The Blake Project

Why a Branding Strategy Blog?

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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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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Brand Marketing

Rethinking Digital Customer Engagement

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Digital Brand Strategy

The biggest technology trend these days is about less of it not more. Perhaps most emblematic of this is the Personal Surveillance Identity Prosthetic for which Chicago artist Leo Salvaggio is currently crowdsourcing funding. It’s an anti-surveillance mask fabricated so that facial recognition systems see it as Leo’s face. It’s not the first or only thing Leo has created to enable other people to hide their identities behind his. His URME project is beta testing video facial encryption software, and his You Are Me project gives people the ability to assume his digital profile when using social networks like Facebook and Twitter.

Mind you, Salvaggio is not anti-technology. He just wants boundaries, places where technology is not allowed to go. So does artist Adam Harvey, who created a clothing line called Stealth Wear. Harvey’s hoodie, scarf and burqa are all made with a metalized fabric that impedes thermal imaging. Harvey believes that as technological surveillance grows, people will want tools like his clothing to reassert control over their privacy.

Worries about the overreach of technology are growing as commercial enterprises, not just law enforcement or national security agencies, beef up their databases and surveillance. For example, Google and Facebook have been enhancing their facial recognition capabilities through acquisitions and applications development, though not without controversy. In the face of heavy criticism, Google Glass dropped plans to include a beta version of NameTag, an app that can instantly match a face with a person’s name, occupation and Facebook profile. In fact, ever since Google Glass was first unveiled in 2012, wearers have been faced with forceful, often ferocious, hostility from people who don’t want to be photographed or recorded without their permission.

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