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 July, 2012
The world is not flat. Discontinuities characterize everything, and it is in inefficiencies and breaks in the general pattern that exceptions can always be found. This is true in both good times and bad.
Recessions are spiky. (So, too, stagnant recoveries.) Downturns hurt a lot of people, but not everybody. In fact, some people even thrive. Down economies are not all down. They are filled with peaks and valleys – more valleys than peaks, of course, but not a flatland of stagnation. As reviewed in more detail in our recent Future Perspective, Unlocking New Sources of Growth: How to Find New Value in New Places, finding peaks to climb is the way to thrive, not merely survive, during a recession.
Obviously, discount brands and retailers are ready-made to spike during downturns. But there are other peaks to climb – three in particular.
First is innovation. The well-worn list of innovative new companies that were launched successfully during downturns is proof aplenty that real breakthroughs always find a market no matter what. Adding to that are numerous academic studies confirming that innovation is the best way to protect existing brands during recessions. (The longitudinal research of Belgium marketing professor Lien Lamey, who has studied 20-30 year business cycles in Belgium, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S., is particularly instructive.)Read More
The worst data miscalculation in brand marketing is also the easiest to fix, even though it requires a new way of looking at market opportunities for brands.
It’s a miscalculation made with good intentions. Brand marketers put a high priority on focus, so complex markets have to be boiled down to their essence. Focus through simplification is smart, but oftentimes it takes a brand in the wrong direction. So it’s worth taking a second look at bringing focus to brand marketing.
As we all learned in Marketing Research 101, there are two broad, overarching ways of looking at research data – measures of central tendency and measures of variance. Admittedly, this lingo doesn’t easily roll off the tongue, so to put it another way, for any given dataset, you can look at averages or differences. You can look at the average consumer or you can look at varieties of consumers.
There are many ways of calculating averages and differences, so each category of measures includes lots of statistical techniques. But every statistic is either a measure of central tendency or a measure of variance.
The priority on focus in brand marketing means an over-reliance on measures of central tendency and an under-appreciation of measures of variance. Brand marketers want to focus on the average because that gives them a way to simplify and concentrate their resources. Brand marketers fear getting paralyzed by the ambiguity and indecisiveness often present in differences. It is hard to know what to focus on when options, scenarios, choices and situations seem endlessly numerous and diverse. Even when brand marketers factor in differences, they do so by focusing on multiple averages, which is an incomplete way of accounting for differences.Read More
“We are a mid sized software company that is starting to grow into geographic areas where we will go to market with a distributor versus investing in putting our own people and offices into the region. We are discussing a brand architecture for these ‘master resellers’ as the first few we are working with want to go to market using our brand. Of course we hesitate here as it is our brand but we also recognize the fact that it is our brand that is getting traction and it makes it more difficult for them to penetrate the market with a different name, etc. from the company and product they are reselling.
What is the best way forward?”
Thanks for your question Mike. When selling your brand through others, it is important to select the right partners who will represent your brand well. It is also important to arm the distributors with the following:
- A selling script that outline’s your brand’s unique value proposition and key selling points
- Brand identity system and standards/guidelines
- Consider creating a digital asset management system so that distributors will be forced to present your brand accurately and consistently while creating high quality brand marketing materials more easily
- Consider offering brand training sessions to your distributors – you must make sure they understand what your brand promise is and the importance of delivering on that promise
- Consider establishing regular brand communication with the distributors, providing them with brand stories and “selling points” and increasing your brand’s mindshare with them
Nowadays, we live in a world of features. Technology is brimful with features like apps, add-ons and upgrades. Car dashboards are overrun with feature-this and feature-that. Our social relationships are mediated by the features of mobile apps and our brand buying is completed through an ever-more feature-intensive array of hi-tech services for comparisons, payments and delivery. It is a world awash in features.
By all appearances, in today’s marketplace, features seem to sell us on one thing versus another. Yet, features don’t sell. As brand marketers we know that when it comes to the choices consumers make, features are beside the point. But it’s hard to keep this in mind in today’s feature-rich marketplace. Nevertheless, bottom line, all that matters are benefits.
With features dominating so much of the attention and investment these days, it’s worth revisiting this basic marketing imperative – market the benefit. To do so, I thought it helpful to look at an illustration I learned way back when from Kevin Clancy, who recently received the Advertising Research Foundation’s Great Minds Awards in Innovation for his career contributions to the development of marketing and marketing research. (It’s an example that is included, along with many others, in a 1991 book he co-authored, entitled The Marketing Revolution: A Radical Manifesto for Dominating the Marketplace.)
Kevin taught me that there are two things brand marketers can focus on about a marketing message or a product or service, and two ways to say each. You can focus on attributes (or features) or benefits. Attributes describe what something is – it’s the what, if you will. Benefits describe what something delivers – it’s the why. You can market what a product is or you can market why a product matters, or you can market both. Ultimately, though, consumers care less about what a product is; mostly, they care about why a product matters to them.Read More
Unlike their big brand counterparts, CEOs of startups and emerging companies often times don’t really know what to expect from the process of defining their brand value to their stakeholders and customers. For many, the undertaking may seem more like entering into a deep, dark forest – a big leap of faith risking valuable capital to boot.
Many ask themselves, “what if we get this wrong?”
With so much risk facing small growing brands, and no forgiveness in the marketplace if they don’t get it right, I’m convinced many entrepreneur executives have that thought cross their mind. Unlike PR, promotions and advertising, brand strategy begins as an introspective process. Defining brand value for small companies and their brands is mostly intuitive and it takes guts.
Recently, having just completed the process of changing their name and creating a new identity, a CEO of a growing B2B company, confessed to me, “ You know, at the beginning of this whole process, we didn’t have a clue where this would lead us, or have any confidence what we were contemplating was even the right thing to do. Changing our business name was a big deal — we only had one shot to get it right!
The currency of our modern social age is attention. CEOs of startups and emerging companies don’t have the financial luxury of buying attention, they have to earn it. Like your money, your customer’s attention is limited too.
The whole process of defining your unique value to customers in ways customers care about may seem rather mystical, abstract and difficult to quantify. Big brands and the companies that own them, can hedge their bets through reliance on expensive research and market data. Small brands have to rely more on guts and intuition, and a deep empathy for their customers rather than deep pockets for advertising.Read More