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Category: Brad VanAuken

Brad VanAuken Brand Education

Superior Marketers And Their Brain

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One of the reasons I love marketing is because it requires both sides of the brain to be a truly skilled marketer. While some highly intuitive leaders have achieved great success from their intuition alone and while some advertising agency “creatives” have created brilliant campaigns without the benefit of research, most truly gifted marketers know how and when to use each side of their brain.

For instance, it is important to create “out-of-the-box” stimulus to present to customers in research, but it is also important to know which research technique to use and in what order questions should be asked to minimize biasing. It is even more important to know whether the research was constructed in a valid way that can be relied upon. If you are a marketing researcher, CRM expert, direct marketer or product manager, analytical skills and metrics are very important. If you are developing advertising campaigns, you had better have a very active right brain. The same is true if you are developing out-of-the-box publicity approaches.

One must know when to listen to research results and when to ignore them.  And one must be able to understand why qualitative research findings might differ from quantitative research findings and what to do about it. Sometimes analytics will indicate a particular market segment, product benefit, pricing strategy or merchandising strategy can take your brand to the next level. But it is equally as important to be able to get deep inside your customer’s head to understand his or her deepest values, attitudes and motivations.

So, what skills are important for a top marketer? A highly skilled marketer should possess each of these skill sets:

  • Psychology – understanding human motivations in a deep way, knowing what makes people “tick”
  • Selling – intuitively knowing what words, phrases and approaches connect with customers and cause them to want to buy what you are selling
  • Communication – outstanding and persuasive written and oral communication skills
  • Interpersonal skills – good listening skills, personal charisma, being likable, connecting with others easily
  • Analytical skills – understanding budgets, financial statements, marketing research design, data analysis and statistics
  • Broad cultural knowledge – knowing what your customers are exposed to and what is informing their fears and desires
  • Broad exposure and experience across multiple disciplines – to stimulate creative connections between seemingly unrelated things

This is why I think of marketing as a “gestalt.” It is also why mediocre marketers outnumber marketers who are operating at a high level of functioning by a wide margin. Finally, it is why it is difficult for someone who is not a marketer to gauge the competence of any given marketer.  In the end, it is this constant back-and-forth between right-brain and left-brain that makes marketing so fresh and interesting.

Sponsored byThe Brand Positioning Workshop

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Brad VanAuken Brand Architecture

Brand Strategy For Mergers And Acquisitions

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Today on Branding Strategy Insider, we’re taking another question from the BSI Emailbag. John, a Chief Marketing Officer in New York, New York asks…

“My company has acquired another organization, which has its own family of brands. What implications will this have on my brand and my brand management efforts?”

There are product and branding implications, both of which you should have considered before the acquisition. (There are also organization-alignment issues, which are beyond the scope of this response.)

For instance, there might be product overlap. What do you intend to do about that? Is the acquired organization in unrelated product/service categories, complementary product/service categories or the same product/service categories? If the latter, how much product/service overlap is there and will you rationalize the offerings to reduce or eliminate the overlap?

The next set of questions are branding related. For the brands that your organization purchased, do you intend to maintain them as separate brands, brands endorsed by one or more of your brands or sub-brands of one or more of your brands or do you intend to rebrand them with your brand names? The relative strength of all of the brands in question should at least inform this decision. Do the brands have high awareness and positive associations among their target markets? If they do and you are purchasing them, part of the price you paid is likely to be for the value of the brands themselves. In this instance, it would unwise to eliminate these brands, at least in the short-term.

If your intent is to eventually rebrand everything with your brands’ names, then you might consider a transition period in which the acquired brands are linked to the acquiring brands before they are eliminated.

Brand architecture decisions, especially related to mergers and acquisitions, can be complicated. We would be happy to guide you through this process. Thanks again for your question John, we wish you much success with your brand architecture strategy.

For brand marketers interested in more on brand architecture start here.

Have a question related to branding? Just Ask The Blake Project

Sponsored byThe Brand Architecture Workshop

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

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Brad VanAuken Brand Architecture

Brand Architecture: The House Of Brands Strategy

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Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. To that end we’re happy to answer your marketing questions. Today we hear from Kakha, a global brand manager in Tibilisi, Georgia who writes:

“I read with great interest your thoughts regarding brand architecture strategy. What do you think motivates Procter and Gamble to choose the house of brands strategy? What can be done to reduce risk in the event one of its brands fails?”

