The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
So many people misunderstand the role of brand. They think it’s a synonym for marketing, and marketing is a synonym for media spend.
- A brand tells people who to value and why.
- Marketing tells them how the brand is valued, and where to access it.
The purpose of your brand is to use that perceived value to provide you, through marketing, with sustained sales at a greater level of return than the market is inclined to give you over the longer term.
The objective of every brand should be to lift what people are prepared to pay, to motivate people to value you more than they would do otherwise. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a discount brand, a scale brand, a luxury brand or a cult brand, that’s the goal. It doesn’t matter whether these are boom times or bust.
If you’re not a brand, you’re a commodity. You are only worth the value that the market assigns. And in good times, many companies are happy with that. They stop spending, ride the commodity wave and bank the organic growth. They allow themselves to believe the increases are all their own doing.Read More
Actions and reactions are a strange two-speed dance in the context of market agility.
Reactions are the responses that competing companies must actually make together and in a co-ordinated manner to shifts in market dynamics and / or customer expectations. Doing so sets a new norm over which the participants themselves can then compete.
The airline industry generally, with the exception of the upper-market carriers, has reacted to economic pressures by dropping ticket prices and introducing fees for services. Shifting the emphasis from prestige to transport, and charging people for everything and the seat has reaped them billions. They did that together.
As this article on the resurgence of Hollywood ticket sales shows, movie-makers have responded to the surge in available content and home entertainment gadgets by delivering experiences that still make it worth their while for people to go out and see a movie at the theater – action-packed franchises, amazing sound, 3D; features that continue to make cinemas the biggest and best way to see a movie. Again, they did that together.
Both sectors have looked to change the overall rules, meaning there’s now a new collective sector playbook that in itself generates new standards, new expectations, new reactions and perhaps new competitors.Read More
Brands and customers part company for all sorts of reasons. Relationships are tidal. We outgrow the need for a brand or product, our tastes or priorities shift, we don’t live where we lived or work where we worked or spend our time doing what we used to do all the time, perhaps we decide to pass on the latest upgrade.
And, objectively, that’s a healthy thing. Those ebbs and flows provide markets with movement. They ensure that new players can enter and gain new customers and current players can change their position in a sector as they gain or lose followers.
Most brands have their heads around winning new customers. They seem less certain on how to say goodbye with good grace. But how you do that can, in the longer run, and in the context of your brand, be as important as how you welcome customers in the first place. Wishing them well on the next stage of their journey, and assisting them to start that stage in the best light, may well put you a lot closer to welcoming them back.
The critical thing is to stay true to who you are and what you stand for, while keeping your mind open to opportunities to improve. The key question is, why are they leaving and what can you as a brand learn from that?Read More
For some time now, brands have pursued difference. Spurred on initially by Jack Trout, they’ve positioned, disrupted, innovated…all with that elusive goal in mind. To stand out and stand apart from their competitors. Benefits, positioning, pyramids, strategies…a lot of time and energy has gone into trying to help brands achieve difference. Everyone’s been on that quest to become a Purple Cow.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m a Seth Godin fan and, inspired by that, the call for differentiation has been a recurrent theme in my own work, but there’s no denying that for the most part marketers have failed to live up to Godin’s call to recolor the livestock. Nigel Hollis has written previously here on Branding Strategy Insider that less than 1 in 5 brands is seen as distinctive by consumers.
One can of course read that as proof that Godin’s call is as relevant (and challenging) as ever. Or one can take it as meaning that the quest for difference is simply not one that works for the majority of marketers.
Three reasons why remarkable difference might be unattainable:
- Marketers get tempted into pursuing difference for difference’s sake and take their eye off the very people who buy their brands.
- Difference isn’t a motivation for consumers. People don’t go to the supermarket to buy what’s different. They buy what they know and what appeals to them. They buy what they remember. Different or not.
- In a world of product parity, increasing regulation, impatient investors and embedded management orthodoxy, meaningful difference is too hard to achieve. Consider this characteristically provocative statement from Mark Ritson: “[True] repositioning is almost always impossible. No matter how attractive it appears or how commonly we use the term in marketing, the actual business of changing a brand’s DNA and being successful is ridiculous…actually changing a brand from black to white…is a ludicrous notion. Even when you can fool the people into believing the change has occurred…you cannot change the fundamental nature of the way a brand does business.”
So what’s the alternative? Conformity? Hardly. Perhaps a little more latitude – and more focus on the human condition.Read More
One of my favorite questions when a brand leader tells me how much they intend to grow over the next 12 months is to ask them how much they think the market itself will grow. In other words, how much organic growth can they expect the market to give them just for participating versus how much do they think they’re going to have to “find” somewhere else?
If a sector is growing at 3 percent and the brand intends to grow at 20 percent, that 17 percent difference is going to have to come from somewhere, probably a competitor. How, I ask, do you intend to win that 17 percent and who do you intend taking it from?
Some back-reading from McKinsey turns up some interesting findings:
- Top-line growth is vital for survival. A company whose revenue increased more slowly than GDP was five times more likely to succumb to acquisition than a company that expanded more rapidly.
- Timing is everything. The companies that compete in the right places at the right times achieved strong revenue growth and high shareholder returns and are more likely to be active acquirers of other businesses.
- Company growth is driven largely by market growth in the industry segments where it competes and by the revenues gained through mergers and acquisitions. Together, they account for nearly 80 percent of the growth differences among large companies.
- Market share fluctuations by contrast account for only around 20 percent of growth differences among large companies.
“Seeking growth is rarely about changing industries – a risky proposition at best for most companies,” the authors conclude. “It is more about focusing time and resources on faster-growing segments where companies have the capabilities, assets, and market insights needed for profitable growth.”Read More