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 Management
One of the intriguing aspects of understanding brands is that one must be prepared not just to balance but to actively address the contradictions that humans happily live with. Blogger Daniel Walsch sums up those inconsistencies beautifully: “We want to be alone. We want to be part of groups. We are benevolent. We are selfish. We want to be independent. We want guidelines. We are self serving. We are generous. We stick to the truth. We shade the truth. We have violent tendencies. We desire peace. And on and on it goes.”
Brands mirror that humanity in the pace at which they are increasingly asked to compete. And that pace is simultaneously handbrake and accelerator.
Handbrake – in that customers want consistency. They want brands they can recognize, that they feel they know, that make sense to them, that they can depend on. They want brands that they can just reach for, without giving them a second thought. They want brands that feel like part of their normal, ordinary lives. Customers look to recognition and reputation as guidelines for brand preference. They form their longest-lasting impressions from those elements, which as we all know, take years to build. These static elements underpin the very structure and nature of the brand itself: identity and story. That’s why Coke is Coke and Chanel is Chanel. We know them. They are deeply and intrinsically familiar to us as trustmarks.
But, at the same time, and in virtually the same breath, customers also want foot-to-the-floor excitement. They want brands to stimulate them, to give them new things to think about, to upgrade and improve what they get for their money. They want their brands to solve problems for them, give them things to talk about, to be interesting. This sense of excitement is part of what entices people to buy. New products and regular updates are how a brand gets noticed in a world thirsty for the new and the shiny. Which is why the world goes crazy when its favorite brands release new versions or do things they’ve never done before – like have a man front for an iconic perfume. Because, in today’s “upgrade culture”, patience is a diminishing virtue. Increasingly, as I have pointed out before, all brands, not just clothing and lifestyle brands, are adopting the speed and dynamics of fashion.Read More
In this post, Nigel Hollis explores a fundamental misalignment. Brand owners tend to view customer experiences in isolation, by channel, whereas customers of course view and grade their experiences cumulatively.
Tom Asacker captures why customers think this way. A brand, he says, is “one, interdependent system of behavior”. The problem is that in too many organizations the “system” has many masters and each wants independent control of their domain. CMOs, who might be expected to have responsibility for the overall experience as of right, do not. That’s because large chunks of the interface with customers, and the factors that influence that interface, remain for the most part outside of their control. They do not fit neatly into the “normal” org chart definition of what constitutes marketing.
And when multi-lateral ownership makes contact with a unilateral expectation, just as at Penn Station, the scene is set for disappointment. As a result, there is significant potential for the system to jeopardize itself at any time, at any weak point – through bad training, bad coding, bad quality, bad service, bad news, in fact bad a-lot-of-things.
In seeking to remedy this, marketers have confused the questions. They have asked “What must I own?” and judged it as synonymous with “What must I run?”, then involved themselves in a struggle for control of data in order to have access to better insights. From an internal point of view that seems to make sense – but again, viewed from an external perspective, the misalignment is obvious. Customers don’t judge a brand on what it knows. (In fact, as Brian Solis has rightly pointed out, they often don’t know what marketers know about them.) Instead customers simply judge a brand on how it succeeds for them.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.
Sponsored By: The Brand Positioning Workshop
Join us at The Un-Conference: 360° of Brand Strategy for a Changing World
May 6th and 7th, 2014 in South Beach, Florida
A unique, competitive-learning workshop limited to 50 participants (Selling Out Quickly)
As in the marketplace — some will win, some will lose, All will learn
In an age where products are increasingly similar and of equal quality, the opportunities to compete just on the basis of what you sell are disappearing. In fact, I’d go further than that and say, they’re as good as gone. Even if you know that your product has some sort of technical advantage over that of a rival, the chances of you continuing to hold that advantage or of that advantage being of such significance that consumers actually care are as good as nil.
So given that – how do brands look to compete? By my book, as product parity rages, competition between brands in today’s world is increasingly waged between stories and intentions. Both inside and beyond the walls of the corporate owner.
That’s because, for customers, tell me what has been replaced by tell me why as the shelves overflow with look-alike products.
And for employees, tell me what to do has been replaced by tell me why we are doing this as rules give way to reasons.
In this context, purpose is no longer a lofty description of what you want to achieve as a business. It has to be a description of what you think must change, and it needs to provide inspiring reasons for staff to take that journey.
To build a successful purpose, I believe you need 5 things:
1. An enemy – something or someone to direct a whole lot of pent-up energy towards. That’s not necessary a competitor. It can, for example, be a situation. As Tom’s have shown, your enemy can be altruistic such as the fact that so many children are without shoes.
2. Motivation – something that is worth expending that high energy for.
3. Curiosity – the wish to probe what you do in order to find how you’re going to pull off the purpose you’ve set yourselves.
4. Authenticity – a culture that commits to being real and truly sharing.
5. Zag – a purpose that is noticeably and inspiring different to what everyone else says they are trying to do.
Get it right – and you have a cause that is powerful enough for hundreds of people to leap out of bed every weekday morning and get to work. They are quite literally looking to make a change to the world they believe in because, as Hugh MacLeod expressed it so perfectly, “Life is too short not to do something that matters”.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