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.
Archive for June, 2012
If you have ever named a boat, a pet or a child, you know how difficult it can be to choose the right name. Despite the importance of the decision, the process seems hit-and-miss and there seem to be few guidelines for getting it right. After agonizing over lists of alternatives, you reject all but one, with no sense of certainty. Later the name seems inevitable – how could you have considered any other name?
The Challenge of Naming
The naming challenge is compounded in a business environment, where anointing a company with a name is likely to be just the first of many labeling decisions. Products, business units, specific services, marketing programs, features, line extensions, apps, web sites and more all need monikers. Each decision has implications for future decisions, so it’s important to have a plan or ‘rules’ to guide your choices and avoid confusing customers.
Although critically important to brand health and company value, it can be difficult to create the rules for naming brand entities, and for specifying the relationships among them. Here is a partial list of the kinds of challenges faced:
- When is it desirable to extend an existing brand and when is a new brand required?
- How should a new brand be linked to the parent? Should the relationship be explicit or kept in the shadows?
- Which is better, a descriptive name or a fanciful name?
- When should a name be retired?
- When should a feature be branded?
- Should different brands from the same company have different web sites?
Conventional brand repositioning wisdom is to alter the brand’s position incrementally from the established position, playing off of current assumptions about the brand. It is usually a very tricky and subtle exercise that requires deep customer insight. And yet, some brands have radically altered their brand’s meanings, so much so that the ‘before’ and ‘after’ target audiences are completely different. Following are two examples of this.
As a baby boomer, I remember Abercrombie & Fitch. It was a very traditional, outdoorsy, hunt club oriented brand. It felt a little bit like L.L. Bean or Orvis. Today, it is a completely different brand. It is hot and sexy and targets teens. In fact, not too long ago it was in the news for the controversy around its featuring semi-nude models at the entrances to its mall stores. At one time Reebok was known as an athletic shoe brand targeted at young women and aerobics. Today, it is successfully re-targeted at the inner city hip-hop generation.
How do some brands get away with such a radical transformation of target audiences and brand meanings while others struggle to appeal to different markets? For instance, McDonalds was not successful with its adult-oriented Arch Deluxe menu item and Volvo has had limited success with its performance (versus safety) based models.
I believe that brands that are successful with these radical transformations are successful for a number of reasons:Read More
CEOs of startups and emerging companies are always looking for useful advice and ideas on brand building and how the management of their early stage brand can help them move from where they are now to some elevated place they want to be. Many early stage business leaders know what they want, and the direction they’d like to go, yet the “how to do it” part remains elusive.
Accomplishment has no silver bullets. Getting things done and making things happen isn’t magic, it’s real work–actually it’s great work! I’m sure you’ll agree nothing is more satisfying and fulfilling than turning possibilities into achievement. The questions I get asked most often from early-stage business leaders are “how do we make it happen?” and “where do we start?”
What they really want to know is “how can I start at the top and work up from there?” Few are willing to start something at the bottom. Everybody wants a shortcut to the top.
Don’t get me wrong, if you find a shortcut–a faster, better, cheaper way to accomplishing your business goals, by all means go for it. There are many shortcuts to be found on the road to your success. The important thing one must understand about shortcuts is they are only made available to you AFTER you start at the bottom.Read More
In the face of increasingly intense competition, ambitious places are objectively evaluating their competitiveness and methods of optimizing their relevance and value to internal and external customers. Many of them are adopting the principles of branding to better manage their identities and how they present themselves in a global marketplace.
Over time, a successful place brand adds to its own value by generating effectiveness and efficiency in the way that it presents itself. This value is referred to as brand equity, and is its accumulated loyalty, awareness, and financial value. I like to think of it as owning a bank account in the minds of target audiences. Good news, enticing images, and positive experiences are deposits in the bank. But bad news, poor marketing, and sub-standard experiences are like withdrawals from the account. To be strong and resilient, a brand must have sufficient equity on deposit to counter negative occurrences. And bad weather, a natural disaster, scandals or bad experiences do happen, even to good places.
Many city leaders don’t understand the benefits and concepts involved in place branding (or marketing for that matter!). Some are simply uncomfortable using the term “branding,” or even “marketing,” and the city’s name in the same sentence. We have found that when city officials think in terms of their city’s image or reputation rather than its brand, they are more likely to “get it.”Read More
I want to share insight into one idea that guides The Blake Project's brand consulting practice. Attraction Marketing is not a new idea, on the contrary, it’s an idea as old as commerce itself. The premise is simple: people are tribal in their associations and in their behavior. Like attracts like. Not unlike quantum theory that suggests like particles vibrate and attract to form matter. Not to stretch my metaphor too far, but I would like to suggest that the discipline of marketing is the energy that vibrates in the marketplace attracting those customers who value the proposition, their association with it, and share its value to others. It is a natural attraction, not something contrived or forced. Consumers like to buy, they don’t like being sold. With so much choice, and so much me-too branding going on, consumers must have the “what’s in for me” question clearly answered before they associate with your brand’s promise. Brand building is not a transaction.
Interestingly enough, this idea of attraction marketing has more resonance today as consumers take control of marketing channels. Today, word of mouth advocacy takes its form as a YouTube video post – random, immediate and powerfully contagious. Consumers have the control now, not the marketers. Add to that the increased fragmentation of media channels, sophisticated demographics and customer segmentation models, and you don’t need to be clairvoyant to see the writing on the wall. Like the music industry, the global advertising industry is scrambling to find ways to navigate this sea change with a business model that serves consumers and adds value to their clients. Consumers want trustworthy relationships with brands. They want clarity, not clutter. They want to be pulled into the gravity of a two-way conversation with like-minded people.Read More