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Common Brand Problems

The Twenty Most Common Brand Problems


Brand Strategy Problems

After thirty years experience in brand management and marketing, I have directly advised more than 150 brands and indirectly advised (through educational workshops, Just Ask responses, pro bono work, etc.) more than twice that number. That is to say, I have dealt with many brands’ problems in one way or another. Here is my observation of the twenty most common brand problems.

  1. No one in the organization has a solid understanding of the brand’s consumers or their needs.
  2. The brand does not stand for anything and it does not promise anything. It is just a name and a logo.
  3. The brand touts a clichéd, unsubstantiated, meaningless point of difference (such as, we are the quality leader or the service leader or the innovation leader or, worst of all, just the leader).
  4. Brand messaging is helter-skelter. That is, it varies by audience, message vehicle, campaign, etc.
  5. A crisis occurs that reinforces that the brand was never really serious about its promise.
  6. The brand becomes a “whipping boy” for some social issue. Special interest groups that disagree with the brand’s policies target the brand for attack.
  7. There is little to no awareness of the brand in the marketplace. This could be because it is a start-up brand or because it is new to the specific geographic market.
  8. The brand’s less than stellar perceptions are due to product problems. The product may have quality problems or be inferior to its competitors’ products in other ways.
  9. Internal politics and organizational dysfunction lead to brand and customer service dysfunction.
  10. The brand and the organization behind it have rested on their laurels for far too long, not keeping up with consumer needs and industry innovations.
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Tribal Branding

Tribal Brand Strategy


Tribal Brand Strategy

With declining trust in traditional institutions, people today are increasingly using brands and consumption to express their identity and signal their values. Tribes come together under what they imagine are a shared set of values or emotions. An astute marketer can often help the tribe to link those shared values or emotions to its brand and its products or services.

The first step is to understand what the group values, what its rituals are and how people in the group behave when they are together. It is also important to understand how the tribe views the world and their place in it. This includes uncovering their beliefs and their hopes, fears, anxieties and aspirations. This requires intense ethnographic research – interviews, observation, and even spending significant time interacting with the group. From this, you discern patterns. Once you have refined and validated the group patterns, you can then determine how your brand might be able to link to or reinforce one or more of those patterns. One such way is through brand storytelling.

Brands that have the potential to become tribal brands (or that already are tribal brands) include Harley-Davidson, FOX News, Patagonia, Star Trek, Apple, Tesla Motors and MINI Cooper. It is important for people not only to have shared values and an intense interest in using the brand to signal those values, but also to seek each other out and share at least some aspect of the brand experience with each other.

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Place Branding

Place Branding Guide


Place Branding Strategy

According the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism “contributes 9.5 percent to the global economy in 2013…and could generate as many as 5.1 million jobs by 2015 in the G20 economies.” When one considers that businesses, residents and event and meeting planners also choose one place over another, it is no wonder that cities, regions and countries are branding themselves in earnest.

Places are some of the most interesting things to brand. This phenomenon has been labeled “place branding,” “geo-branding” and “destination marketing” among other labels. In some respects, branding places is no different than branding anything else. Finding the most powerful and unique image for the place (“unique value proposition” or “brand position”) is the most important activity. After that, building awareness is next most important. Both of these activities assume that the requisite research has been done with the most advantageous and receptive target audiences.

Branding municipalities is an interesting and complex activity. The target audiences are myriad and disparate, including at least the following:

  • Residents and potential residents
  • Businesses and potential businesses
  • Tourists/visitors
  • Meeting and an event planners (including convention planners and major sporting event organizers)
  • Transients (people passing through on their way to somewhere else)
  • Corporate commercial traffic

Each of these audiences has its own distinct issues and needs. And, there are typically separate place-based organizations established to market to each of these market’s needs – visitors & convention bureaus, economic development councils, business improvement districts, etc. The stakeholder groups mushroom into a large mix of potentially competing points of view when one adds mayor’s offices and district, county, provincial, state and regional entity executives and business, cultural institution and sports team leaders. This is why carefully orchestrating a branding project and facilitating consensus across all stakeholder groups is critical to a successful place branding effort. That is also why a place branding effort often takes much longer than a comparable product or organization branding effort.

Here is what tends to be important to each major audience:

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Brand Strategy

Building A Likable Brand


Likeable Brand Strategy

Ultimately, you want people to like your brand. So, what makes a brand likable? Think of a brand as if it were a person. And then think about what makes people likable. Here is my list of attributes that make people likable:

They are secure and self-confident

They are honest and have integrity

They keep their promises and are reliable

They are genuine, sincere and authentic

They are positive, happy and optimistic

They smile

They are not too serious, they laugh and they make people laugh

They ask questions and they truly listen to and try to understand the answers

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Branding: Just Ask...

Measuring Brand Equity In A Busy World


Brand Equity Measurement

Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers everywhere. Today we hear from Olusesan, a VP of Marketing in Nigeria who writes…

“I read your article on Measuring Brand Equity for B2B Brands and it was very meaningful. I am currently working on a Brand Strategy for my B2B company and the yardsticks you offer in your article make sense. However, I have a problem with kind of research tool that could be used. My Target market is mostly Nigerian mid to high managers/CEOs who will definitely not have time or will feel awkward to fill in surveys. I would like to know what kind of research tool is most appropriate for a market like Nigeria where people even hardly check their emails.”

Thanks for your question Olusesan. There are a few ways to address the problem you anticipate encountering with Nigerian business executives. Busy high status people often respond better if they are provided with a monetary incentive. For instance, when we seek the input of physicians, we often have to pay them $250 apiece to participate in the research. Some companies will not allow the personal receipt of such incentives, so sometimes we donate the incentive in their name to one of a few preselected charities or to the charity of their choice. Another option is to schedule a time for them to take the survey with their secretary or personal assistant. Calling them on the telephone to invite their participation and to follow up on their participation also helps.

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