Month: October 2013

Brands Beyond Functionality: 7 great lessons

go to link Everyone talks about the need for brands to keep up with consumer demand, yet, curiously, some brands have lived on beyond their purely functional need, largely because they carry with them associations in the form of eternal ideas that continue to burn strong. Watches – for example. Who needs a Rolex today to tell the time (did they ever?) and yet the marque is unchallenged because prestige is an idea that never goes out of style. Zippo is another brand that has outlasted the heyday of cigarettes. As this article in Ad Week explains, “Harnessing its long-standing popularity with men and its indelible associations with fire, Zippo now sells an Outdoor Line that includes everything from emergency fire starters to hand warmers.” True diversification. In a world where so many brands lose relevance and fall by the wayside, what lessons should we take from iconic brands that have successfully passed their necessity date and continue to prosper? The issues faced by Victorinox seem to me to symbolise the dilemmas and the opportunities. Their Swiss Army …

Outperforming as a brand: making the right investment in disruption

see Everybody professes an interest in growing. Everyone wants to outperform the market. Yet the challenges to do so are for the most part under-estimated and the appetite required to resource adequately in order to decisively disrupt is generally lacking. An interview with Stephen Hall and Conor Kehoe, two McKinsey directors, on why companies are reluctant to aggressively reallocate resources reveals that strategic inertia springs from two sources. According to Kehoe, there is unwillingness internally to move people and/or capital to unproven initiatives. And there is resistance from investors who, even though they like the long term results, are hesitant to accept short term downturns. The business case for redistributing strategic energy though is clear. In this study, the firm compared those who reallocate resources at a high level with those that were much more reluctant to do so. The difference was a 3.9% difference in annual incremental returns to shareholders. Over 20 years, that amounts to a doubling in total returns to shareholders (assuming all dividends are reinvested). Companies that actively reallocated resources continued to …

Brands and regulators: rethinking compliance

http://restginhisshadow.com/tag/chemo/?http://faithfulbloggers.co It’s easy to see recent surges in regulation as a reaction to the corporate scandals of previous years and to characterise the return to a much more compliant environment as one of bureaucracy on a roll (and a role for that matter). But one of the reasons re-regulation is back, surely, is that the world is moving away from a pure market forces model (driven by business) towards a marketplace model that incorporates drivers such as consumer rights, environmental concerns, ethics and responsibility. Whether you agree with the politics of this or not, that new marketplace model is much more sympathetic to a regulatory approach. It’s also a sign of a shifting sense of consequences. The former model left it to the market within reason to decide what would and would not happen, pretty much relying on efficiency to sort out what needed to be rectified. The GFC proved that the market wasn’t the world’s greatest policeman and that sectors on a roll aren’t necessarily all that thorough about a whole bunch of things. This …

Expanding the brand experience: one question looms large

Relationships are becoming more one on one; communications are becoming faster and more frequent; customer loyalty cycles are becoming shorter – and yet organisations, returning to merger mode after the GFC, are scaling to breathtaking size. The dichotomy between the intimacy customers are looking for and the footprint that companies are generating in order to, supposedly, reach those individuals more efficiently is glaring. This incongruity came up in conversation recently during a discussion about the mega merger of Omnicom and Publicis. We were talking through how such a merger would probably be great for the agencies’ biggest clients but might read as a signal to depart for those that could now fall below the horizon of attention. Imagine how much clout you’re going to have as a marketing client with even a few million to spend in a Group that will be billing around $23 billion? Imagine how difficult it is for a company of that scale to deliver communications that feel one on one? I’ve seen and heard a number of reasons for why …

When other brands attack: 5 reasons to defend yourself

Is there any reason why you wouldn’t defend yourself in the face of an attack on your market share or reputation? None that I can think of off-hand. Because to do so is to simply hand hard-earned loyalty and turnover to someone else on a plate. Nevertheless, faced with a concerted effort to take market share from them, too many brands defy rational behaviour and either carry on with business as usual or simply ignore what is going on in front of them. Here are my five reasons why you shouldn’t behave that way: It telegraphs weakness or at least vulnerability: Failure to respond decisively and aggressively tells your competitor(s) that you are not in a position, physically or emotionally, to do so. As such, it simply encourages greater activity on their part. It tells your customers you don’t care: When you fail to fight for your customers, it tells the people who buy from you that you either take their loyalty for granted or that you don’t care if they leave. Delays push you …

