If a firm believes that one of its products is bad for its customers or bad for the environment, what should it do? If the product is contributing to youth obesity, to alcoholism, or to energy waste, is there a responsibility to “unsell” that product in order to get people to use it less?
A firm can make product or program decisions that will be a win-win. The Marks & Spencer “Shwopping” program gives customers a voucher for every M&S item they bring in to recycle, enhancing both sales and image. Both diet sodas and reduced fat ice creams are examples of products that don’t hurt taste, but have provided their brands with a healthy business while addressing a societal problem. McDonald’s “healthy” menu items have shown a profitable direction for the brand. But what about decisions that risk damaging the brand or business? Are such risks ever warranted?
Assume that a snack and desert food firm knows, via sophisticated research, that many of its products that win taste and usage tests also have huge amounts of sodium, sugar or saturated fat. Should it walk away from those products or “degrade” them so that they are less unhealthy? If a firm’s clothing takes a lot of energy to make, should a firm encourage customers with a full closet to buy more? …Continue reading
With or without performance enhancers, the repair of his badly damaged personal brand is one feat that is beyond even Lance Armstrong.
Banned for life last year from competing in sanctioned sporting events, stripped of his seven Tour de France titles as a result of his long-denied involvement with doping, and having lost most of his endorsement deals, Armstrong is back in the news this week in a tell-all (or tell-some) interview with Oprah, marking the start of a public campaign geared towards restoring his image. By confessing to the doping, according to all reports, he is hoping for a reduction in his lifetime ban so that he can compete in sanctioned triathlons and redeem himself.
Too bad the campaign is in his own mind, and redemption is not his to claim. This is one brand that is beyond repair – and I’m in the business of trying to find brand hope, often when hope is hard to find.
But there were too many lies, too much deceit, too many lives ruined, too great an amount of damage to a revered sport and too many missed opportunities to come clean offered by the USADA, the Sunday Times, Nike and even his own charitable foundation. By wrapping up his cycling triumphs into his own inspiring fight against cancer (the ultimate impetus for Livestrong), Armstrong committed the ultimate brand sin. He broke the trust of those who needed to trust him the most. We’ve been “lanced,” or “pierced with a sharp object.” …Continue reading
When identifying the top print advertisements and best headlines in the last century of advertising, one written in 1926 by a young copywriter named John Caples, only one year on the job, is always part of the conversation. The ad is known by its headline, “They laughed when I sat down at the piano — but when I started to play!” His assignment was to entice people to buy piano lessons by correspondence from the U.S. School of Music. As inspiration he was given a pile of advertisements that worked, another pile that didn’t, and was left to attempt the task.
Under a picture of a young man at a party sitting down to play the piano, the headline set the stage and indeed summarized the story that was recounted in the body of the ad. The hero was ridiculed by the guests when he sat down, but the ridicule turned to accolades and applause when he begins to play, only a few months after starting the correspondence course. The ad was not only critically acclaimed but, more to the point, brought a lot of customers. …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
How the Retail Giant Is Transforming Itself
It’s been a long journey back for The Gap, but there’s a light showing that signifies it is finding its way back from both a leadership and relevancy perspective.
Recent headlines speak to this. Financial performance has been trending up. It’s been getting kudos for creative marketing and merchandising – from the bricks and mortar launch of its hugely popular Piperlime online clothier to Banana Republic’s very successful tie-in with AMC’s Mad Men. Then there’s the inspired move to bring on Michael Francis (former Target CMO and JC Penney president) as its first marketing creative advisor.
Seth Farbman, brought onboard 18 months ago as the Gap’s first Global CMO, has been steering the Gap’s transformation. During a recent presentation as part of Prophet’s Change Agent Webinar Series, Seth discussed the journey. Portions of his commentary follow: …Continue reading
Marketers have long championed the cause of branding, especially in the B2C space, citing such benefits as product memorability, familiarity, brand loyalty, and lower product marketing costs. But beyond these quantifiable costs, brands are also a reflection of the company’s spirit, goals, and position in the marketplace. One useful tool in understanding a brand is to think of it in the context of a superhero.
The Importance of Origin
Origin stories explain three important elements of a superhero: mission, identity and powers. Consider the origin story of Batman. Eight-year-old Bruce Wayne, walking with his parents in an alley, runs away as muggers approach and subsequently witnesses the murder of his parents. His traumatic story serves as the backdrop for the creation of Batman. Bruce’s mission quickly becomes clear: to avenge his parents’ death. His identity—millionaire and owner of Wayne Enterprises—explains his ability keep his Batman alter-ego secret. And while Batman has no supernatural power, his Batsuit, Batmobile, and Batcave enable his fight against Gotham’s most evil villains. …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
Creating effective brand portfolio strategies is one of the most difficult and critical challenges facing today’s executives. Too often, the family of brands generates customer confusion, inefficiencies, mixed opportunities, and misallocation of resource rather than supporting each other and the brand’s underlying strategy. Gathered from my book, Brand Portfolio Strategy, here are 10 guidelines that point toward the creation of a cohesive, effective, well-defined brand portfolio strategy.
1. Make sure that each brand has a well-defined role or set of roles to play in each product-market context that it is expected to contribute. Each brand needs to be actively managed in order to be successful within that role. In particular, brand building resources should be allocated on the basis of these roles and not based on the sales and profits they are currently generating. For example, future master brands, emerging brand platforms, endorser brands, and lynchpin brands (brands like GM’s “On-Star” that provide differentiation to other brands), for example, should receive adequate funding so that they can fulfill their role.
2. Identify the strategic brands that will play a driver role in supporting major businesses or product platforms in the future. A brand is said to have “a driver role” when it drives the purchase decision and defines the use experience. A brand with a driver role will represent the offering and summarize its value proposition and lead the charge against competitors into the product market. A strategic brand is the present or future star player, a brand that the future success of the business will hinge on. …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