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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 Loyalty Value Creation

Brand Strategy For Lasting Value

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Brand Loyalty

Every brand manager would like to believe that the world will love their brand. Given how much time, energy and experience they pour into trying to make that happen, that seems like a reasonable hope. But, as Douglas Van Praet observes in a recent Fast Company article, consumers are far from inclined to feel that way. “The human truth is no one wants to connect emotionally to your brand … People want to be [led] to a better life not bond with companies.”

We could debate whether people want to be led at all, but there’s little dispute that, in the light of this idea, brand loyalty is probably not what most brand managers have talked themselves into believing it is at all. If Van Praet is right, consumers are not loyal to a brand. Not really. Buyers are most loyal to the feeling that a brand evokes in them and in those around them. The emotion sways them. Perhaps the company reassures them, but it’s the feeling they keep coming back for.

Loyalty is connected with the hopes people have for their lives, not the companies themselves. People are inclined towards stories and ideas and changes that brands articulate that stimulate them and that attract their interest. All of this flies in the face of how brand managers rationalize what they do: that people identify with the brand; that awareness evokes loyalty and familiarity generates action. The thing is, maybe buyers aren’t really looking for the company when they look for the logo – perhaps they’re looking for a sign that the emotion they treasure is present.

This further suggests that brands that communicate but fail to bond people to ideas may not have achieved anything like the levels of loyalty that they think they have. They may get a response – but if Van Praet is right that response is triggered by other reasons: convenience; price; happenstance … Buyers may be moved by a stimulus to act. That does not mean they are hooked into the brand. Contact, even action, is not persuasion.

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Tribal Branding

Tribal Brand Strategy

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Tribal Brand Strategy

With declining trust in traditional institutions, people today are increasingly using brands and consumption to express their identity and signal their values. Tribes come together under what they imagine are a shared set of values or emotions. An astute marketer can often help the tribe to link those shared values or emotions to its brand and its products or services.

The first step is to understand what the group values, what its rituals are and how people in the group behave when they are together. It is also important to understand how the tribe views the world and their place in it. This includes uncovering their beliefs and their hopes, fears, anxieties and aspirations. This requires intense ethnographic research – interviews, observation, and even spending significant time interacting with the group. From this, you discern patterns. Once you have refined and validated the group patterns, you can then determine how your brand might be able to link to or reinforce one or more of those patterns. One such way is through brand storytelling.

Brands that have the potential to become tribal brands (or that already are tribal brands) include Harley-Davidson, FOX News, Patagonia, Star Trek, Apple, Tesla Motors and MINI Cooper. It is important for people not only to have shared values and an intense interest in using the brand to signal those values, but also to seek each other out and share at least some aspect of the brand experience with each other.

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Place Branding

Place Branding Guide

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Place Branding Strategy

According the World Travel and Tourism Council, travel and tourism “contributes 9.5 percent to the global economy in 2013…and could generate as many as 5.1 million jobs by 2015 in the G20 economies.” When one considers that businesses, residents and event and meeting planners also choose one place over another, it is no wonder that cities, regions and countries are branding themselves in earnest.

Places are some of the most interesting things to brand. This phenomenon has been labeled “place branding,” “geo-branding” and “destination marketing” among other labels. In some respects, branding places is no different than branding anything else. Finding the most powerful and unique image for the place (“unique value proposition” or “brand position”) is the most important activity. After that, building awareness is next most important. Both of these activities assume that the requisite research has been done with the most advantageous and receptive target audiences.

Branding municipalities is an interesting and complex activity. The target audiences are myriad and disparate, including at least the following:

  • Residents and potential residents
  • Businesses and potential businesses
  • Tourists/visitors
  • Meeting and an event planners (including convention planners and major sporting event organizers)
  • Transients (people passing through on their way to somewhere else)
  • Corporate commercial traffic

Each of these audiences has its own distinct issues and needs. And, there are typically separate place-based organizations established to market to each of these market’s needs – visitors & convention bureaus, economic development councils, business improvement districts, etc. The stakeholder groups mushroom into a large mix of potentially competing points of view when one adds mayor’s offices and district, county, provincial, state and regional entity executives and business, cultural institution and sports team leaders. This is why carefully orchestrating a branding project and facilitating consensus across all stakeholder groups is critical to a successful place branding effort. That is also why a place branding effort often takes much longer than a comparable product or organization branding effort.

Here is what tends to be important to each major audience:

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Branding and Social Media

10 Keys To Building Close Customer Relationships

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Brand Loyalty Strategy

Most brands would say they want to be popular and many of them would see social media as a way to achieve that. But recently David McInnis wrote this in a comment: “You can have all the social pieces in place but doing so does not make you likeable. Most companies that have a social strategy should not. They should focus instead on being likeable first.”

In other words, social media alone won’t improve your affinity as a brand. A great observation. Tempting isn’t it to roll out the social artillery without first thinking about whether a) anyone gets on with you b) wants to socialize with you and c) will bother to give you the time of day even if you do make the effort.

In his book The Likeability Factor, Tim Sanders talks about the need for people to build their own likeability by focusing on four critical elements:

• Friendliness: communicate liking and openness to others
• Relevance: connect with others’ interests, wants, and needs
• Empathy: recognize, acknowledge, and experience other people’s feelings
• Realness: guarantees its authenticity

So, what does it take for a brand to be likeable? I figured this functioned as a good starting list for those keen to build closer relationships with their customers:

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Internal Brand Building

Change Management And The Power Of Language

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Brand Language

Change programs are so often about actions. So much so in fact that the dialogue that surrounds and informs those changes can be dismissed as “just talk”. Time and time again, in working on transformation projects, I have faced an uphill battle in trying to persuade decision makers to give their proposed changes the air-time that staff need to talk over and through what’s happening.

But such talk is vital. Actions really do speak louder with words – and they do so because they allow people to come together and to work through what is happening. Change presented on a slide deck is change imposed. Change discussed in forums over time, and with a built-up understanding of its implications and opportunities, is change absorbed and applied.

Further than that though, language has a huge role to play in the bedding in of new ways of doing things. Language actually defines a culture because it is literally how people connect – changing it significantly shifts the parameters of, and the context for, what is defined, accepted and encouraged.

Here are five interconnected ways you can change your language to better complement the actions you intend taking.

Change the category – when you change the perception of who you are as a company and who you’re how competing against and for what, you can also change how you compete. You can literally invigorate the current culture with the characteristics of a new category – particularly if that category is perceived as more desirable, faster, smarter and more contemporary.

Change the purpose – when you change where you compete and with whom you compete, you have the opportunity to redefine what you compete for.

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