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At The Blake Project our sole focus is helping organizations create brands that build and sustain trust. Branding Strategy Insider is an extension of our efforts as brand consultants to help marketing oriented leaders and professionals build strong brands.

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Brand Storytelling

Telling The Short Brand Story

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Brand Storytelling Strategy

Everyone has a story to tell. Not everyone feels they have the time to listen. Which is why brands need to become adept at the short story form. Increasingly, the messages that pass between brands and their customers will need to be articulated in 140 characters, 6 seconds, a shot, an update…

But brevity is not the full answer – and those who believe they can communicate exclusively in such formats will risk selling themselves short.

To master short form storytelling, marketers will need to know the long form version of their brand story better than ever. (You can’t edit what you don’t have.) And they will need to judge duration and relevance with greater accuracy. The ability to distill and disseminate bursts of interest, and to mix those short forms with longer, deeper, richer forms of expression, will decide who flourishes and who withers.

Sponsored By: Resonate. Reach audiences based on why they choose brands.

Sponsored By: The Brand Storytelling Workshop Series

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

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Brand Strategy

6 Ways To Finding Your Brand’s Next Strengths

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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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Branding and Social Responsibility

Brands Face A New Era In Social Responsibility

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Brands And Social Responsibility

Historically, corporate social responsibility has put the emphasis on how businesses are doing good. It’s become an increasingly varied checklist of “things we’ve done right”. Today though, socially aware audiences want more. They increasingly make judgments about you based on your overall likeability. They want to do business with brands that are good.

And that in turn means that, at a social level, your reputation depends less on your ability to simply highlight good works done in isolation (through community activities or sponsorships for example), and much more on your ability to show that you are inherently principled in your dealings and that you behave consistently across your organization in ways that align with your social and commercial reputation.

That shift in the significance of social actions has a downstream effect on critical social initiatives such as sustainability. In my opinion, they should no longer be seen as nice-to-haves or even as opportunities to improve efficiencies across your supply chain. Rather, the actions you take in these areas are competitive opportunities to distinguish your company from others. Your social actions help define and demonstrate your ‘moral compass’ – and in positioning you as transparent, consistent, reliable and principled, they add value to dealing with you. They also help swing the dialogue, and therefore the consideration set, away from just price.

People like good brands. They trust them. They believe them. They see value in them. They see them as the counter to unethical behaviors. Subconsciously, they look for opportunities to favor them. For those reasons, good brands carry lower “social risk”. They are less likely to draw adverse reaction, less likely to make the news for all the wrong reasons, much less likely to have their actions and motivations questioned.

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Brand Growth

Brand Priorities And Growth

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Brand Growth Strategy

This thought-provoking presentation includes some interesting observations on the contrasting effects of brands on the world. On the one hand the Y&R planners point out, brands are responding to consumer expectations that they will drive social change, spending around $18 billion a year on charitable efforts and using their financial clout and influence to affect real change. On the other, some of the biggest brands now know more about us as consumers and individuals than government agencies and we have no real ways of knowing how they will use that information, and to what effect, going forward.

Brands are becoming primary agents of change, it seems. They also have many stakeholders with very different priorities. The question is, will they use their influence to increasingly advocate for what matters to their consumers and communities or will they take their cues from the markets and focus on initiatives that enable them to keep growing as long and as much as they can?

I can’t see how there can be one answer to that. Each brand will follow its strategy and decide its priorities – based, one hopes, on the values it espouses. But Y &R’s observations do raise the wider question don’t they as to which of these stakeholder groups should be driving how brands behave?

The reason I raise this is that we seem to get conflicting messages about those priorities across the business press all the time. Many decision makers will argue that it is incumbent on organizations to deliver the best returns they can for shareholders. Others tell us that we should always put the customer first if we want to remain competitive and that consumers are increasingly wanting to see organizations behave responsibly. Others will argue that every brand is only as good as its people and that great brands are built from the inside out.

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Brand Value & Pricing

Brand Pricing: Less Versus Off

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Brand Pricing Strategy

If I buy something on sale, what should I get? 40% less – or 40% off? They are very different things.

If I purchase something for 40% off, that means I get what I would have got if I’d paid full price but I get a 40% reduction on the asking price for the very same goods or services. The result, as we’ve discussed many times, is that the brand’s perceived value deteriorates and, if enough retailers participate, the actual market value of the brand also drops.

40% less on the other hand means I pay a lesser price but I get less for that price. How can that be? Surely a pair of shoes is a pair of shoes, right? Not necessarily. One of the first rules we were all taught in direct marketing is that it is much more economical to give than to take away. In other words, it is much more economically sensible to add services to a product in order to make it more valuable than it is to discount the asking price.

That’s because the price I can pay to add perceived value is generally much less than the cost of taking money away. Airlines are very good at this. You pay a lot more for a Premier seat than you do for an Economy seat – and in exchange the airline gives you a bigger seat, a different menu and perhaps more movies. They add to what you get, at a lower cost to them, than the revised price they ask you to pay.

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