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Category: Brand Strategy

Brand Strategy

The Future Of Brand Competitiveness

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Competitive Brand Strategy

Three seemingly unrelated articles got me thinking today about the future of brand competitiveness in a world where the competitors are increasingly globally scaled.

Conventional knowledge suggests that brands square off in the arena of public awareness. Each party assembles its awareness and loyalty generators and then launches a charm offensive to consumers offering them multiple reasons and multiple channels to choose them over others. In the fight between big and big, that’s a relatively straightforward competition. But how do you take on the biggest brands in the world if you are a much smaller marketing force or if you’re looking for an alternative strategy?

Perhaps you do so by not taking them on directly. And perhaps you don’t take them on alone. The thought for this came from an article by Stan McChrystal on the lessons he learned in Iraq: that a massive and powerful adversary can be seriously affected by a much, much smaller force that leverages its network and moves quickly to find points of vulnerability. The relevance of McChrystal’s point, that it takes a network to defeat a network, for business today is captured neatly in this thought. “Our organization was designed for a problem that no longer existed; we had brought an industrial age force to an information-age conflict…I believe this same challenge confronts organizations in every sector of the modern environment.”

Now combine that idea of competing via a wired network with this one from an article on the branding of global dissent: that a brand centered on principle will act as a powerful cohesion point for diverse people. As the article points out, people will address issues together, under a banner, that they would not address individually. From the article: “[Gene] Sharp … in 1973 outlined “198 Methods of Nonviolent Action” in the first of many of his works that provide a road map for orchestrating protest movements around the world…Sharp’s list defines how to create a unique and recognizable identity for a movement. It recommends establishing “symbolic colors,” slogans, caricatures, sounds and symbols in service of the greater cause” Brand, by any other name.

How do these ideas come together? They suggest that a powerful brand strategy may lie in applying the same principles to the way a brand competes. That, instead of going head to head, companies could employ an asymmetrical brand strategy; one that coalesces people into a network centered around a “protest”- based principle (using social media for example) and then uses that principle as a guerrilla tactic to compete with rivals at points where they are most vulnerable.

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Brand Strategy

Brands And The Evolution Of Surprise

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Samsung Brand Strategy

Capturing surprises likely started with the invention of the camera and it seems we will never tire seeing how ordinary people react in extraordinary situations. The popularity of sites like Upworthy has helped call attention to the kind of surprises that give people hope — the single mother of three who works as a maid is asked to clean a house not knowing that it is about to be given to her; the science fair winner whose family went bankrupt is awarded a full scholarship to a major university. While media coverage reports on an unending series of potential disasters deemed newsworthy, shareworthy news finds home and life on our social networks.

This presents a unique opportunity for brands that demonstrate authentic intent. The key difference is that these types of surprises do not just improve someone’s life, they transform it. That’s what makes us cry when we see the commercial. We identify with the sensation of hope and we’re rightfully quite hungry for it.

Samsung and Leo Burnett produced a huge stunt for an ad campaign in Turkey. One of the town’s residents was hearing impaired and in the month that it took the agency to set up cameras around the town, they taught all of the person’s neighbors sign language. The gist of the ad is that he goes out about his business and the store clerk “speaks” in sign language to him. Then a woman bumps into him on the street and also signs to him. Finally, when he gets into a taxi, the driver signs to him before we get to a heartfelt reveal: an entire community united as never before.

Watch “Hearing Hands” by Samsung

This was part of an advertisement for Samsung Turkey’s new video call center for the hearing impaired. Of course, there is much more going on here than just a campaign for a video call center. Both Samsung’s brand leaders and the strategists from Leo Burnett are very smart. They see, globally, that this type of “upworthy” content has high share and engagement rates. Sure, the ad is for a call center, but via social networks a global audience will see it. Here it is on BuzzFeed.

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Brand Strategy

6 Ways To Keep A Brand Leadership Position

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Brand Leadership Strategy

Everyone talks about growth and for the need to become a market leader. But once you’ve become the number one player, then what? What do you do after that to retain the lead you’ve worked so hard to get and that has now made you the target of everyone else’s aspirations?

More of the same is not a strong enough answer. Eventually, your competitors will catch up, and others will see your success and look for ways to move in and capitalize. Here are six ways that you can proactively work to protect the gains you have made.

1. Change the rules in your favor. As the dominant market player, you have a major influence over the dynamics of the sector. Shifting the way the sector competes and/or the very nature of the product itself changes the ground for all. It forces your competitors to find new ways of doing what they know, pushing them onto the back foot and into reactive mode. By changing what’s delivered, what’s mattered, even what’s possible, you fundamentally rewrite the rules for everybody. The difference is you are the one with the playbook. Others are forced to wait and see what you do next or to guess where the game is going.

