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Category: Brand Building

Brand Building

Brands And A New Law Of Market Physics

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Market Physics

Chris Anderson once observed that every abundance creates a new scarcity – and vice versa. So if digital is the abundance, what’s the new scarcity? I think it’s analogue – and by that I mean the things that are hard to reproduce and share quickly.

Books used to be like that. They could be reproduced but only with a high level of determination. They could be forwarded, but really only one copy at a time. No longer. Once a book exists as a file or a link, reproduction time and difficulty of access plummets. So does price.

The new law of market physics it seems to me is:

Ability to charge for value = inability to forward effortlessly

Special experiences, for example, retain their value because they’re not easily cc’d. TED has huge analogue value. Sure, I can watch and share the videos but the atmosphere, the conversations, the networking – these are things that affect each attendee individually and so are impossible to reproduce generally. To really get what TED gives, you have to be there. And you have to keep coming back and paying again and again to access more TED experiences.

So what does that mean for brands? It hints at an irony: a business model where the thing that makes you popular is not where you make the money. And the things that make you money are sufficiently removed or different from what makes you popular in order to be limited.

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Brand Building

Brand Building: Energy Versus Focus

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Brands require huge levels of energy. They need to be promoted, they need to be maintained, they need to be serviced … just to keep them going. And that can lead some to believe that that is all they need. Surely, if you invest enough energy in this brand, it will succeed.

You see this in those interesting exchanges which begin, “We’re going to spend this … and we want to achieve this”.

I would argue that the emphasis needs to be reversed, “To achieve this, we’re going to have to spend this …”.

There are some important distinctions in the order of these statements. The first emphasizes the spend (energy) and ties it, hopefully, to an outcome. The second statement begins with the outcome and attributes a required level of energy to achieve it.

A lot of marketers put their hope in the first approach. Egged on by the planners, they spend up and then wait for the tide to come in. It’s a little like saying that you’ll put a certain motor in a car and aim for it to reach a certain speed. It may work. It may not.

The other approach is much more mechanical. Start with the outcome, and then determine the level of energy required to achieve it, both in ideas and spend. But it’s an approach that makes the creatives and the planners sweat because the emphasis is on actions and results rather than impressions. And it shifts the focus – from “what shall be spent and where?” to “why should that amount (or more) be spent?”

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Brand Building

Brand Building With The Power Of Suggestion

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We’re much more susceptible to the power of suggestion than many of us might like to think – at least that was my take-away from more reading from Time: this time on how brands use buying suggestions to entice us to buy more than we might otherwise.

The article quotes John T. Gourville, a Harvard Business School professor of marketing who specializes in studying pricing strategies. Consumers, he says, tend to follow the suggestions listed in brochures or store aisles, so people tend to buy the amount, or buy in increments, that are advertised. If they see five for $5 or 10 for $5, they buy five or ten, regardless of the fact that they normally buy three.

And that, as the article points out, is the key strategy here: to get consumers buying more than they would if there was no sale. It seems we respond positively too to the suggestion of limitation – imposing a limit of two per customer or six per customer incentivizes people to buy right up to that limit. The article concludes, “this is the power of suggestion at work, and it has little to do with whether the item’s sale price is good, or whether you, the consumer, actually wanted any of that soda at all.”

So, if you want to increase how people respond to your brand, make suggestions. Try with this, add that, good with three of those, best value when you buy six of them…and then look to put a limit on how many.

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Brand Building

Why Brands Are Loved

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Recently, the research firm APCO Insight released its list of the top 100 most loved companies. Their study measured consumer attachment to brands based on eight emotions: understanding, approachability, relevance, admiration, curiosity, identification, empowerment and pride. There are some interesting results. Yahoo beat Google. Disney beat everyone (OK, maybe that’s not so much of a surprise) and Apple came in at ninth (which certainly would surprise many).

According to the study:

  • The tech sector outperforms across all emotions, and rates especially well on relevance, meaning people see these brands as fitting with them and playing a meaningful role in their lives. But they could inspire more curiosity.
  • Retail brands are seen as highly approachable but people are less enthusiastic about wanting to be associated with them.
  • Restaurants are also approachable for the most part, but they don’t appear to help consumers feel as confident or self-assured as they could.

So what does this tell us about how we react to brands? Why is one brand more loved than another and are the criteria for loving a brand changing?

My thoughts:

We love the brands that help us love ourselves: the brands that we feel “get” us, welcome us and empower us. The rise of tech in APCO Insight’s research shows just how much devices have mainstreamed their way into our psyche. Machines telegraph our own currency (and therefore relevance) to others in addition to being relevant to us. More broadly, brands help us resolve things – personally and for those around us. There’s a lovely thought that explains this in this article by Joan Khoury – a good brand, she says, “is an exterior way out of an interior crisis.”

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Brand Building Brands & Consumers

Brands And Beliefs

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For me, brands, and more particularly the cultures that support them, should be seen as belief systems rather than pure-play marketing systems. Purpose, values and ethics are the oxygen of successful marques because they inspire consumers to see qualities in the brands they choose that make them feel more human, more real and more desirable.

This year, one of my favorite thinkers, Tom Asacker, published a new book, his fifth, titled The Business of Beliefs. It’s an examination of how and why we assimilate beliefs and what we do with them. And of course it’s a discussion that is highly pertinent to all marketers because not only are brands today in the business of belief, but they only work if the people in the business believe in what they are there to achieve.

I caught up with Tom recently and asked him to tell me more. Here’s my “greatest hits” from what he had to say:

1. Wishes drive beliefs

Tom: The word “belief” comes from the Middle English “lief,” which means to wish. Belief is simply a working assumption about something or someone … driven by what we would wish something to be.

2. People forge meaning out of partial information

Tom: Stories are powerful because they express our beliefs. We make meaning out of partial information … We have past experiences, which we spin into a coherent story, and revise when necessary, to rationalize previous actions and make us feel good about ourselves, our associations and decisions. I refer to this as “connecting the dots”.

Some brands are very good at presenting us with “dots” — through their varied and evolving communications and behaviors — such that we create a coherent and motivating whole. Apple is the classic example. People wanted to believe in the exclusive and unique quality of the Apple brand, so much so that they were willing to pay a premium and evangelize the brand. So Steve Jobs orchestrated every single touch point, including something as seemingly insignificant as the product packaging, to communicate and enhance that belief.

3. Brands are actually in the business of generating meaning

Tom: People’s expectations change, because their experiences in the marketplace change and their desires evolve. Great brands lead [that] change. It’s a process of continuous learning, discovery and creation of new meaning, which drives profitable growth and adds value to the lives of customers, employees, owners, partners, and the community. [Brands work for us because] it’s impossible to consciously evaluate all of our daily choices and decisions. However, when the choices we make are not giving us the outcomes we desire, it’s time to pay very close attention to [our] beliefs.

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