In the past few weeks, three of the top brands in the world have had to launch public apologies tied to misplaced or misguided creative, execution and strategy. Ford is in trouble for its now infamous sexist Indian ads promoting the Ford Figo, and Hyundai ran an unbelievable “suicide” ad in the UK touting the virtues of its energy efficient car. JC Penney has been discussed for a totally different reason in previous months. They’ve been accused of abandoning the consumer, their strategy and what really matters to their shoppers – a great buying experience. And now they’re practically begging their customers to come back.
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
What is the worst thing you can say about a person? That they have no personality. Who wants to spend time with someone who is so boring that they are described as having no personality? It’s better to be a jerk; at least you will be interesting. Having a personality is equally helpful to brands.
Not all brands have a personality, or at least don’t have a strong, distinctive personality. Those that do have a significant advantage in terms of standing out from the crowd, having a message and supporting a relationship with customers. Personality is an important dimension of brand equity because, like human personality, it is both differentiating and enduring. Once established it will provide benefits (or harm) over a long time horizon. Creating or supporting a personality should be part of the brand vision discussion.
The power of brand personality can be seen by conceptualizing three models of how personality impacts: …Continue reading
BrandJapan is an annual appraisal of the brand equity of one thousand Japanese brands from the view of consumers (BtoC) and business managers (BtoB). Each year I provide a commentary on the results. The 2013 data just became available, and it again provides insights into what drives winning brands in Japan.
In the consumer database (BtoC), the big news is that Apple, who had advanced from 11 to number one in 2012 is not only still number one but has created a significant gap over Google, which remains at number two. The iPod and iPad brands have fallen from the top 20 but are still top forty brands, and iPhone has moved to number 18 meaning that Apple has four of the top 40 brands. Furthermore, Apple’s lead on the innovation factor over Google is now huge (132 vs. 108). The seven Apple stores and the elegant success of the iPhone helped the Apple brand achieve a leadership position.
Among the top 25 brands, 10 were retail brands led by Uniqlo (tied with Google at number 2 and with its HEATTECH clothing brand in the top 50) that included Daiso (like dollar stores), 7-11, Muji, two Internet retailers (Amazon and the Japanese firm Rakuten) and four retail food brands (McDonald’s, MOS BURGER, Haagen-Dazs, and Starbucks). There were five tech brands in the top 25 in addition to the two Apple brands with Google, YouTube and Windows in the top 10 and Panasonic and Sony following. Each tech brand was high on the “used recently’ and “being a pioneer” scales. Six of the top 25 were popular packaged goods brands such as Calbee (salty snacks), Nissin (cup noodles) and Suntory, all in the top ten. They all are very high on the friendly dimension. And two entertainment brands, Studio Ghibli (animated film company) and Disney were in the top seven brands with Studio Ghibli moving up from twelve to five.
There was a theme to these results. The strongest brands in Japan have three characteristics.
- They are visible, and most of the population is exposed to them frequently.
- They are innovative providing interest and energy.
- They are relevant in that they are widely used and capable of delivering exceptional use experiences.
I usually ask one question at the beginning of every workshop I conduct: Which brands inspire you or compel you to do something different?
This is a different ask than the stereotypical opener of “which brands are you most loyal to,” which garners the usual suspects of Apple, Disney and Nordstrom, among others. They are typical, but not overly insightful into what brands are having an impact now. I’ve been keeping track of the answers I’ve heard in recent months, and I want to share some stalwarts and surprises.
