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.

Contact BSI
Derrick Daye
888.706.5489 Email us
Place Branding

Place Branding Guide


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:

Read More
Branding and Social Media

10 Keys To Building Close Customer Relationships


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:

Read More
Internal Brand Building

Change Management And The Power Of Language


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.

Read More
Brand Marketing

Rethinking Digital Customer Engagement


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.

Read More
Brand Strategy

Building A Cult Status Brand


Brand Strategy Pappy Van Winkle

In a world dominated it seems by the push for scale and mass coverage, it’s easy to forget that sometimes the smartest thing you can do is the polar opposite: develop a deliberately limited edition brand that shuns the mainstream. I’ve written about this a number of times and coined the phrase cultrepreneurs to describe those enterprising individuals who have chosen to create and market brands with cult status. As Julian Van Winkle and his Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery shows, there is nothing accidental about why his aged bourbon attracts a fervent following.

Here are just some of the ways Van Winkle uses a strategy of scarcity to build cult status:

  • The company deliberately stymies supply in order to raise cachet and lift returns. It’s one of the great ironies of cults that, beyond what you need to be viable, sometimes the less you produce, the more you make. As Van Winkle says he could unload two or three times what he makes. But keeping his inventory low minimizes the chances of being stuck with spare stock and also means he can continue to raise prices.
  • The brand is not visible. You have to be in the know, and prepared to wait, in order to procure the product. So – scarcity of presence only adds to the mystique, and lack of readiness lifts the anticipation levels. Entirely the opposite dynamics of mainstream, scaled brands.
  • The brand gets covered by others. The article is a prime example of that. But Van Winkle also makes great use of word of mouth, through dinners and trade shows, to get connoisseurs talking and so raise authenticity, desirability and credibility.
  • The brand has deeply embedded values – in Van Winkle’s case, an unstinting focus on quality. And there’s a figurehead who embodies those values – Julian’s grandfather, Pappy Van Winkle – and who is known by consumers of the brand.
  • There’s a secret recipe – this one substitutes wheat for rye. Another component of making the brand exceptional.
  • Awards prove the value of the brand and its claims to quality – and once again, they do this objectively, rather than the brand itself having to make public claims.
  • Distribution is limited, and upmarket. A very big part of the joy of a cult brand lies in its discovery. Finding out about what most people don’t know about is a reward in itself. It also, ironically, invites the very kind of ‘sharing’ that galvanizes the brand.
Read More