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Brand Storytelling

7 Ways To Craft A Brand Counter Story

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Brand Storytelling Sega Nintendo

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.

Consumers compare offers and in so doing they inevitably compare stories. They look for how brands fit the story of their life that they are telling themselves. Sadly, the stories that brands tell often focus on the world as they see it. They are a narrative shaped around their history and their vision for the days ahead, and they take their reference from the thinking and planning that have taken place internally.

Inevitably in most sectors, the stories of market leaders dominate. These brands set the rules and the expectations and as such they can have an undue influence on the stories that their competitors tell. They decide the market norms for the industry. That’s frustrating if you have a different brand approach and if you don’t want to be labelled as just another participant with the same attitudes and limitations as your rivals.

If your brand is struggling to get its story told in the face of a highly articulate and motivated competitor with strong market presence and plenty of resources, simply trying to out-shout them is a waste of time. One option to seriously consider is generating a counter-story; a narrative that deliberately sets out an alternative perspective in the minds of the people you want to reach. Challenger brands are ideally placed to use this strategy: in so doing, they can put distance between themselves and an incumbent and introduce new expectations into the market that they are best placed to fulfill.

Avis did this with Hertz. By introducing the idea that they try harder, they implied that their competitor was complacent and slower to act. More recently, Uber did the same to taxis – tell the story of an alternative way get from A to B that struck at the heart of a long-presumed narrative (although their story has since hit reputational and regulatory hurdles that they have yet to overcome). Sir Richard Branson is the master of this strategy. He doesn’t introduce another offering into a market without contextualizing it as a very different approach to the one that everyone has got used to. He uses counter-story to weave a tale of what could and should be.

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Brand Value & Pricing

9 Factors That Help Anchor Your Brand Price

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Brand Pricing Strategy Anchor

Behavioral economists refer to the decision making process brands use to set a price in the minds of consumers, especially when those buyers are dealing with something that is unfamiliar to them, as “anchoring”. Anchoring provides a reference point from which to perceive and negotiate “worth”. Brands looking to set a high value on what they offer anchor highly; brands looking to position themselves as accessible and everyday do the opposite.

De Beers anchored the value of their rings around “two months’ salary”. The message to purchasers – in this case, men in a jewelry store (perhaps the ultimate social fish out of water) – was that it will hurt but it’s worth it. At the other end of the value scale, when Coca Cola originally positioned their “delicious, refreshing” drink at 5c a glass, they were sending a clear signal to drinkers that Coke was the affordable beverage everyone could enjoy every day. Both messages were on brand, even though they presented vastly different value propositions.

De Beers’ “price” of course takes no reference from the actual cost – how can it, given that two people could have very different salaries? But then, neither for that matter, does Coke’s.

One thing is certain. In this age of ‘fair pricing’, what companies charge is certainly a topic that incites a lot of debate, as the reactions to this article about the cost of making a designer T-shirt prove.

I’ve found brands often look to reference their pricing on what they think a product should be worth (in their eyes) rather than how valuable it might be to a consumer and more particularly, how its anchor price compares with the other anchors that consumers see around them, and draw reference from, every day.

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Brand Definitions

21Different Types Of Brand

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WWF 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 my reckoning, brand is categorized in at least 18 different ways. (So much for the single minded proposition!). In no particular order:

1. Personal brand – Otherwise known as individual brand. The brand a person builds around themselves, normally to enhance their career opportunities. Often associated with how people portray and market themselves via media. The jury’s out on whether this should be called a form of brand because whilst it may be a way to add value, it often lacks a business model to commercialize the strategy.

2. Product brand – Elevating the perceptions of commodities/goods so that they are associated with ideas and emotions that exceed functional capability. Consumer packaged goods brands (CPG), otherwise known as fast moving consumer goods brands (FMCG), are a specific application.

3. Service brand – Similar to product brands, but involves adding perceived value to services. More difficult in some ways than developing a product brand, because the offering itself is less tangible. Useful in areas like professional services. Enables marketers to avoid competing skill vs skill (which is hard to prove and often devolves to a price argument) by associating their brand with emotions. New online models, such as subscription brands, where people pay small amounts for ongoing access to products/services, are rapidly changing the loyalty and technology expectations for both product and service brands – for example, increasingly products come with apps that are integral to the experience and the perceived value.

