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Brand Strategy

New Requirements For Brand Strategy Success?

by

Brand Strategy Red Bull

A while back, I talked to Chris Stutzman, VP, Principal Analyst
of the CMO Practice for Marketers and Agencies at Forrester. The company had
conducted a survey about how engagement with brands might be changing, and
Chris wanted to gather opinions on what the findings meant for the future of
brands.

Chris proposed that branding is the ongoing quest for relevance.
He suggested that the classic model of branding involved marketing activity to
create equity and drive willingness to buy, pay a premium or buy more, i.e. buy
a new line extension. Chris suggested that in the classic model of
marketing, equity is a function of relevance, differentiation, credibility and
projected leadership (he spoke mostly about share of mind).

He then suggested that Forrester’s research had identified a new
need, one I would describe as the need to “level up” in gaming parlance. Chris
suggested consumers are holding brands to a higher standard today. With lots of
good quality brands and plenty of copycats, people are spoilt for choice. So
brands need to create demand based on additional factors. He identified four:

1. Societal contribution, e.g. as detailed in Jim Stengel’s Grow.

2. Pride, e.g. not just a signal of status, but the feelings enjoyed by the user.
For example, one person I  spoke to
recently told me that they feel “righteous” when they drive their Toyota
Prius
.

3. Special experience, e.g. Amex or Red Bull hosting exclusive events
for customers and consumers

4. Indispensable value, e.g. enhancing the value
of the offering to a “must have”. (He did not give an example, but I would
assume that the Apple ecosystem of iPod + iTunes would fit)

You can read more about Chris’s viewpoint here.
Subsequent to our conversation, a few more thoughts occurred to me as I
discussed these ideas with colleagues:

  • Are there only four basic ways to level up? Surely there must be
    more? My colleague, Phil Herr, suggests that some brands exhibit cultural
    empathy, and cites Pabst Blue Ribbon beer as a brand that has found favor among
    bicycle messengers because it “gets” them.
  • These all seem like premium brand strategies. Is there a
    countervailing trend that says, “All brands are the same, I’m smart and I’ll
    buy the cheapest”? Phil suggests the same strategies do apply to value brands
    like Pabst Blue Ribbon, but are pursued less often.
  • Last but not least, James Galpin rightly pointed out that these
    strategies are in fact not new. He notes that John Lewis, Co-op and Quaker, all
    built brands based on a societal contribution, and that Amex has been
    sponsoring tennis at Queens in London and giving free tickets out to card
    holders (usually via a competition) for the last 20 odd years.

I suspect that James is right. These brand strategies are not new.
They tap into basic human motivations and have been used by savvy marketers for
decades. I suspect the reason we see more efforts to “level up” is less to do
with the consumer (they have always valued things that are meaningful) and more
to do with the world of business and marketing. With over supply in many
categories and fast followers everywhere, then functional differentiation is no
longer sustainable. You have to take it to the next level to ensure that your
brand stands out from the crowd.

So what do you think? Are these brand strategies new? And what other brand strategies might
marketers employ in order to “level up.” Please share your thoughts.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Nigel Hollis, Chief Global Analyst Millward Brown

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4 Comments

Ddesk on January 11th, 2013 said

I come to think of Kevin Roberts book “Lovemarks – The future beyond brands”. And “Loyalty beyond reason”. Have you read that one? He mentions some more “ways to level up” your brand management. And I think he (and you) are spot on!

Dan White on January 11th, 2013 said

I don’t necessarily think these strategies are new but I think that with social media and the explosion of digital consumption that more is now expected of companies. Twenty years ago it was very difficult for companies to regularly interact with customers. Today, it is not only expected but often demanded. With that in mind, brands have had to raise the bar on that interaction to keep customers engaged.

Hilton Barbour
Twitter:
on January 14th, 2013 said

I’d agree these strategies aren’t new but merely being accelerated (or augmented) by connectivity and technology.

My boilerplate comment would be that “socially-conscious and connected consumers demand socially-accountable business”. Too long for a t-shirt but a truism I’d suggest.

Consider the velocity of movements like The 99%, Idle No More here in Canada, and the surge of protest in India following recent tragic events. While those were seen as politically-motivated, I’d suggest they highlight how angry consumers feel about social issues and inequalities. If your organization or brand is culpable – or merely seen as apathetic on these issues, you can expect as passionate a backlash.

Thanks for your blog. It’s always great brain food.

Emily
Twitter:
on January 18th, 2013 said

I think these strategies aren’t necessarily new, but marketers are forced to go beyond traditional methods in order to compete in today’s market place. While these listed approaches “tap into basic human motivations and have been used by savvy marketers for decades.” I think there are new technologies that get at really understanding people, through personality traits, which will lead the next generation of innovative marketing.

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