Formerly synonymous with generic typeface and questionable quality, today’s private label goods are transforming categories as we speak and forever shaking up the consumer marketplace.
Retailers of every ilk – Best Buy, Saks, Home Depot, Walgreen’s, Nordstrom’s and Target among them – are innovating relentlessly to create compelling and inspiring brands to compete head-on with traditional, national stalwart brands. The death of the generic, private label brand of yesteryear is official and national brands need to be on guard as their positional power weakens with every private label that “goes rogue” in entering their category.
Historically, private label brands lacked the equity and trust of their name-brand competitors. Consumers turned to P&G’s Tide, Kraft’s Macaroni & Cheese and Duracell’s batteries, as they had big companies behind them, were trusted and were the only brands that truly came to mind within their respective categories.
But the retail game has changed. Top “private label” brands are beginning to look and feel like the national brands that have become staples in our daily lives. For example, Target’s Archer Farms has successfully established itself as an affordable luxury convenience brand, offering gourmet goat cheese pizza, Key Lime Cookie Straws and organic milk, all still in keeping with the whole ‘cheap chic” Target thing. Walgreen’s has turned Nice! into a “high quality everyday product at a way-better price.” Home Depot has made the shift with powerful private label brands, such as Hampton Bay, Husky and the new HDX. …Continue reading
A pioneer in energy drinks three decades ago, Red Bull is now the world sales leader with estimated 2012 fiscal sales of over $3 billion, profits over $400 million, and a 43% leading US dollar market. To establish a new category in the face of Coke and Pepsi and then hold it for decades is very impressive.
Four quick observations about Red Bull’s unique approach to brand building:
Red Bull’s brand building is largely based on associating its brand with an amazingly wide range of people, teams and events.
Red Bull believes in owning teams and events rather than being one of several sponsors.
Because of this ownership model, they can and have turned this buzz machine into a profit center.
Their on-brand activities reflect two very different personalities that live side by side.
The scope of Red Bull activities is overwhelming. It gets involved in a wide mix of sports such as wakeboarding and motorcycle racing, dozens of Red Bull music events, sponsoring athletes such as motocross racer Ashley Fiolek, teams such as the New York Red Bulls soccer team and much, much more. The Red Bull website has entertainment features such as the Red Bull Soapbox Racer video game, weekly rock music bulletins on the Rock Report, plus sections on movies and TV shows as well. The list of their entertainment features goes on and on and is captured on their Facebook Page, which has more than 37 million followers. With well over 100 potential points of contact, Red Bull will connect to their target market many times, in multiple ways. And more importantly, Red Bull becomes a big part of their customer’s lives. …Continue reading
It’s no secret that brands are constantly in search of ways to build connections and loyalty with their customers. However many brands are tackling this challenge by blasting meaningless messages into the ether, hoping to gain a committed following. It’s a sure-fire way to turn people off and eventually leave your messages falling on deaf ears. Strong brands engage consumers with authentic and consistent material that reflects an understanding of their interests and gets the dialogue going. These days, great content makes for great brands.
The word “content” is the catchall term for brand communication, and companies around the world are hopping on “content creation” as the way to capture the hearts and minds of customers. Every day, consumers are inundated with brand generated advertising – around 5000 advertising messages compared to a mere 500 messages forty years ago. Yet, this statistic doesn’t capture the various Tweets, Instagrams and other messages companies push out every day. Content is everywhere, and the impact is real – consumers are conditioned to filter and sort through the junk more quickly and easily than ever. …Continue reading
Each controversy came with different reasons, different accusations, and different levels of fall-out, but they all ended with the same result: A public apology via printed word, viral video or TV ad. The apology bandwagon seems to be on hyper-drive these past few years. Apple , BP , Carnival Cruises, Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong, StubHub…the list goes on and on. There is no shortage of mistakes being made. And there is no easier out than to run a 30 second and wash your hands of the mistake. …Continue reading
There has been a significant amount of buzz recently about Ron Johnson, former CEO of JC Penney, and his failed attempts to turn around the struggling middle-market retailer. In a recent post, James Walker outlined how an unsuccessful SKU assortment and poor pricing and promotion decisions—not their new strategy of “everyday low pricing”—accounted for the company’s biggest losses. While this is certainly true, I believe it’s also worth evaluating the implications of these recent pricing moves and strategic decisions from an overall brand strategy perspective.
