Brands drive attention and income off awareness, but they derive their real value from their ability to shift and sustain longer term sentiment.
Every brand decision is a negotiation between what has worked to date and what is required to succeed going forward.
We often think of brand value in financial terms. But that value, I would venture to suggest, is actually a result of a broader initiative that brands need to think about in these busy times: finding ways to be valuable in the lives of those who buy from them.
Differentiation is acknowledged by most as the goal that every marketer should be seeking. But the enthusiasm for the pursuit masks a common misunderstanding – in the context of brand strategy, different and difference are not one and the same.
One of the hardest judgment calls for brand managers is relevance. Brands must change to stay consistent yet they must also remain recognisable in order to preserve brand equity. So what should you change, and when?
It’s tempting to believe that every brand must be vastly different and that every opportunity to push the boundaries should be taken if the brand is to win. But is there a case for normality that we’re missing here? Should, as Jay Bauer has suggested, brands stop trying to be amazing and just get on with being useful?
Short answer – yes it is, but not in the way it was. I haven’t met a brand manager yet who didn’t tell me that they had a differentiated product. I’m not surprised. It’s part of the job description of any brand owner to be marketing something that is disruptive, market-changing, blue-ocean, category-killing … 15 years on from when I first suggested “parity is the real pariah”, every brand’s still talking up difference – but consumers are increasingly hard pressed to see any.
When you’re hard at work on ambitious projects, it’s a given that the team is pushing the boundaries of what would have been considered sensible. I choose those words carefully – “would have”, because these projects are always about ways forward but are often judged on references back; and “sensible” because that’s the filter that so many people put across the recommendations they get.
We now have greater access to ideas than ever before, but the ideas themselves, it seems to me, have a much shorter half-life. New thinking, new people, new everything are presented to us at a dizzying pace – in editorial, feeds, slide decks, talks, videos, articles, almost everywhere one cares to look. In an age of instant celebrity and content marketing, thoughts and variations of thoughts are being championed from every social soapbox. Ideas have become fashion – because they are marketed to us as fashions. And like fashion, most will barely outlive the press release that trumpeted them. A proliferation of lists across the media adds to the sense of volatility. The “fadar” is how I describe the promulgation of ideas fighting for our collective and individual attention across every aspect of the cultural landscape. Some will shine. Many won’t get the chance. Others will bedazzle on first view only to burn out well before they hit paydirt … (Ironically, as an idea in its own right, the fadar is of course subject to …
The first time I really thought about the role of an astute retailer was while watching Mary Portas. Her point: any retailer can stock. Smart and profitable retailers, by contrast, handpick items that their shoppers will crave – and that is where they add value. In a great shop, she was saying, you don’t just come to buy, you come to discover things you wouldn’t normally find housed together. Fine point, well made. These days, curation is all the rage. As Trendwatching so rightly observed in an article aptly titled “Everyone’s a curator now”, what used to pass for selecting, choosing or finding (Didn’t we once call that editing?) has been transformed into the more scholarly-sounding art of curating. That’s hardly surprising, Trendwatching observes, given the massive levels of choice that consumers now face, nor it is actually that new. In fact, the idea morphed out of the art galleries more than a decade ago, and really picked up pace with the arrival of Facebook, iPod playlists and Flickr. To Steve Rosenbaum, author of Curation …