling Workshop Series

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Brand Strategy

6 Ways To Finding Your Brand’s Next Strengths


Strong Brands

How do brands keep improving? If you’re already a market leader, where should you expend your energies to future-proof your business? A lot of the advice we read in the business press focuses on weaknesses and vulnerabilities and what needs to be fixed and updated.  But if highlighting what isn’t working doesn’t work for your brand culture, maybe take your cues from the strengths movement and focus on further improving where you already shine.

This approach works particularly well with upbeat cultures that value performance and achievement. If motivation is already strong, talking about what hasn’t happened will only serve to dampen energy levels. Instead, I suggest you concentrate on your recognized organizational capabilities and look for ways to elevate these to new levels of proficiency.

Here are six areas in which you can lead your brand from strength to strength:

1. Product strengths – if you already have a distinctive and highly respected offering, use that kudos to your advantage. A lot of brands still focus on the technical supremacy of what they are doing. They bang the “quality” drum. There’s no point in doing that – it just draws you into a features war. Instead, use success to position your brand as the authority in the space. Seek trust supremacy. It’s harder to counter. By driving thought leadership in the sector, and presenting the success of your products as proof of that leadership and the difference you have made for your customers, you can look to shift market perceptions and consumer inclinations in your favour. Make your products the proof and the expression of what you think rather than the other way round.

2. Channel strengths – if you are readily available now, use that accessibility to your advantage. Be the easiest brand to buy. Look for ways to increase the range and volume of encounters that people have with you in the channels they know. If the problem is over-familiarity, perhaps look for ways to access new channels or markets that will help consumers see what you offer in new, even unexpected, contexts. The risk here of course is incongruity – your brand quite literally looks out of place. But done well, a change in venue can help change not only where people see you but how they value you. Where could you be that others aren’t? And why would you prosper being seen there when others wouldn’t?

3. Competitive strengths – if you have high-performing teams that thrive on bettering their rivals, use how you compete, who you compete against and the collective appetite for competitiveness to your advantage. Raise the bar by setting an outrageous vision for the brand and challenge your people to make it happen. Don’t present this as a new goal. Rather, explain it as a resetting of the horizon and communicate why you need to make this journey now. The critical balancing act is to temper ambition with support, so that teams agree on what needs doing and move forward together rather than looking to discard the individuals they perceive as the weakest links. Clear targets and communication of achievements need to be backed by training, recognition, resourcing and opportunities to collaborate that help people feel what is being asked for is do-able, desirable and achievable. Then expect your people to perform, and hold them accountable to agreed targets. In today’s market, powerful brands harness their energy from the inside and use it to out-pace and out-muscle others who are lethargic or complacent.

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