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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 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 Management

5 Metrics For Measuring Brand Potential

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Brand Potential

While the measures for evaluating what a brand is worth are well established, those for quantifying a brand’s potential seem less so. In general, brands are valued on their residual equity (what they are associated with and the depth and competitiveness of that association), their competitive performance and how much they are assessed to be worth.

Those metrics provide a snapshot of what the brand is worth now – and, with tracking, it is possible to spot trends over time – but they do not necessarily work to quantify the potential for a brand looking ahead. These are the measures I use to assess where a brand could go, and whether there is a business case for further investment.

1. How franchisable is the brand association? Brands generate value through the emotions they stir in consumers. There is some debate as to how we should treat the various aspects of brand association (as one thing or as a series of elements) but overall emotion is a lynchpin of a brand’s ability to compete. The question I like to ask is – where could the brand go on that emotion? What’s the feeling worth – and where?

Nike used the concepts of athleticism and democracy (Just do it) to expand their business into a powerful sports and lifestyle brand. And the emotion was so lucrative because it was universal. There were no impediments culturally to the acceptance of those ideals anywhere. Where could the associations that are the cornerstones of your brand take the brand and how big is the market for that? More importantly, is that aspirational market just bigger or is it actually more valuable?

2. How much is the brand talked about? Brands need to be buzzworthy, but there also needs to be correlation between awareness and return, and that equation often gets missed. The metrics of visits and likes are secondary to the overall favorability that the brand attracts (especially in sectors where reviews are highly influential) and to intensity of the ownership that consumers have for the brand. The critical translation though is how that talk and awareness at the open end of the sales funnel translates to conversion and profit.

In the light of this, it’s important to assess the talkability of your plans. Why will what’s being planned be exciting to consumers? How and why will they pick up the news and share it? Why will they want to be part of it? (rather than just how is the company going to promote it?) Who will the brand reach that it doesn’t reach now? And how will that change the conversation for the better and to your advantage?

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Brand Architecture

Brand Architecture In The Digital Age

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Brand Culture

Society is accelerating. In the digital world, time and geography are of little relevance. People can be anywhere and everywhere. As lines blur providing some separation between “real life” and “digital life”, it becomes increasingly difficult to maintain distinct parts of our lives.

Earlier this week on Branding Strategy Insider, Mark Ritson shared, The Rise of The One Brand Strategy citing the recent announcement that Coke (UK, NW Europe) was consolidating all of the Coke sub-brands (Coke Zero, Coke Life, etc.) under the Coca Cola brand. And as he notes, this approach to brand architecture isn’t new, but what is new is the amount of companies who are departing from portfolios of independent brands, and moving towards a more singular corporate focus.

If we consider people as brands, there are similarities in the Brand Relationship Spectrum that can be used to describe what is happening in the culture. This is important to consider because it’s a move which aligns to the way more and more people work. When a brand works the way people work, it’s easy to grow and nurture a relationship at the personal level.

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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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Brands & Business

6 Signs Your Brand Is In A Complacency Loop

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Complacent Brands

Every business has loops. Some are driven by fear, some by tradition, some by distraction, some by lack of awareness or industry convention.

Everyone says they’re looking for “competitive difference” – but then, in the race to get it right, they copy each others ideas, they mimic each others thinking, they catch up with each others formulas, they pile onto Facebook alongside everyone else. Sometime later they wonder why their sector seems so much more competitive. Why wouldn’t it be? As conformity grinds down diversity, there are more and more companies in every sector but less and less real choices for customers.

The irony of loops is that the more people behave in the same way, the more assured they feel and the less distinctive they become.

People too get used to thinking certain ways, doing certain things. And slowly, inevitably, workplaces get into loops as cultures become set in their ways. They talk themselves into believing that the best way to make their loop competitive is to leave it as is but to make it go faster – to outpace the other loops. They bind conformity into their language. They do more of the same, more quickly, and congratulate themselves on their productivity.

Same applies to customers. People get used to things, very used to things, and then bored with things. All the way through the first 2/3 of that cycle they want more of the same, and more, and more … And then they want to move on. Blackberry went from customer hero to technological hermit in no time flat. The Palm went from the pocket to the trash as novelty faded and new options beckoned.

It’s human nature to loop because loops are driven by two powerful centrifugal forces: habit; and comfort.

Loops get companies stuck. Think of any company that’s gone under recently. Chances are it was killed by a loop. Think of brands that are fighting to stay relevant. What they’re really fighting against oftentimes is their loops, their own logic, as they shed value with every turn. Think of brands that have commoditized. Loops again.

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