I am hearing a lot these days about brand relationships being like human relationships. Maybe it is just me, but I don’t feel that my relationship with brands is the same as the one I have with my fellow humans. I might feel genuine affection for one or two brands, but most are simply familiar solutions to a specific need. Here are some of my thoughts on the topic but I would love to hear yours.
Initially, I thought my concern about anthropomorphizing brands was to do with the intermittent nature of our relationship with many brands. In reality, there are few brands that we think about or interact with on a regular basis, the mobile phone being the most frequent for many of us. Most of the time brands are out of sight and out of (conscious) mind. But then a human relationship can range from fleeting to enduring. And once a relationship is established, we often seem to be able to pick it up again where it left off, even if years have intervened.
Then I read this in the Wikipedia entry on Interpersonal Relationships:
Interpersonal relationships usually involve some level of interdependence. People in a relationship tend to influence each other, share their thoughts and feelings, and engage in activities together.
Now this seems to address my concerns more closely. To what degree are we interdependent on the brands we use? Are there any brands that you use for which there really is no acceptable substitute? And just how dependent is that brand on you? Would Apple really miss you if you decided another mobile phone better met your needs or desires than the iPhone?
Political parties are brands. Given that Americans are in the midst of Republican presidential candidate campaigning, we thought it would be interesting to conduct a survey on how people perceive the Democratic and Republican political parties. In particular, we want to understand how the two parties are perceived differently by different types of people. We will look at how people of different ages, genders, income levels, states of residence and political party and religious affiliations perceive each of the two parties. In the end, we want to understand which perceptions are shared across different types of people and which perceptions are particular to certain types of people.
We also want to understand what unites people and what divides people in reference to political parties. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey and then, to prove that social network marketing works, please share the survey link with your friends and business associates. We are seeking as broad a cross-section of people as possible. All BSI readers are welcome to participate.Thanks for taking the time to contribute to this project. We will report our findings on Branding Strategy Insider when our analysis is complete.
Please take our survey here.
Sponsored by: The Brand Positioning Workshop
It's been more than four months since the passing of Steve Jobs. Much has been written and shared in that span about one of the greatest innovators and marketers of our times. In the flurry of remembrences I missed this opinion piece in the New York Times by his biographer, Walter Isaacson. For me, Steve's lessons continue to surface.
The Genius Of Jobs
One of the questions I wrestled with when writing about Steve Jobs was how smart he was. On the surface, this should not have been much of an issue. You’d assume the obvious answer was: he was really, really smart. Maybe even worth three or four reallys. After all, he was the most innovative and successful business leader of our era and embodied the Silicon Valley dream writ large: he created a start-up in his parents’ garage and built it into the world’s most valuable company.
So was Mr. Jobs smart? Not conventionally. Instead, he was a genius. That may seem like a silly word game, but in fact his success dramatizes an interesting distinction between intelligence and genius. His imaginative leaps were instinctive, unexpected, and at times magical. They were sparked by intuition, not analytic rigor. Trained in Zen Buddhism, Mr. Jobs came to value experiential wisdom over empirical analysis. He didn’t study data or crunch numbers but like a pathfinder, he could sniff the winds and sense what lay ahead.
Like people, brands don’t live forever.* They’re born into the marketplace, grow and become successful, then iconic, and then stale as week old bread. The driver underpinning all these phases is unrelenting and rapid change. Seemingly, the forces driving our global economy are getting harder for brand owners to keep up with. Brands are dynamic. Brands have their cycles and they run their course. What’s difficult for brand owners and managers to grasp is when to continue to invest precious capital into a tired under-performing brand or move on.
This is particularly true if the brand was once a leader in the market. Market success always creates size, power, and breeds a false sense of security (think arrogance). Over time, this creates an unrealistic view of the marketplace reality, and a lack of urgency to correct course in maintaining relevancy among consumers the brand serves. In the US, both Sears and Kodak are stunning, real-time examples of this dynamic. (Kodak founder George Eastman pictured on the left)
Danger lurks when brand owners and managers of iconic brands become inwardly focused and miss new opportunities or competitive threats. Complacency by brand owners becomes the norm, and endless advertising messages, brand extensions, and ultimately commoditization blur the brand’s compelling meaning in the minds of consumers.
Often, the key to lasting brand success — longer brand life spans is an internal push to evolve and repel complacency. Leaving weaker brands and their brand managers to fade away and take their rightful place in brand history.
*Unless they continue to meet human needs, the ultimate reason for a brands' existence
Sponsored By: The Two-Day Brand Positioning Workshop
It is never too early in the process to understand who your brand’s customers are, what motivates them and how to reach them. Doing this at the end of the product development process is usually too late. You will have developed a more unique and compelling solution if it was based on these insights earlier on in the process.
Your solution needs to deliver greater value (that is more functional, emotional, experiential or self-expressive benefits for less money or effort) than competitive offerings for it to break through and gain share. Make sure you understand what your brand’s unique value proposition is. (brand positioning is a process that will define what your brand stands for/what it can 'own' in the mind)
Customer insight will help you create a brand message that resonates with your customers, one that is unique and purchase motivating. Effectively articulating relevant differentiation is key to building a strong brand. In addition to advertising copy, this message can be translated to a pithy brand “tagline” and a brand “elevator speech” (typically 40 to 70 words) that you and your company’s employees can use when talking about your brand.
Marketing your brand and its products should not be underfunded. If you offer superior products backed by outstanding service at very good prices delivering an outstanding value but no one has ever heard of your company, brand or products, how many sales will you get? Zero. No awareness = no sales. Awareness building is perhaps the most important component of building a strong brand.