From start to finish 2015 was a generous year in terms of learning opportunities for marketers. The shaping forces of markets, consumer behavior, over-communication, category disruption and the speed in which our discipline is changing reminded brands who were the strong, who were the weak, what was successful, and what missed the mark. You were there. We were too, with one big advantage — your help.
Thank you Branding Strategy Insider readers for offering your ideas, questions, suggestions, opinions and sometimes opposing views. You have helped shape us as authors, educators and brand consultants, and have helped make Branding Strategy Insider the leading resource for marketing oriented leaders and professionals.
As we soar into a new year, let’s look back on the 25 most read thought pieces of 2015 on Branding Strategy Insider. From first person accounts of iconic brand strategy to shifts in brand architecture, brand differentiation and storytelling strategy to detailed steps for brand development, we kept our focus on the needs of marketers in a changing world. We learned, we enjoyed and we wish the same for you.
1. The Brand Brief Behind Nike’s Just Do It Campaign: Just Do It is an example of a brand campaign that tapped deeply into the authentic character of Nike’s brand values and brand purpose. But, few people know about the internal conversations that led to the ad brief that went to Nike’s agency Wieden+Kennedy (W+K) to create the campaign. Until now. (An exclusive first person account of events)
2. Twenty-One Different Types Of Brand: We often talk about “brand” as if it is one thing. It’s not of course – in fact, the meaning and the use of the term differs, quite markedly, depending on the context. By our reckoning, brand is categorized in at least 21 different ways.
3. The Rise Of The One Brand Strategy: The biggest brands are moving down the brand relationship spectrum away from the more independent, pluralistic architectural options typified by the house of brands and towards the more controlled, singular positions that occupy the bottom of the chart.
4. The Death Of Digital Marketing Is Upon Us: Marketing has been changed, and changed utterly, by the digital deviation. At a tactical level our discipline is barely recognizable as the one that started the new century. But on the strategic plane, it is very much business as usual.
5. Developing A Powerful Brand Purpose: A sizzling brand purpose sets out how a company intends to change the world for the better. Its role is to unite customers and culture alike in the pursuit of that intention. It’s a statement of belief, of hope, of pursuit.
6. Seven Rules Of Brand Management: 1. Remember Your Roots. Brands too often forget about or ignore their origins, and marketers in the English-speaking world are the guiltiest of it. For example when Starbucks lost its way, the real problem was that it forgot its origins. It took former chief executive Howard Schultz to return to the company and help rediscover its roots.
7. Luxury Brand Strategy: Considering a luxury brand strategy? Begin with the fundamentals. Luxury brands don’t start with prestige and premium – they begin with a founder who inevitably comes from the middle of society rather than the top. Madam Chanel was an orphan, Guccio Gucci a merchant’s son from Florence – founders are artisans not aristocrats.
8. The Differences Between Brand And Reputation: Brand and reputation are tightly linked but not synonyms. They share approaches and goals. Both are shaped by communications and both seek to improve perceptions. But they are different and every marketer should know how and why.
9. Eight Ways To Build A More Valuable Brand: We talk a lot about the pressures on brands to perform and about the difficulties of staying competitive in huge and rapidly changing markets. Nevertheless, global brands experienced a 12 percent increase in value in 2014 – and there are powerful lessons for all those responsible for brands in how they did that.
10. Seven Signs Your Brand Is Losing Focus: If your brand feels like it’s drifting, here’s 7 sure signs that you’re not focusing on the right things.
11. Seven Components Of A Powerful Brand Strategy: A powerful brand strategy combines ‘the logic and the magic’ – that mix of rational and emotive elements that, together, combine to give a brand engagement, connectedness, distinction and focus.
12. Is Brand Differentiation Still Possible?: Short answer – yes it is, but not in the way it was. We’ve been drawn into the innovation myth – the belief that brands can invent their way to market dominance. Most brands will never do that.
13. How Brands Make Emotional Connections: Emotional connection is one of the five drivers of customer brand insistence as outlined in our BrandInsistence brand equity system. (The other four drivers are awareness, relevant differentiation, value and accessibility.) The consumer must first know your brand, then like your brand, and finally trust your brand and feel an emotional connection to it. People become emotionally connected to a brand for a number of reasons.
14. Brands Need To Be More Interesting Or Else: Marketers love what they do and with good reason. It’s exciting, stimulating and inspiring to work on a great brand. But the rise of ad-blockers proves something no-one wants to admit. Brands are failing to maintain interest. Consumers want out of the messaging. Literally.
15. Three Phase Brand Development Strategy: Strong, enduring brands are built upon a rigorous understanding of themselves, their customers and the competitive marketing context. The following brand development strategy is one that has been used across different categories and industries with great success.
16. Ten Reasons Why Rebrands Fail: Plenty of brands try to re-set the market’s understanding of their brand and are well and truly spanked for doing so. If rebranding is the hot topic of conversation at your place right now, here’s 10 reasons to leave things as they are.
17. Five Things I Learned Building The Starbucks Brand: Five things that helped shift Starbucks onto a more soulful and iconic brand development path. (An exclusive first person account of events)
18. The Costly Brand Strategy Of Playing Not To Lose: Playing not to lose cost Reebok their advantage over Nike. Ground they have never regained. Brand marketers must never lose sight of this, no lead is safe and the only strategy is to play to win.
19. Seven Ways To Craft A Brand Counter Story: Stories add to the humanity of brands. They help consumers think through and act upon a narrative that is fundamentally rooted in human truths. Stories generate empathy. We see ourselves in the tale. Or we see a side of ourselves. Or we see the ‘me’ that we would like to be. Without that narrative, everything is dominated by features, data and discounts.
20. Integrating Business Strategy And Brand Strategy: Brand strategy, business strategy, business model strategy and competitive strategy need to be a finely woven tapestry.
21. Why Leading Brands Are Hard To Beat: If your task is to try and gain market share on a leading brand, you have a much more difficult task. Rather than spending a huge amount of money on the supply side with lower prices and promotions in what will still likely be a fruitless exercise in taking over the leadership position, your time and money may be better spent on innovation. Are there opportunities to speak to shifting consumer needs?
22. Stop Creating Meaningless Brand Values: Whether your company is able to find a path to distinctiveness or not, you should at least stop spending valuable company time coming up with and then disseminating lists of values that are the same as everyone else’s and do nothing to advance a company’s performance or operating practice.
23. Why Price Establishes The Brand Experience: Price, when it is talked about, should be the clear and present underwriter of the experience. Chanel shouldn’t ever seem cheap. If it is cheap, it’s a fake. Walmart shouldn’t seem expensive. Neither should Coke.
24. Building Brand Connections In A Digital World: For brands to gain meaningful connections through story sharing on the social web these three pillars must be present.
25. Celebrity Brand Licensing: Barry Williams: Barry Williams literally grew up in front of America as Greg Brady, the oldest of the Brady sons on the hit TV show The Brady Bunch. We sought him out to find out more about what it was like to grow up Brady, what brands can learn from a show that has never stopped airing and what opportunities exist with his iconic brand.
*26. (Honorable Mention) Eight Keys To Transforming Brand Culture: You don’t fix what’s not working by doing more of it. That’s true of cultural performance; and it applies equally to how companies should approach cultural transformation for their brands.
Join the Branding Strategy Insider team at The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, May 2-4, 2016 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals.
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