Customer loyalty: 3 ways to win if you’re a retailer

These findings from research of the ways we go about our lives have confirmed people are nowhere near as random as previously thought. In point of fact, after tracking more than 100,000 mobile phone users over a period of six months, the clear conclusion from this research if you’re a brand is that people mostly visit a limited number of locations time and time again. Customer loyalty pays. Literally. What’s interesting to note, given that we live in this much heralded era of mobility, is that most people also move around over very small distances – five to ten kilometres. No surprise then that this infographic by FlowingData shows a pizza-chain within a 10-mile radius across the United States. Some people, of course, range much further, but even then, they stick to remarkably similar patterns, once again tending to return to the same places over and over again. So customer loyalty is also limited. For the most part, it operates within finite parameters. But a recent study of grocery buying habits also reveals something stranger, …

A Virtual Coffee with Tom Asacker

Brands and Beliefs: A (Short) Virtual Coffee™ with Tom Asacker

I was first introduced to Tom a number of years ago when he and I were on the same contributor panel and I’ve always been taken by four qualities that come out time and again in his work: his call-it-the-way-it-is approach; his extraordinary ability to condense whole systems to meme-length summaries; his relentless search for new form; and above all his humanity and clarity. Tom’s fifth book, The Business of Belief is about stories, dots and history (you’ll see why below). It did what I knew Tom would do: took a space that seemed finite and broadened the consideration-set to include ideas and insights that were very revealing. Reading it prompted me to seek a deeper understanding of what’s playing on Tom’s mind about beliefs and brands. Here’s some of the highpoints from our conversation: 1. Wishes drive beliefs Tom: The word “belief” comes from the Middle English “lief,” which means to wish. Belief is simply a working assumption about something or someone … driven by what we would wish something to be. 2. People …

Brand expression: the fight against dullness

I’m a huge believer in stress-testing the expression limits of brands. And as a general rule, I’ve learnt that you can push language a long way – often further than you imagined – providing you demonstrate humanity, insight, humility and fun, and you connect in ways that people identify with and find refreshing. People can be very scared of showing humanity, candour or opinion. But brands with character hook people in and make them loyal as hell. Rohit Bhargava has written an excellent book on the business case for authenticity, Personality Not Included. It’s a great read, and there are some telling case studies. Here are my five best tips on how to nudge your language to the borderline: 1. Look at how your competitors speak – if they’re all talking foo-foo, don’t add your brand to that clamour. Instead, find a way of relating to people that makes you the most interesting voice in the marketplace. 2. Stay on brand – your voice should reflect who you are. If you’re a fun brand, be …

Telling the short (brand) story

Everyone has a story to tell. Not everyone feels they have the time to listen. Which is why brands need to become adept at the short story form. Increasingly, the messages that pass between brands and their customers will need to be articulated in 140 characters, 6 seconds, a shot, an update … But brevity is not the full answer – and those who believe they can communicate exclusively in such formats will risk selling themselves short. To master short form storytelling, marketers will need to know the long form version of their brand story better than ever. (You can’t edit what you don’t have.) And they will need to judge duration and relevance with greater accuracy. The ability to distil and disseminate bursts of interest, and to mix those short forms with longer, deeper, richer forms of expression, will decide who flourishes and who withers. Acknowledgements Image of “Clock” taken by Earls37a, sourced from Flickr

Brand repositioning: Radicalising your brand

Comes a point in the lifecycle of most brands when they hit critical complacency. The marque has mainstreamed to the point where it effectively blends with its surroundings to form part of the amorphous middle. That’s the black hole towards which all brands are drawn. Competitiveness erodes. Prices start to fall. Comfort levels and intransigence soar. Appetites for risk, so apparent in the early years, fall away. Eventually, the lights go out. We could all run a list of those that have succumbed. But whilst complacency and conservatism are easily spotted, they are much more reluctantly abandoned. Getting off the merry-go-round is difficult, because it requires management to re-radicalise; to muster the courage and the energy to pick new fights and wage new wars; to attack what they operate so efficiently and effectively now in order to save it. (Seth Godin in his book The Icarus Deception expresses clearly and strongly how and why industrialisation works this way.) It’s hard to be radical and commercial: hard because it so often looks unreasonable. As Gary Hamel …