Thanks for your brand architecture (The logical, strategic and relational structure of multiple brands) question Kakha. P&G, Unilever and other consumer packaged goods companies began as houses of brands. Their classical approach to brand management required a brand management team, marketing budgets and financial management for each brand. Each brand targeted its own market with its own brand position and marketing mix. This pre-dates the widespread emergence of branded houses in the 1990s. Some time in the mid-to-late 1990s, companies across the USA and beyond began to understand the value of the corporate brand as a financial asset and became much more serious about managing the brand at a senior level in the organization. This is when my senior level brand management and marketing position was created at Hallmark Cards. One of the earliest books focused on brand management was David Aaker’s “Managing Brand Equity,” first published in 1991.

It’s important to note, branded houses are much more cost effective than houses of brands as there are far fewer brands to manage and support. Some consumer packaged goods companies have explored more closely linking the parent company brand to what were always individual unrelated product brands managed by separate brand teams. Brand/sub-brand relationships and brands endorsed by parent brands can provide higher brand recognition and the parent brand’s stamp of quality assurance on individual product or product line brands. However, in the case of traditional consumer packaged goods companies, the brands that traditionally had the most equity due to years of support were the individual product brands, not the corporate or parent brands.

Thanks again for your question, we wish you much success with your brand architecture strategy.

For brand marketers interested in more on brand architecture start here.

Have a question related to branding? Just Ask The Blake Project

Sponsored by: The Brand Architecture Workshop

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

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Brad VanAuken Brand Building

Brand Building And Fear

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Unfortunately, fear is still the primary motivator among humans. I say unfortunately because I would hope that one day we would transcend our fears and be motivated primarily by our highest dreams and visions. It would lead to a much more utopian world.

Never the less, as I lead up to a brand marketing point, here is a partial list of some of our most common fears (in no particular order):

  • Fear of flying
  • Fear of dying
  • Fear of heights
  • Fear of the dark
  • Fear of intimacy
  • Fear of commitment
  • Fear of crowds
  • Fear of making a mistake
  • Fear of rejection
  • Fear of abandonment
  • Fear of change
  • Fear of the unknown
  • Fear of damnation
  • Fear of public speaking
  • Fear of being discovered as an imposter
  • Fear of germs
  • Fear of clowns
  • Fear of snakes
  • Fear of spiders
  • Fear of wild animals
  • Fear of drowning

And marketing messages certainly play off of fear. Consider the opposite of each of these marketing claims. With our brand, you will feel:

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Brad VanAuken Brand Positioning

Defining Your Competitive Frame Of Reference

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Choosing the most advantageous competitive frame of reference is a very important part of brand positioning. Earlier on Branding Strategy Insider I shared how Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute redefined itself from an engineering school to a place where technological innovation thrives (why not change the world?®). I shared how The Strong Museum redefined itself from a children’s museum to THE place that studies and explores play and American University redefined itself as a place for WONKs, focusing on its location in Washington, DC and even its association with public policy. In all three of these instances, the brands intended to move from more crowded categories to a category of their own creation in which they became the only (category-of-one) brand.

I have also explored how to define the category that a cola brand might be in. Is the category colas, or carbonated beverages or soft drinks or non-alcoholic beverages or all beverages or rehydration or human liquid consumption or refreshment or something else?

What category is Dasani Drops in? Perhaps the tagline defines it – “flavor enhancer.” Does this mean that the category is not flavored water? How does that help Dasani Drops competitively?

There are hundreds of professional associations and societies in health care, reflecting the degree of complexity and specialization in that field. We are working with a professional society in health care that develops physician leaders. Is their competitive frame of reference professional societies for physicians, professional societies for physician leaders, professional societies for health care executives, professional development for health care administrators, leadership development for physicians or something else? While these may all seem similar, depending on what they have chosen, their competitive set and unique value proposition changes, especially in this crowded field.

Just as choosing the most advantageous target customer definition is not a trivial exercise, so too is choosing the competitive frame of reference. Choosing a competitive frame of reference based on the most powerful motivators for the target customers can lead to a previously undefined category in which your brand has few, if any competitors. That category definition helps your brand own the benefit more quickly before any other brand is able to claim it. Being able to redefine the category requires out-of-the box thinking.

If interested, we have tools to help you explore category description alternatives, including those that can transform your band into a category-of-one.

Sponsored byThe Brand Positioning Workshop

Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
Featuring John Sculley May 16-17, 2013 in San Diego, California
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 100 participants
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn

Read More