Ron Johnson and JC Penney: A History
In January of 2012, Johnson stepped in to reinvent the JC Penney brand. Drawing on his past experiences at Target and Apple, Johnson announced that Penney would do away with coupons and discounts in favor of “fair and square pricing,” while the store layouts would be overhauled to a format of curated mini-shops. A year ago, the stock price jumped at the Apple store pioneer’s bold vision, but today, Penney revenues have fallen by 25%, the stock price has fallen almost 60%, and the company has lost nearly a billion dollars.
So what happened? Within this failure story are two important lessons in brand strategy: …Continue reading
If you haven’t heard of Coursera, maybe it’s time to get up to speed. It’s one of a growing breed of exciting brands intending to change the world. And they have a great chance of succeeding
They’re not focusing on “being green” and saving the environment. Nor are they adopting a cause that might fall under its corporate social responsibility program umbrella and is good for PR purposes and brand-building.
Their business is their cause. These brands provide products, services and solutions that are as important to their hearts as they are to their bottom lines. They’re applying disruptive innovation to create social change. They’re brands that stand for something more. And given the vast majority of consumers’ preference to do business with socially responsible concerns, they may have a leg up.
Coursera is obviously not the first to make their business their cause. Stalwarts like Patagonia, Tom’s, Sanuk and Ben & Jerry’s have all blazed the trail, as have more recent brands such as Kiva and Teach for America. These brands have strong moral compasses and are aligned with missions and visions. They’re consistently putting proof points on the board as to why their consumers should choose their brand over the Haagen-Dazs’ of the world when all else is equal (or close to it).
As I look at a few of these newer examples, I can’t help but caution them to truly look to the past to help them guide their future. Let’s look at two of these “rookies.” …Continue reading
Too many companies fall into too common of a trap: mistaking the difference between an insights function and an insights system. Far too often, companies invest in an insights or research department, or function, only to have its value limited because they are not connected to the broader business.
And more than ever, companies are investing in primary research but getting mixed results. Don’t get me wrong. Primary research is core to being a more outside-in, customer-centric business. However, that’s just one tool – it’s what happens with those insights and who is using them that make the difference. Far too often, this primary research is conducted, summarized to a select set of stakeholders, and then put on the shelf.
An insights function is critical to bringing expertise, discipline and execution to the gathering of insights. However, what sets high-growth companies apart from their peers is having an insights system. An insights system is not bound by functional areas or business units. It is not project-based. It is not a one-way flow of information. Far too often, insights are left at the customer level, not the market level. Or even worse, they are never shared at all.
It is by definition a system. An insights system has on and off ramps for insights. A wide range of stakeholders access and contribute to the system, well beyond the insights or research function. This includes sales and marketing, innovation and R&D, service, engineering and operations, and even partners and principals. Each of these groups has key insights into customers’ needs and behaviors, competitors and ideas for growth.
So, how do you start to build out the system? Market leaders such as UPS, 3M and Microsoft have built their systems by following these proven strategic steps: …Continue reading
The 2013 Super Bowl ads were not an impressive group. I was looking for commercials that were memorable, liked, linked to a brand, and were likely to advance the brand proposition. The majority of the ads I saw didn’t qualify. However, here are six that caught my eye. The first four were among the five most popular ads, according to a USA Today survey taken just after the Super Bowl.
Last year, Chrysler hit a home run with its “Imported from Detroit” ad that supported a brand platform that led to a sharp increase in market share. This year, Chrysler’s Dodge Ram and Jeep each had two minute ads that provided an equally emotional experience with a more subtle message. The better of the two, in my view, was the Ram ad that had Paul Harvey narrating what it means to farm. Both reinforced the “Buy American” theme, but while farming and farmers is a good user image for the Ram brand, the “troops coming home” theme was less connected to Jeep.
It wasn’t merely posturing that made this a hot issue on both sides of the political aisle in last year’s election. It’s a subject that matters to American consumers. A lot. Or at least enough that 80 percent of us, according to one study, will happily pay a premium for products we know were made here in the U. S. of A.
This isn’t a new trend. It is a re-surging one that cycles through periodically as a result of circumstances and conditions. The pro-American consumer movement last arced in the post-9/11 environment on a wave of patriotism sparked by tragedy.
More recently, the sentiment has grown in a recession-weary public that wants to feel good again about our country and do what it takes to spur on the recovery. Made in America translates into more jobs, better working conditions, better quality and craftsmanship and more wealth staying here at home. …Continue reading
As 2012 winds down, we’re thinking of all of the brands that have inspired us this year. BOGO brands such as TOMS and Warby Parker come to mind, as do brands that have totally reinvented themselves, such as Microsoft, Fiat and JC Penney’s.
What brands inspired you this year, and why? Let us know in the comments!