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Category: Brand Strategy

Brand Strategy

6 Ways To Finding Your Brand’s Next Strengths


Strong Brands

How do brands keep improving? If you’re already a market leader, where should you expend your energies to future-proof your business? A lot of the advice we read in the business press focuses on weaknesses and vulnerabilities and what needs to be fixed and updated.  But if highlighting what isn’t working doesn’t work for your brand culture, maybe take your cues from the strengths movement and focus on further improving where you already shine.

This approach works particularly well with upbeat cultures that value performance and achievement. If motivation is already strong, talking about what hasn’t happened will only serve to dampen energy levels. Instead, I suggest you concentrate on your recognized organizational capabilities and look for ways to elevate these to new levels of proficiency.

Here are six areas in which you can lead your brand from strength to strength:

1. Product strengths – if you already have a distinctive and highly respected offering, use that kudos to your advantage. A lot of brands still focus on the technical supremacy of what they are doing. They bang the “quality” drum. There’s no point in doing that – it just draws you into a features war. Instead, use success to position your brand as the authority in the space. Seek trust supremacy. It’s harder to counter. By driving thought leadership in the sector, and presenting the success of your products as proof of that leadership and the difference you have made for your customers, you can look to shift market perceptions and consumer inclinations in your favour. Make your products the proof and the expression of what you think rather than the other way round.

2. Channel strengths – if you are readily available now, use that accessibility to your advantage. Be the easiest brand to buy. Look for ways to increase the range and volume of encounters that people have with you in the channels they know. If the problem is over-familiarity, perhaps look for ways to access new channels or markets that will help consumers see what you offer in new, even unexpected, contexts. The risk here of course is incongruity – your brand quite literally looks out of place. But done well, a change in venue can help change not only where people see you but how they value you. Where could you be that others aren’t? And why would you prosper being seen there when others wouldn’t?

3. Competitive strengths – if you have high-performing teams that thrive on bettering their rivals, use how you compete, who you compete against and the collective appetite for competitiveness to your advantage. Raise the bar by setting an outrageous vision for the brand and challenge your people to make it happen. Don’t present this as a new goal. Rather, explain it as a resetting of the horizon and communicate why you need to make this journey now. The critical balancing act is to temper ambition with support, so that teams agree on what needs doing and move forward together rather than looking to discard the individuals they perceive as the weakest links. Clear targets and communication of achievements need to be backed by training, recognition, resourcing and opportunities to collaborate that help people feel what is being asked for is do-able, desirable and achievable. Then expect your people to perform, and hold them accountable to agreed targets. In today’s market, powerful brands harness their energy from the inside and use it to out-pace and out-muscle others who are lethargic or complacent.

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Brand Strategy

Building Habit Forming Products


Brand Habits

Nir Eyal spent years in the video gaming and advertising industries. I first became aware of his work through his articles (his work can be found in Harvard Business Review, The Atlantic and TechCrunch) and his blog. Recently he released the book “Hooked” in which he promulgates a process that he says successful brands can embed in their products and communication approaches to subtly encourage shifts in customer behavior.

Habits are one of those subjects that intrigue marketers. How do we get our brands onto the “to do” lists of busy people with short attention spans and access to extensive choice? Then, having got their attention and their loyalty, how do we keep them? According to Eyal, “Forming habits is imperative for the survival of many products. As infinite distractions compete for our attention, companies are learning to master novel tactics to stay relevant in users’ minds. Amassing millions of users is no longer good enough. Companies increasingly find that their economic value is a function of the strength of the habits they create.”

Absolutely agree. Share of mind (and potentially market) is increasingly dictated by share of day. But knowing that and achieving it are two different things. And that’s the focus of this new book. The secret to achieving habit leadership, says Eyal, lies in pulling consumers into what he’s dubbed the Hook Model. The Model itself consists of four steps:

  1. Trigger – the actuator of the behavior. Triggers cue behaviors into becoming part of consumers’ everyday routines.
  2. Action – the behaviors that consumers take in order to receive a reward.
  3. The Variable Reward – the creation of craving through unpredictable feedback loops.
  4. Investment – the investment that consumers make – in time, data, effort, social capital or money – that improves what they subsequently receive.