Anyone who has tried to hail a taxi in Chicago or San Francisco knows about this one. Uber has captured and compelled the public’s imagination in transforming the paid transportation marketplace. Here’s how it works. You “request a ride” through their app, which then locates nearby available drivers. The nearest driver is contacted, and once one accepts your request, you are given the name of your driver, the number of the taxi that is headed your way, and an estimated arrival time. When the ride’s completed, you are charged an “average neighborhood donation” (which is typically cheaper than the comparable taxi fare), based on time and distance. You “pay” your fee through a credit card that you have filed within the app, so there is no cash necessary, ever. Uber is different in that it features private drivers as well as dynamic pricing, which takes into consideration the usual time and distance, as well as ride demand (no one’s happy about Uber-ing at 2 a.m. on a Sunday morning). Through Uber, you can request a taxi, a town car or an SUV. One of my favorite quotes from a recent workshop participant was, “I never thought it would annoy me so much to have to stand and hail a taxi in a city where Uber is not available.” …Continue reading
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
One of the empirical facts of business strategy is that “big” innovations that create new categories or subcategories do not come from the leading incumbents – they come from outsiders. Successful incumbents have the resources to lead but, in fact, success breeds complacency, lethargy or arrogance. What is also disturbingly true is that incumbents not only fail to innovate, but also fail to be relevant to major innovations of others and sometimes lose not only their momentum but their very existence as a player.
In a brilliant new book, Unrelenting Innovation: How to Build a Culture for Market Dominance, Gerry Tellis explains why this is. His answer, based on nearly a dozen major clinical studies conducted by he and his colleagues, is that it is the culture of the incumbent firm that is inhibiting the firm from innovating or even responding to innovation. He identifies three cultural traits and three practices that inhibit incumbents from “big” innovation, which is the only route to real growth as I argue in my book, Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant. Understanding these traits and practices is the key to creating a culture where “big” innovations can be nourished. …Continue reading
Debunking 3 Myths of Innovation
The word, innovation, is so over used that it’s almost lost all meaning. Yet, as with all aspects of business, innovation evolves. Innovation will remain the process by which newness comes into the world, but the how of innovation is in flux. New business landscapes, new technologies, and the wearing out of old models require us to reimage how we innovate.
When we think of innovation we might think of Silicon Valley, Google, Apple, and schools like Stanford University. We might imagine brilliance being created everyday in these places, and the fumes of great ideas spewing out the windows of well designed buildings. And in fact, these are accurate portrayals of what innovation can look like. But it’s not the full story. Many businesses have misaligned views on how to achieve innovation. Employee motivation and collaboration is essential to innovate, but often businesses lack authenticity in these efforts. Keeping up with what’s current gives you a read on what’s in vogue, yet you don’t need to follow the entire world on Twitter to change your business. Culture is important; however you don’t need to have an office full of free thinkers to come up with something new. And you certainly don’t need a Mac to think differently.
There are a lot of beliefs that pervade the world of innovation. However, many of these beliefs have the potential to hold us back. Some of these beliefs are, in fact, myths: great stories that fail the test of reality. If we’re not careful, these myths of innovation can become barriers to our growth. …Continue reading
A charismatic brand is one that delivers self-expressive benefits to a committed, involved customer base that is enthusiastic about the brand experience. Think Apple, Harley-Davidson, REI or Tiffany & Co. It’s not an easy goal for a brand to achieve. But I see two brands making that leap: Zipcar and Tesla. Neither has been shy about their goal to change the world and define a new user experience.
Zipcar became the market leader, exemplar and spokesperson for the shared car concept. Any time of day or night, members can simply reserve cars online or by phone, choosing the model that will match their mood and task. When they arrive at the car pick up destination, the microchips in their Zipcard membership cards will signal the cars to unlock. They then drive and pay for the cars for hours or days. All this is aided by the Zipcar iPhone application. Parking, fuel and comprehensive insurance are part of the deal. …Continue reading
It’s the time of year to assess what stories stood out for better or for worse, for richer and, for some, poorer and those that just left you scratching your head.
2012 did not disappoint from a brand perspective. From the BBC to the NHL. From HP to Lance. From Blackberry to Newsweek. From Tom Cruise to JC Penney. From Hostess to Red Bull and from the London Olympics to Detroit. This was a brand year we will not forget any time soon. There were brands that inspired, influenced and compelled and there were those that just, well, continued to disappoint…think Sears and MySpace again and yet again.
While there were a lot of great brand stories to choose from, below are my picks for the three best and worst brand stories from 2012, culled from informal nominations from our global Prophet team of over 300 brand zealots. …Continue reading