4. Corporate brand – Otherwise known as the organizational brand. David Aaker puts it very well: “The corporate brand defines the firm that will deliver and stand behind the offering that the customer will buy and use.” The reassurance that provides for customers comes from the fact that “a corporate brand will potentially have a rich heritage, assets and capabilities, people, values and priorities, a local or global frame of reference, citizenship programs, and a performance record”.

5. Investor brand – Normally applied to publicly listed brands and to the investor relations function. Positions the listed entity as an investment and as a performance stock, blending financials and strategy with aspects such as value proposition, purpose and,  increasingly, wider reputation via CSR. As Mike Tisdall will tell you, done well, a strong investor brand delivers share price resilience and an informed understanding of value.

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Customer Experience

Why Price Establishes The Brand Experience

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Brand Pricing Strategy

What’s the difference between a budget airline and a pig? Pigs fly more often – and on time. Harsh perhaps, but it’s a reminder that in a market, there is always a price to pay, and the price is not just about money down.

Some people will be happy with budget. It’s worth a cancelled flight or two for the savings they make. For others, that’s far too high a price to pay for a few dollars saved.

Years ago, I was in a workshop where three people in the group were asked to make the business case for luxury over economy. The team made their case in a pointed and dramatic way.

First, they invited the wider group into a huge open sunny space, where sofas were laid out. Each person was escorted to a sofa and provided with bubbles and hors d’euvres. There was a sign on the wall that read $3000. Then, we were invited into a second room. This room was smaller, and instead of couches there were seats. Each person was asked to sit where they wanted and they were provided with a cup of coffee and a magazine. The sign on the wall read $1000. Then we were pushed and hustled into a third room. It was dark and small, with no outside windows, and instead of chairs we sat at school desks all bunched together in one corner of the space. Each person was told where to sit and all they were given was a glass of water. The sign on the wall read $500.

When we returned to the workshop meeting room, there was a simple question waiting for us. It read: Which room would you rather pay to spend 12 hours in – and why? Then we were asked: Which room would you rather pay to spend 2 hours in – and why?

You can imagine the discussion.

Each person will trade off what they get vs. what they pay as they see fit. Some would rather fly on the plane and stay in an economy hotel no matter what the length of the journey. Others will want the reverse. And that model transposes almost everywhere you look. The main cinema vs. the gold lounge. The budget burger vs. the gourmet burger. Supermarket vs. deli. The cheap perfume vs. the eau de Cologne. Environmental vs. irresponsible.

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Brand Storytelling

Every Brand Price Point Needs A Story

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Brand Storytelling Strategy

The temptation is to see story as a luxury item: something that brands implement to lift their margin. There’s nothing wrong with that of course – it’s powerful and it works. At The Blake Project we don’t think that story is just a top-end nice-to-have. Our view is that most brands, no matter where they are priced in the marketplace, need a storyline.

To understand why, first let’s think about the alternative. Without a storyline, a product is just that. It has everything it needs (hopefully) to do what it’s being bought for but that also means it’s just another detergent, car oil, computer, whatever …That makes it highly vulnerable to house brands and to cheaper versions of what amounts to ‘the same thing’. It also means markets get packed very quickly with variants of the same idea that rapidly diminish the value equation –  think of Groupon and its 425 competitors.

This problem of course only becomes more acute as you move down the value chain – meaning that at the very points in the market that are most crowded and where competition is highest, the chances of finding differentiation are diminished, and much of the marketing amounts to little more than a rowdy discounting squabble based on ‘unbeatable pricing’. Case in point, of course, those positioned in middle and lower markets should be upping their back story to compensate for this lack of differentiation.

The real power of story is that it provides context, in two senses. First of all, it helps consumers differentiate an offering by attaching more than just functionality to a product. It can also help them understand why a product is priced the way it is – up or down. The discount airline Ryanair are masters of this. Their price is a clear call to the market – don’t expect much, because you’re not paying much. And everything they do revolves on that premise. They do have a storyline, albeit an unusual one, based it seems on minimalism.

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