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.
John Costello, president of global marketing and innovation for Dunkin’ Donuts, has not yet read my new book, The Meaningful Brand, but his comments at the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing conference (ANA), as reported by Karl Greenberg in the Media Daily News, certainly makes it sound like he has.
The idea at the heart of The Meaningful Brand is that marketers must know what it is about the experience of their brand that makes it different from the alternatives in the eyes of its consumers, otherwise they risk seeing the brand commoditized. It does not matter how salient your brand is if consumers do not appreciate what it does for them – functionally or emotionally – or cannot justify choosing it over the available alternatives. The more succinctly you can identify your brand’s meaningful difference the more effective your marketing is likely to be.
Costello seems to agree. Part of his message at the ANA was that if marketers can’t say what the brand is in a sentence or two, it will get lost. Costello states that Dunkin’ Donuts has a real clear point of differentiation which he sums up as, “how everyday folks who keep America running keep themselves running every day.” While Costello does not break down Dunkin’ Donuts meaningful difference his commentary lines up nicely with the framework detailed in the book.
The Meaningful Brand explores four component parts of a meaningfully different brand experience: purpose, delivery, resonance and difference.Read More
Though times have changed, the foundational principles of good marketing have not. People still value things that they find meaningful and are predisposed to choose things that stand out from the crowd. Strong, profitable brands are meaningful to their consumers, perceived as different from the competition and are more salient – they come to mind more quickly and easily than the alternatives.
Brands exist in consumer’s minds as a network of associations and feelings. Marketing should seek to shape, enhance, and strengthen motivating associations, the ones that will lead to financially valuable behavior – a predisposition to buy the brand, pay the price asked, and a willingness to buy it again. To do that, however, marketers must see the world as their consumers do, not through the lens of personal objectives and experience. Market research of all kinds will help inform that viewpoint, but only if marketers are willing engage with that research to identify the opportunities to make their brand more meaningful and valuable to its consumers.
Importantly, however, the understanding of the brand’s meaning must be shared across all corporate and agency stakeholders in order to architect an experience that exemplifies its purpose. A clear, succinct statement of what makes the brand meaningfully different in the minds of its consumers is the standard against which all actions should be judged. Does an action enhance that meaning or dilute it? Failure to align the brand experience with expectations created in marketing communications will only undermine the long-term value of the brand as disenchanted consumers tweet their discontent and walk away. Successful alignment will result in satisfied consumers who are more than willing to advocate a great brand experience and pay for it.
Excerpted from my new book The Meaningful Brand with permission from Palgrave Macmillan publishing.
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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