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.
Category: Brand Building
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?
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.”Read More
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.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’ve said for some time that brands seem to be taking more and more of their prompts from the fashion industry – in how they act and how they think. Not surprising, given that the upgrade economy now demands that brands refresh and update their products with increasing frequency. Indeed as Matt Baxter-Reynolds points out in this article on the likelihood of an Apple iWatch, “over the past dozen or so years Apple behaves more like Louis Vuitton and Prada than Microsoft or Samsung.”
That being the case, it’s interesting to look at fashion journalist Suzy Menkes’ recent observations on the pace at which the fashion industry itself is now forced to work, and to ask whether we can expect the same behaviors across the wider brand spectrum.
Once, says Menkes, a handful of fashion houses produced four seasonal collections. But today, with thousands of designers in the marketplace, promotional shows in Asia, Dubai and Brazil and between-season showings, the industry has 138 fashion weeks worldwide, and schedules that pack in up to 264 shows over five days. That’s an ongoing blur of collections – shown, noted and then forgotten as everyone moves onto the next thing.
The world today is, as Bite describes it, “always-on”. And that constant need for connection, interaction and conversation requires ongoing subject matter – an investment that is rewarded, cruelly, with less and less attention, as tweets and posts are made, read, applauded or disregarded. Paul Adams’ observation that “audiences are building relationships with brands in the same way they build relationships with their friends – through many, lightweight interactions over time” rings alarmingly true.
Which is ironical isn’t it, because on the one hand, research from Edelman and others clearly shows that consumers want their brands to be meaningful and ethical and yet, at the same time, they want to be able to pay them only passing attention. Mean something in a moment – consumers seem to be increasingly saying – and mean something we next visit you. But don’t expect ongoing interest by way of reward.Read More
Everywhere there is revolution and disintegration. Wave after wave of technological innovation comes upon us more rapidly, engulfing us, confusing us more profoundly. Few marketing organizations have successfully navigated through the disruptive forces of globalization and commoditization.
There are two fundamental realities marketers face in this brave new world:
- Ideas are now more valuable than process
- Move up the value chain or be cast aside
Through all this creative destruction, in the form of our current economic reality, the dead wood is being cleared from the system, making way for more innovative players to take hold and prosper.
Many once beloved and dominant brands have surrendered their leadership position to scrappy startups who offer more. Amazingly, the rules of the game change in real time even as we all play along. Improvisation, once shunned by corporate organizations, is now considered an essential strategic business skill.
Yet, through all this disruption and confusion, it’s an exciting time full of opportunity for those big thinkers and dreamers who view it as such. If you’re a marketing executive charged with defining the perception of competitive advantage for your brands, the implications of this disruptive age are of significant importance to your future.
Creating relevant and differentiated value for people is less and less derived from the attributes of product features and benefits, and more from the quality of the experience customers have through their association and engagement with your brand.
Brands are not things they’re emotional experiences. Creating these experiences, and the use value they offer, is the result of an integrated creative process of design.Read More