Most brands get launch. They understand how to make a splash for a product on a day. But what do you do between splashes? How do you keep top-of-mind? And more importantly, how do you stop the inevitable awareness fade as the ripples from your big splash die away? If you’re Walt Disney, you start introducing shorts between your new features, just to keep up awareness of your most popular and lucrative characters. And you do so knowing that such a cue will reactivate interest and re-kick merchandise sales.
Cross-referencing in order to cross-sell. Nothing new in that – except that here it’s happening at a launch. When Disney released Cars 2 for example, audiences were reintroduced to the key characters from Toy Story in a six-minute short. As Albie Hecht observes in this article in BusinessWeek, “It’s a way to extend the characters and the brand without its fans waiting two or three years for a new movie.”
There’s a lesson here.
It’s tempting for brands to think of their products as separate offerings within an overall branding portfolio. They co-ordinate launches to work alongside one another. But what Disney’s strategy shows is how simple and cost-effective it is to provide customers with added-value experiences based on other brands in the stable that they already know and to use these to maintain relevance and top-of-mind between launches without cannibalizing on new offers. All Disney has essentially done is take a format that everyone knows – the movie short – and to elaborate it into an enter-mercial (my new term for a short-movie length commercial that entertains).
Just as interesting is where this development might point other brands.
When you apply the concept of provenance to brands, it becomes a concept centered on systematically and competitively ‘localizing’ what you’re about rather than diversifying to try and meet the generalized needs of the wider world.
So it’s about having a narrowcast brand: one focused to the point of obsession on a specific area of passion. Provenance is also about those other valuable ideas that the word in its original meaning conjures: focus; love; purity of thinking; authenticity; deep knowledge. That obsession can then be marbled through every aspect of the brand: language; environment; innovation; strategy …
People may worry that such devotion to a single idea will stifle adaptability, but my experience is that brands that see the world through the lens of an idea they subscribe to passionately are also able to find latitude and opportunity within that idea while growing a strong and devoted following. Far from being restrictive, being obsessive provides a framework for creative approaches.
The way I see it, brands increasingly have three powerful emotive strategies going forward: they can rule the world (scale); they can seek to change the world (activist or cult); or they can kiss the world (obsession).
It’s been said on too many occasions that actions speak louder than words. Said so often in fact, that many brands today seem to have a disregard that borders on disdain for taking the time to really think through what could make them outstandingly competitive.
In today’s manic, results-driven world, fewer and fewer people, it seems, feel they have time to strategize where their company and their brand needs be heading, and how to retain their edge. It’s better instead, they believe, to just get on with the business at hand.
Everything happens now. And as a result, considered is an idea that seems to have passed its use-by date.
Execution is the mot du jour. The best way to solve any problem is to do something. In fact, not just something, lots of things. Kevin Roberts calls this, “ready, fire, aim”. I call it stupid. Looking to reaction and sheer activity to get you out of trouble relies on the fallacy that doing something has got to be better than doing nothing. In fact, they strike me as equally dumb, because chances are that if indeed you are in trouble, you are where you are because of what you have been busy doing up until now. Indulging in more of the same action parallels having another drink to try and cure alcoholism. It’s just as likely to deepen the problem as fix it.
Remember that lovely moment in the TV series Blackadder when the General says they’re going to throw more men over the top at the enemy and take them completely by surprise. Captain Blackadder queries the surprise element of repeating an action that the British undertook “last time … and the time before that … and the time before that .. and so on” Precisely, says the General, and that’s why it’s so clever. Because doing what we’ve always done is the last thing that the enemy will expect us to do again.
As Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
As technology and globalized business models continue to deliver efficiencies and new opportunities, every sector will face disruptive pricing that in effect re-costs what the market would otherwise pay. Many of those movements will naturally be downward; others will lift the entry point. Amazon has effectively reframed the cost of books; Samsung and others are resetting the cost of owning a tablet; Tesla has redefined what an electric car is and also the cost of owning one.
But in response to competitor moves, so many brands make pricing changes without making changes to the brand at the same time. They simply react. As a result, their brand either ‘loses value’ or ‘becomes more expensive’ for no good reason – or at least none that the consumer can see. By simply shifting what Tim Smith has referred to as the “value exchange” without repositioning the premise by which they compete, these brands have in fact deteriorated both: there is less sense of value; and there is therefore less sense of exchange. Consumers are either getting more or less value than they were getting – for no reason that has been clearly articulated to them.
Rebranding your price is a useful strategy for brands who find themselves needing to adjust their pricing in competitive landscapes and who have the ability to improve, adjust or diversify their offering quickly so that brand, value and pricing align. It works because it effectively links what you’re asking with what you’re offering and what your consumers value.
If you are going to price up, you will of course need to use what you have access to in terms of innovations and value-adds to make the purchase feel more valuable. Or if pricing down, look for ways to actively make your brand more attractive to more people. Because as Seth Godin so rightly points out, “Every great brand (even those with low prices) is known for something other than how cheap they are.”
The flipside of a marketplace where brands encourage people to buy for emotive reasons is that brands also need to counter consumers’ personal reasons not to buy.
Some of these reasons may be legacy. Some may seem to be convenient self-interest. Others may look like they’re based on ignorance, bias, selfishness. They probably don’t make sense to you.
That’s important because…actually, it’s not. It’s not important at all.
The problem that matters is not your opinion of why your buyer won’t buy – it’s the fact that they have this opinion, that it’s rational to them and they have every reason to keep thinking it until they don’t want to anymore.
Chances are you won’t talk people into liking your brand. The most effective way to deal with an “unreasonable” objection is to counter with a riveting motive.
Most people think that means price. But simply dropping your price is no silver bullet. It doesn’t make you a more likeable brand. It may make you a more attractive brand – in the short term. But only until a better offer emerges.
We like brands for a range of reasons beyond what they cost: what they offer; what they stand for; how they recognize us; what others think of them; how familiar they feel; who they support; where they’re seen…Likeable brands build loyalty and affinity by leveraging how people react. They deliver based on what people value (not necessarily what they need).