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
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.
But in our ever-changing, hyper-connected world, words are just words. Consumers are smarter than ever.
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!
Brand executives can learn a lot from political professionals who exhibit creative brand building programs and then subject them to huge field tests. Consider the Obama campaign’s early decision to spend a good part of their budget on defining Romney. This money was expended before the conventions and some of it well before Romney wrapped up the nomination. There are a lot of reasons that Obama won the election, but many observers have hypothesized that this decision was key to the final result. The strategy was gutsy both because it took money away from the from the fall campaign and because it was uncertain that it would work.
The premise was that Romney was basing his campaign in part on the fact that the economy was in trouble, as it was, and that because of Romney’s experience at Bain he understood the private sector’s role in job creation and had experience as a problem solver. The Obama campaign’s challenge was to reframe Romney’s background at Bain as one that accepted risks that led to job destruction rather than job creation, an associated lack of sensitivity to the pain of the people losing jobs, and a business model that accepted or even encouraged outsourcing jobs to China. …Continue reading
How Altering an Ad Policy Alters a Brand Positioning
There’s a lot to admire about Change.org.
Since its 2007 launch it has served as a “social action” platform to empower and enable everyday people (over 20 million members in 196 countries) to bring attention to and rally support for their causes. TIME magazine named its founder and CEO Ben Rattray as one of this year’s 100 most influential people. And it actually does well with its do-good mission: This year’s revenues reportedly are running at the $16 million mark.
The Change.org brand has become tightly linked – synonymous even – with progressive causes and social activism. Its success stories reinforce its positioning: The woman who gathered 307,000 petition signatures, causing Bank of America to back down from its proposed $5 debit card fee. The 2.2 million signatures resulting in George Zimmerman’s prosecution for the shooting death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. A South African victim’s petition against that country’s “corrective rape” practices intended to “cure” lesbianism, leading to a government task force to stop the practice.
That positioning has also been reinforced in its business practices: Its advertising policy has been values-based, and Change.org only accepted advertising from progressive organizations that shared its values. …Continue reading
Most brands need more energy in order to provide the visibility needed to be considered and to support perceptions and attitudes. But how do you energize a brand, especially when the brand has no newsworthy innovations on hand or there is little interest in the brand or product category? It can be a tough assignment.
The solution might be to create an ownable, internal branded energizer which is not part of the offering per se, but has energy and then to use that “branded energizer” to energize the target brand or sub-brand.
An ownable branded energizer is a branded product, promotion, sponsorship, symbol, program or other entity that by association significantly enhances and energizes the target brand and is developed and owned by the organization.
A few examples. …Continue reading
Crayola is a legacy brand that has universal awareness that one associates with making colorful drawings as a child. The 64-count box of crayons represents for many the emotional symbol of what was great about childhood. The century old firm had challenges brought on in part by the advent of electronic competitors for a time, from television to gaming and in part by simple demographics. Crayola was in need of a refresh of their vision, offerings, and culture.
In the inaugural issue of the Journal of Brand Strategy, Crayola CMO Victoria Lozano speaks about how this was accomplished. The process started with the assembly of a team of influential people with conceptual skills that represented different functions and levels within the company, plus an additional few people from outside the firm. With outside consultants facilitating, they spent 20% of their time for four months developing a brand identity for Crayola and determining what the brand should stand for both internally and externally. They looked at the company, the brand and their customers from every angle. In particular, they considered the firm’s heritage and challenges and whether the target market should be restricted to children or instead focus on creativity and developing products for the inner child in adults. As anyone who has been involved in such projects knows, getting the concepts and words right is difficult. …Continue reading
Moving a brand into a value arena has exceptional risks not found in other brand extension contexts. But the decision is often based on business logic driven by the attractiveness of the value market and the ability of the firm to compete. As part of that business decision and its implementation, brand strategists should be able to identify the specific business rationale and the risks of the available brand options. .
A value market may be compelling for a premium brand faced with maturing markets that exhibit perceived product sameness. The value subcategory may exhibit growth and vitality as customers become more price sensitive, as value retailers like Target, Home Depot, and Office Depot become more important, or as some innovations like the Crest Spinbrush make a value offering more relevant. Further, there may be competitors in this space that are getting a foothold and have the potential to encroach on the mainstream markets. It can be strategically important to blunt their progress. …Continue reading
Democrats always seem to lose the all-important discussion framing battle. But with “vouchercare,” they’ve finally won one.
“Vouchercare” describes the republican approach to the reform of Medicare. It frames the discussion around the concept that a fixed price voucher will be given to retired people who must then accept the risk that the insurance industry might price coverage higher than the voucher or, worse, will not insure them at all. It frames the discussion making “vouchers” front and center. Republicans must defend the vouchers instead of discussing the limitations that their approach is intended to address.
The label “vouchercare” has (ironically) been defined by republicans, which makes their effort to reframe harder. The concept “care” as in “Obamacare” implies the essence of a medical insurance program. And “vouchers” are defined by the long-term republican position on education reform. The basic idea is that if parents are given vouchers and allowed to choose schools, then the resulting competition between schools will result in the improvement in education. It is based on the logic of a free market, a logic that may not be as palatable in the medical arena even for those that accept it in the education context.
We will see if the democrats can show the same discipline that republicans have exhibited to leverage their early framing win with “vouchercare.” It requires a willingness and ability to be relentless in keeping the “vouchercare” label as the only descriptor of the programs being discussed. …Continue reading
A key ingredient to success is to have a clear, realizable, impactful business strategy. But what is a business strategy? I developed my view for part of my book, Strategic Market Management (updated edition coming soon), and I deduced that four dimensions define it. The first concerns where you should compete, and the remaining three concern how you should compete.
The first dimension concerns the product-market investment strategy, the scope of the business and the dynamics and resource priorities within that scope. Which products should be offered, and which segments should be targeted? Which should get aggressive investment to enter or grow, which should get minimal investment, and which should be milked, exited or avoided? Where should growth come from? Options include bringing existing products to new markets (market expansion), bringing new products to existing markets (product expansion), or entering new product markets (diversification).
The second dimension concerns the customer value proposition, which needs to be relevant and meaningful to the customer, reflected in the positioning of the product or service, sustainable over time and differentiated from competitors. In can involve elements such as providing good value (Wal-Mart), excellence on an attribute such as getting clothes clean (Tide), quality (Lexus), product line breadth (Amazon), innovative offerings (3M), personality that connects (Harley-Davidson), organizational values (saleforce.com), or a shared interest (Pampers and baby care). …Continue reading