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The Deeper Role Of Marketing



Having spent much of my career as a marketing professional in a marketing driven company, Hallmark Cards, and having spent many of those years in a division entitled Product Discovery & Development, I understand that the primary value of marketing is to discover unmet customer needs and to develop products, services and experiences to meet those needs.

At Hallmark, we used an elaborate process to identify and qualify new business opportunities. It all started with ideas/concepts and marketing research.  Our environmental scanning manager identified emerging societal trends. We explored the needs and desires of various market segments – the mature market, men, teenagers, etc. We conducted ideation sessions, tested concepts, conducted depth interviews that included laddering exercises, conducted focus groups, performed volumetric forecasting based on a normative database of previously tested concepts, conducted attitude and usage studies, held product co-creation sessions with consumers, performed ethnographic research and test marketed the more promising ideas. We sometimes used conjoint analysis to refine a product concept, building the optimal mix of functions and features into the product.

I remember research in which we gave hundreds of teenagers cameras and told them to take pictures of whatever they wanted. We learned a lot from that. I remember focus groups with the mature market in which we discovered the big opportunity was tapping into the grandparent/grandchild relationship. And I remember the “aha moment” when we discovered the power of giving services and experiences as gifts. We explored the power of personalization, which led to our Image Gallery joint venture with Kodak. Our attitude and usage study of various Hispanic and Latino markets led to the development of Primor, our Spanish language line of products. And our research of the male market led to the development of a relationship concierge service.

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Brand Management

Building Brands That Inspire


Brands and the organizations, products and services that they represent must deliver real customer value. That is, they must address real human needs and desires.  And they must do so for monetary and convenience-related costs that deliver at least a reasonable, if not an outstanding, value. So, brands should deliver real functionality. Often, the most visionary and innovative brands and the ones that make the best use of emerging technologies are best at doing this. So are brands that are backed by operationally excellent organizations and whose organizations stress outstanding customer service.

Having said that, there is a less tangible, but equally, if not more important element to branding – what the brand stands for symbolically. Research has shown that most decisions are made emotionally. And people are emotional beings. A brand that has a clear and admirable mission, vision and purpose, that has strongly articulated brand values, that is associated with important ideas, that takes a strong stand for what is right – that brand will win people’s hearts and loyalty. Further, research has shown that these brand associations can be created well before the product or service purchase or usage experience. And they will actually enhance the product purchase and usage experience even though these associations are completely intangible.

While some brand managers, depending on organization structure and roles, may have control over the more tangible brand benefits, every brand manager should have control over the symbolic brand values and associations. And this is where the magic occurs. I encourage you to think deeply about how your brand can inspire people, how it can make them feel good about the state of the world. Take your brand to the next level. Take it beyond functionality to the world of compelling ideas and emotionally moving values.

Sponsored ByThe Brand Positioning Workshop

Where Marketers Evolve: The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
May 6th and 7th, 2014 in South Beach, Florida
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 50 participants (Selling Out Quickly)
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn
~In Partnership with the American Marketing Association and the Miami Marlins~

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

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Industry Issues

The End Of Brands?


I recently read a New Yorker article entitled “Twilight of the Brands” written by James Surowiecki. In it, he posits that with the advent of the Internet and the comparison shopping and consumer feedback that it enables, consumers have more perfect information about product alternatives including their quality and value. Therefore, there is far less need for brands to offer those assurances. In the article, Mr. Surowiecki says that Interbrand argues that brands help people sift through the overwhelming amount of information, simplifying their product choices, however he points out that people have learned how to sift through an enormous amount of information efficiently and effectively, negating Interbrand’s argument. I follow Mr. Surowiecki’s logic and largely agree with his premise. Where we part ways is in the definition of a brand. Implied in his discussion is that brands are a communication overlay to products and are largely created by advertising. I had a similar reaction when I first read Naomi Klein’s book, No Logo. I followed her logic too and there is much that she said that I agreed with. But when she talked about the evil of brands it seemed to me that she was really talking about the harmful effects of consumerism and our overly commercialized society.

I have always thought about brands as personifications of organizations and their products and services. In this way, they can embrace values, have personalities and make promises. Further, they can consistently deliver on those promises building trust and loyalty or they can fail to deliver on those promises, creating distrust and disloyalty. In a way, brands help bring a human perspective back to organizations, especially in their interactions with their customers. That is, they provide a vehicle through which organizations can build relationships with their customers.

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Brand Storytelling

Branding And Universal Myths


If brands tell stories, it might be useful that those stories are informed by the universal myths that recur over time and across geography and culture.  These myths resonate with people at a very deep level. They are about coming to grips with our mortality, making sense of our lives and reconciling the individual experience with the infinite. So, what are the myths that emerge in one form or another again and again?

  • Creation Myths: Why are we here? Where did we come from? How did it all begin? What was the first cause? What is our place in the universe?
  • The Earliest Times: What are our roots? What is our lineage? Who were our ancestors? What were their customs? What were their lives like back then? What trials and tribulations did they have to endure? What can this teach us about our lives today?
  • Flood Myths: Was there once a great earth-wide tragedy? What was its nature? What caused it? Why did it occur? Could it happen again? If so, what could we do to minimize its probability of recurring? How fragile is our existence?
  • Great Loves Stories: What is perfect love? What is divine love? What ecstasies and traumas are associated with true love? Can two people that love each other ever really be permanently separated? Can love conquer all?
  • Morality Tales: Are there moral tests? Would I pass them? What can an immoral person expect? What are the consequences of immorality? What are the consequences of specific immoral acts? How does an immoral person’s life end?
  • Hero Myths: How does the hero save someone or something from disaster or destruction? What bravery and courage does the hero exhibit? What is the hero’s reward? In what ways am I a hero? Can we all become heroes, at least in some small ways?
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Brand Architecture

Brand Architecture Strategy Guide


Brand architecture is the logical, strategic and relational structure for your brands or put another way, it is the entity’s “family tree” of brands, sub-brands and named products. Brand architecture addresses each of the following:

  • What the overarching branding approach is – master brand, brand/sub-brand, endorsed brand, stand alone brands or some combination of these
  • How many levels of branding should exist
  • What types of brands exist at each level
  • How brands at different levels relate to each other, if at all
  • Decision rules for creating new brands
  • Which brands’ identities are dominant and which ones are recessive
  • What types of names the organization uses – coined, associative descriptive or generic descriptors – and in which circumstances (usually controlled by decision rules)
  • Which brands are features in each and every media, vehicle, situation and circumstance (e.g. business cards, stationery, product catalogs, website, shipping boxes, vehicle signage, employee uniforms, building signage, etc.)

Organizations often find themselves at a stage in their development in which the number of brands and named products that they are managing has gotten out of control. This could be due to a series of mergers and acquisitions or just the continuous growth of new products and services over time. These organizations find that their portfolios of brands and other named entities have gotten too difficult or expensive to manage. Frequently, there are no naming standards. Each new product or service is named as it is created, with no view to the overall picture. And sometimes, employees are creating variations or new versions of existing brands for entities and programs such as internal training programs, company picnics or employee reward programs. If some or all of this applies to your organization, you likely need help clarifying and simplifying your branding structure.

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