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.
In a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, Benjamin Franklin commented on the likely permanence of the U.S. Constitution, saying “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
This is an adage that marketers would do well to remember. Just as there are no certainties in life, there are no certainties in marketing. When marketing a brand, the best we can hope for is to maximize the potential of a positive outcome and minimize the risk of a negative one. We cannot ensure that someone sees our ad, follows our brand on Twitter, or ends up buying it; we can only create the conditions that maximize the probability that they will do so. We cannot guarantee success, if for no other reason than the fact that our actions do not take place in a vacuum. Not only must we identify a compelling strategy and execute it well, but we must also do so better than the competition, who will be working just as hard to undermine our efforts.
To maximize the probability that people will buy our brand, we need to start by identifying what makes the brand meaningful and different. Meaningful differentiation is most powerful when it is tangible and functionally based. The Toyota Prius, the Nintendo Wii, and Red Bull are all brands that created new categories, outside the established norms of their product category. By stepping outside the bounds of their categories, these brands created a space that they can call their own. Their advantage may not last, but the Nissan Leaf, Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, and Hansen’s Monster Energy not only have to deliver a compelling product experience, but they must also overcome mental barriers to competition. Being salient – first to mind when a need arises – has always been a powerful driver of sales, and being known as the category creator is a powerful way to gain that position.Read More
Every product or service category is governed by a set of assumptions that define the space in which the established brands compete. Every now and again, however, one brand asks the question, “Does it have to be this way?” This is exactly what T-Mobile is doing to cell phone carriers in the USA. As the underdog to Verizon, AT&T, and Sprint, T-Mobile has decided to find competitive advantage by changing the game.
As David Pogue notes in a recent post, T-Mobile has burned every bridge between itself and other providers by ignoring some long-established and highly profitable business practices as far as the U.S. cell phone category is concerned.
First to go was the two year contract. Then, what Pogue calls the Great Cellphone Subsidy Con (that’s when the monthly fee does not drop once you have paid off the cost of your handset subsidy). And now T-Mobile is abandoning the gouging international roaming fees that cell phone companies have traditionally charged U.S. customers traveling overseas.
As Pogue notes:
T-Mobile (is) basically prancing around, demonstrating that Emperors Verizon, Sprint and AT&T have no clothes.
As a result, in the second quarter of 2013, T-Mobile reports it signed up 685,000 new customers — more than Verizon, AT&T and Sprint combined.
Essentially what T-Mobile has done is to tap into the longstanding resentment that most U.S. consumers feel toward cell phone carriers. They believe that the game is rigged in favor of the company maximizing its profits and that they are trapped since the alternatives all play by the same rules. By abandoning practices that are no doubt profit generators in favor of a more transparent business model, T-Mobile obviously expects to benefit from a significant increase in new customers.Read More
Marc Pritchard, Procter & Gamble’s global brand building officer, proclaimed digital dead at Dmexco and urged marketers to look beyond the pipes and plumbing of digital and social media to what really matters: engaging people with creative campaigns.
In his speech, Pritchard suggested that marketers need to:
Try and resist thinking about digital in terms of the tools, the platforms, the QR codes and all of the technology coming next.
Instead, he suggested:
… the future lay in building brands with campaigns that matter, make people think, feel and laugh. We have the chance to do all of those things now in a way that is so much more exciting than we did before.
Pritchard is correct to suggest that digital is dead. These days the division between digital and traditional exists only in the minds of marketers and engineers. Consumers simply see digital as part of their day-to-day lives.
Over 2 billion people now access the Internet worldwide, about one third of the global population. Facebook reaches one seventh of the world’s population. And in a few years’ time, smartphones will ensure that the reach of both is even greater. But the people that use these tools do so in conjunction with all the other aspects of their lives: relaxing, shopping and exploring. So a brand that is encountered online is no less a real world encounter than when it is seen in a store.
Pritchard alludes to another good reason to declare digital dead. The current fixation with pipes and plumbing has led to a back to front focus on how to do things rather than what the brand needs to achieve.Read More
Oscar Yuan, at Millward Brown Optimor, has written a really interesting Point of View about innovations in marketing. In it he suggests that marketers are moving from talking to doing and references brands like Citi, which has created new utility for consumers through its bike rental program. Now I read that Kleenex has joined the ranks of brands seeking to create value beyond their immediate functional benefit.
According to Jack Neff of AdAge, Kleenex will be rolling out My Achoo, a proprietary forecasting model using Centers for Disease Control data. The advantage of using My Achoo is that it claims to predict where flu will strike within the next three weeks with 90 percent accuracy. Not only will the site forecast specific cities likely to be hard hit, it will also allow consumers to get regional updates by entering their zip code.
Unlike some of the other “added value” schemes which simply seek to garner increased saliency through name recognition, the Kleenex initiative aims to impact sales more directly. Alerting consumers to the advent of flu gives them a chance to stock up on those all important facial tissues ahead of time. And Kleenex is not shy of making that case in traditional TV ads and also plans to deploy a “Kleenex Checkpoints” traveling promotion that will follow the My Achoo predictions to new cities as the flu season progresses.
What I like about My Achoo is that it is a marketing initiative that is still related to the brand’s core purpose, and it does not ignore the fact that making a strong connection between a need and a brand is the most direct way to drive sales.Read More
I suspect that everyone knows that copying is big business in China. Copying can range from specific products to entire stores (as in the case of Apple). But it took a visit to Qingdao to remind me that sometimes all you need is to leverage an existing brand’s equity to make money. You can just take a well-known brand name and stick it on your own product and package.
Intriguingly, the copycats are something of a brand themselves in China. They are collectively known as “Shanzhai.” Historically, shanzhai refers to a mountain stronghold and was used as a metaphor to describe bandits who evaded corrupt authorities to perform deeds they saw as justified. Today, the word refers to manufacturers who copy existing products and seek to evade taxes and legislation.
Many Chinese feel a sense of pride when they see a cheap copy of a Western brand. They believe it reflects well on the ingenuity and resourcefulness of the Chinese people. And if you can buy something that looks like the real thing but with more features and at half the price, why not? So the Shanzhai are respected more than they are reviled. But as I noted above, you don’t have to actually copy a product in order to benefit at someone else’s expense. Sometimes all you need to do is leverage their brand equity. Chinese companies have become very clever at mimicking more successful brands.
Sometimes the imitation is borderline. Qingdao is located near the famous and beautiful Laoshan District. Home of both the Taoist and Laoshan spring water. above you can see a Laoshan Cola that looks remarkably like the Chinese packaging for Coca-Cola (on the left). It would be easy to mistake one for the other.
Sometimes, however, you find something far more iniquitous. Browsing through the shelves in a corner store in Qingdao, my colleague Derrick Dong and I came across the shampoo brand shown below. At first glance I assumed that Gillette had entered the hair care category in China. But a closer look suggests that this is not a Gillette product at all, since the name actually reads: GITTELLC.Read More