I reached out to Nir for more details. Here’s some excerpts from our conversation:

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Brand Strategy

Branding Strategy Insider: Our Greatest Hits 2014



Thank you all for making this another highly successful year for Branding Strategy Insider. Of the many posts we brought you over the last 12 months, these were some of our most popular (listed here in alphabetical order):

10 Reasons To Rebrand – change your brand identity only if it will make your identity more fascinating and relevant for your consumers.
10 Things A Brand Must Have – ensure your brand has the distinctive attributes it needs to  take on a life of its own.
50 Things Successful Brand Managers Know – the must-have knowledge base for those looking to successfully and profitably manage brands today.
Are You A Strategic Thinking Marketer? – the five key characteristics of strategic thinkers. Is this how you work?
Brand Building Through Customer Experience – brands need to think big but at the same time they need to sweat the small stuff.
Brand Voice In The Social Media Age – in an age where content marketing is often nothing more than disguised advertising, your brand’s ability to speak with clarity and authenticity is critical.
Brands Need Big Insights Not Big Data – data can deliver powerful understandings of consumers but it is still subject to the beliefs and expectations of those who analyze it.
The End Of The Unique Selling Proposition? – has the USP had its day? Should we ditch this bastion of marketing theory in favour of the Unique Brand Perspective?
Top 4 Brand Loyalty Mistakes – marketers need to adapt to a relationship building environment where the hunt for top of mind has been replaced by the search for front of heart.
Why Brand Management Will Replace Marketing – the shift from brands as products to brands as assets is prompting big changes among brand owners like P&G.

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Brand Strategy

Brand actions are not the same as brand strategy


Brand actions are not the same as brand strategy

Actions are not strategies. Great strategies change more than where you are, what you call yourselves, what you offer. That’s Michael Porter’s thought. Great brand strategies re-invent the emotional context within which your brand competes against others in the marketplace. That’s mine. A great brand strategy redefines the relationship that people have with a brand over time. People think about you differently because they feel about you differently. That opportunity often gets missed in the rush to give people internally things to execute.

Great brand strategies focus on shifting the consumer inclination. The myriad of things you intend to do over the next 6, 12, 24 months are the means to arrive at that distinctive emotional goal. Turning Volkswagen into America’s most loved car – strategy. Telling people to stop smoking – action. Lifting traffic with a promotional offer – action.

Actions are prompts, and therefore, like all tactics, they function as switches. Yes. No. In response, people do something or they don’t. Change the logo – action. Like. Or not. Notice. Or not. Consumers may be incentivized by an emotion to take an action or respond to it but that’s often as far as the emotive change extends. The residual emotion about the brand and what it means to someone often remains largely unchanged. The brand is what the brand offers at that moment.

So many “brand strategies” are really action plans. Innovations – actions. CSR – action. Sponsorship – action. Content – action. And every “media strategy” and every “digital strategy” I have seen in recent years was, in reality, an action plan. They have all been about getting people to do things. What they don’t do is lay out a distinctive, competitive, emotional arc for that brand that puts in ‘clear space’ to pursue its commercial goals.

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Brand Strategy

Building An Obsession Based Brand


Brand Strategy

When you apply the concept of provenance to brands, it becomes a concept centered on systematically and competitively ‘localizing’ what you’re about rather than diversifying to try and meet the generalized needs of the wider world.

So it’s about having a narrowcast brand: one focused to the point of obsession on a specific area of passion. Provenance is also about those other valuable ideas that the word in its original meaning conjures: focus; love; purity of thinking; authenticity; deep knowledge. That obsession can then be marbled through every aspect of the brand: language; environment; innovation; strategy …

People may worry that such devotion to a single idea will stifle adaptability, but my experience is that brands that see the world through the lens of an idea they subscribe to passionately are also able to find latitude and opportunity within that idea while growing a strong and devoted following. Far from being restrictive, being obsessive provides a framework for creative approaches.

The way I see it, brands increasingly have three powerful emotive strategies going forward: they can rule the world (scale); they can seek to change the world (activist or cult); or they can kiss the world (obsession).

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