2. Expand your influence. In this article, Philip Kotler quotes Jack Welch who challenged his people to redefine the market to one in which your company has a share of no more than 10%. His examples include Coca Cola, which sought to define itself as a beverage company rather than a soft drink company, and Taco Bell, which saw opportunities to expand its footprint from in-store to everywhere. While we could debate whether either company has acted on those realizations to anything like their potential, that doesn’t mean that the expansion strategy itself is not valid, particularly where related markets have weak players that will make gaining a foothold relatively easy. Changing the market space within which you work brings you capacity for expansion and stops you stalling as the biggest fish in the pond (where growth is limited to how quickly you can organically grow the market you already dominate).

3. Build new relationships. Leaders like other leaders. If your brand dominates a market, are there bridges you can build with other non-competing brands that will benefit both parties. Those relationships could be in the form of joint ventures, partnerships or sponsorships. While insurance companies, quick service restaurants, autos, telcos, hospitals and beer all sponsor NFL teams to various degrees, 100% of NFL properties report having Gatorade as a sponsor. By tying themselves so closely to the billion dollar industry of professional football, Gatorade have taken their profile out of the fridge and onto the field. They have literally made themselves part of a very big game.

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Brand Strategy

Brands And The Ability To Devastatingly Disrupt

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Brand Disruption And Innovation

Last year on Branding Strategy Insider, Thomson Dawson wrote a provocative and challenging article about “devastating innovation”. Brands that weren’t prepared to innovate far beyond their comfort zone, he suggested, would be devastated in the blink of an eye. What’s more, the fallout from such innovation would reach far beyond immediate competitors to wither those who never would have imagined they were at risk.

That fallout, he suggests, can even be unplanned by the companies themselves. “Google Maps wasn’t originally created to help people find their way – it was about gathering more information about users to sell more search based advertising,” Thomson reminds us. “I don’t think the innovators of Twitter had any idea their innovation would become the de facto method for breaking news, leaving powerful and influential media companies flatfooted.”

I’ve always been of the view that the most powerful industry change happens with, or makes, a powerful brand. And I found an article from some years back that posed some fascinating and timely questions. Written at the height of Apple’s brand popularity, the article asked whether readers would like the iPhone as much if it had come from Redmond instead of Cupertino?

Take a current Microsoft product, writer John Dvorak suggested in the piece, and ask yourself how you would feel about it if it came from a small start-up with a trendy name? Now, take the same product and ask yourself how you would feel about it if it were from Apple? Now take a product that is successful for another brand, and ask how would you feel about it if it had come from Microsoft?

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Brand Strategy

Overcoming Unwanted Brand Associations

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Brand Associations

When the concept of near field communication payment, or NFC mobile payment platforms, as they are known, became popular at the start of the decade, there was a rush from several suppliers to claim the lead.

A payment method that used your mobile phone, or even the case you carried it in, to make small instantaneous purchases held all kind of advantages over more traditional forms of payment.

With big players such as Google intent on owning the space, three US mobile networks, Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile, joined forces to create their own network-backed NFC wallet.

In 2010, the nascent company chose Michael Abbott, the former chief marketing officer of GE Capital, as its new chief executive and set about building the offer. Abbott, who is no stranger to start-up businesses, was unconcerned about Google’s head start: “Lycos and AltaVista were first in online search,” he explained to Forbes magazine in 2011. “This is not about being first but getting it right.”

Alas, things started to go wrong for Abbott when he opted for a brand name that “captured the simplicity of our mobile wallet experience”. He called his new company Isis.

I have sympathy for him and his now tainted organization. How was he to know that less than three years later a name that communicated simplicity and peace would be associated with insurgent Islamic fighters and the creation of a paramilitary Caliphate? Unlike other branding unfortunates who rebranded themselves despite their ignorance of the negative association that their new name evoked, Isis could not have predicted the disastrous associations ahead. Mitsubishi should have known that a pajero was a Spanish man who masturbated himself into unconsciousness before it used it for its latest 4X4. Just as Ernst & Young should have checked before it renamed its firm after a gay, soft porn magazine. These companies had it coming to them but Isis was plain unlucky.

So what are the branding options available to Isis in light of the rise of its deadly namesake to one of the prominent and threatening names today? There are four options.

First, rebrand. In the face of what can only be a stream of negative associations, the company could simply move fast to shift identity before any real damage is done. It’s a tricky option because Isis has successfully spent the past three years building both strong brand awareness and a very attractive position in the market.

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