Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Most Important Qualities for Brands


I have posted one or two articles on the brand personality attributes that organizations most often choose for their brands. In this article, I will share the qualities that I believe are most important for brands to possess. I am basing this on the qualities that people seek most in others. I think this is highly relevant because brands are the personifications of organizations and their products and services. By definition, brands take on and express human qualities. So why shouldn't brands take on the qualities that people admire the most in themselves and other people? 

Let's get started. Here are the qualities people most often mention that they look for in friends:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Empathetic
  • Non-judgmental
  • Forgiving
  • A good listener
  • Generous
  • Sense of humor
  • Fun to be around
And here are the qualities that they seek out in life partners:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Sense of humor
  • Reliable
  • Fun to be around
  • Shared values
  • Compatibility
  • Mutual respect
  • Forgiving
  • Intelligent
  • Hard working
Here are the qualities people seek out in leaders:
  • Honest
  • Possessing integrity
  • Confidence
  • Positive attitude
  • Inspirational
  • Accountable/takes responsibility
  • Creative/innovative
  • Empathetic
  • Sense of humor
  • A good listener
  • Decisive
Here are why people love dogs and sometimes prefer them to other people (ok, I know dogs are not people):
  • Affectionate
  • Loyal
  • Uncritical/don't judge
  • Unconditional love
  • Exercise partner
  • Reliable
  • No hidden motives
And here are the qualities that people seek for themselves:
  • Being a good person
  • Competent
  • Respected
  • Wise
  • Smart
  • Trustworthy
  • Kind
  • Loyal
  • Helpful
  • Compassionate
Do you notice similarities between these lists? Here are the qualities that they have in common:
  • Trustworthy
  • Honest
  • Dependable
  • Sense of humor
  • Fun to be around
  • A good listener
  • Empathetic
  • Kind/generous
  • Non-judgmental 
  • Forgiving
As you are thinking about a persona for your brand, consider these qualities. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Ten Ways to Successfully Position Your Brand in Overcrowded Markets



Today, brand managers are increasingly at a loss about how to differentiate their brands. In most product and service categories, every unique and purchase motivating position has been claimed by one or more brands. Product and service categories have matured, brand research has gotten sophisticated and competitors have successfully filled all of the brand positioning niches. So what is a brand manager to do to discover a new unique and compelling brand position?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Identify, create and own a new "category of one." The Strong National Museum of Play did this by repositioning its brand from a children's museum to the only museum of play. 
  2. Through qualitative research, discover one or more compromises all of the brands in the category are making with their consumers and then design a business model and brand to overcome these compromises. CarMax did this vis-a-vis traditional used car dealerships and Uber did this vis-a-vis traditional taxicab companies. 
  3. Choose a valued benefit that has never been a part of the category. Apple did this with the introduction of smartphone apps. Southwest Airlines did this by owning "fun."
  4. Add an element to the brand that no other competitor in the category has added. Opaque did this. It introduced the concept of dining in the dark. 
  5. Make an outrageous version of a traditional product. Check out Loudmouth Golf for wild clothes. 
  6. Combine two or more products into one or two or more functions into one product. Victorinox Swiss Army was one of the first to do this with its knives. 
  7. Focus on a niche market or on one market segment. Orvis and lululemon do this, as does Lane Bryant. 
  8. Create a character that gives the brand a distinctive personality. Kellogg's Tony the Tiger was one of the first, but GEICO's gecko,  Progressive Insurance's Flo and Jamie and Pistachio's elephant, Ernie are also examples of this. 
  9. Go left when everyone else is going right. Naomi Klein did this with her No Logo book when everyone else was writing about the power of brands.
  10. Use a new material or technology that no one else is using. SmartSolve has created environmentally friendly dissolving paper, pouches, labels, thread, tape and adhesive. 
What do all of these approaches have in common? Out-of-the-box thinking.  None of these brands would have become what they became if their managers had applied linear or incremental thinking. 

If you are interested in this topic, here are some other blog posts that might be of interest to you:

By the way, the Interceptor vehicle pictured above is a car, boat, plane and helicopter all in one, applying idea #6 above.




Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Identifying Target Customers



Identifying and describing the target customer should always the first step in any brand positioning process. If you don't know who your customer is, how can you successfully position the brand? In our brand positioning workshops, we usually get people to identify the primary, secondary and tertiary customer targets. Sometimes, they describe the current customer and then describe who they want the future customer to be. We encourage them to be as specific as possible when defining the target customer. We want them to describe the target's "bulls-eye," that is, the customer who is the most advantageous to the brand. We have found that if you successfully define the "bulls-eye," people on the outer rings will also be interested in your brand. Often we phrase the target customer definition this way - "[Description], but especially [more detailed description]."

As real-life examples of the level of specificity that we are seeking, consider these definitions of primary customers for two different wealth management firms that we have helped brand.

  • Successful entrepreneurs with at least $1,000,000 to invest who feel as though they have not been adequately recognized for their accomplishments
  • Retired people with fixed incomes and at least $250,000 to invest who have experienced major market losses or are afraid of major market losses and and not sure their savings will last their lifetimes

Sometimes we are asked if one should focus on the direct customer or the end consumer. Our answer is almost always, the end consumer. Because, if the end consumer is not interested in your brand, your direct customer will likely also lose interest in the brand.

People sometimes ask about the difference between target customers and target audiences. There is a significant overlap between these two groups but customers almost always purchase something from your brand, while audiences may be customers or they may be influencers, regulators, vendors, strategic partners or other stakeholders. 

To indicate how complicated target customer descriptions can be, I will choose two examples, a research university and a municipality. 

Research University Brand Targets 
  • Potential students
  • Parents of potential students
  • High School guidance counselors
  • College guides
  • Alumni
  • Friends
  • Employers (firms recruiting students for jobs)
  • Current students
  • Faculty
  • Administrators
  • Staff
  • Potential faculty, administrators and staff
  • Federal, state and local governments
  • Private and public sources of research funds
  • Accreditation bodies
  • Peer institutions
  • If the university includes a medical school - physicians, nurses, other hospital staff, patients, potential patients
  • The community in which the university is located

Municipality Brand Targets

  • Current and potential residents
  • Current and potential businesses
  • Specific industries
  • Business leaders
  • Cultural institution leaders
  • Travel writers
  • Meeting and event planners
  • Event producers, including sports event producers
  • Tour companies
  • Professional associations
  • People living within a certain radius of the municipality 

And none of this addresses market segmentation, another important part of customer targeting. For more information on market segmentation, consider these blog posts:

And for another post on defining target markets, click here.

Not very often, but every once in a while, I will hear someone say "Our target audience is everyone," or "Our target audience is all adult women." Both of these are much too broad to be meaningful or to offer any direction.

Monday, June 10, 2019

Creating Compelling Places



I have on occasion written about creating place brands and have provided links at the bottom of this blog post to those previous posts. However, today I am writing about how to create compelling places upon which the brands would be built.

Aesthetics always matter. The natural and built environment (architecture, landscaping, etc.) contribute to that as does public art. Fountains and other water features also add to a place's appeal. Some places have unique or distinctive edifaces, landmarks or other design features that can become those places' distinctive icons. Walkability is becoming increasingly important, especially to younger generations. Intermodal public transportation also needs to be addressed. Street activation comes from having the right amenities at street level as well as the programming of interesting concerts, performances, activities and events. Buildings should not appear to be large walls at street level. Rather, they should have interesting window displays and inviting entrances. Easy access to amenities is crucial. Creating density and having a tipping point of residents is essential.

Colleges and universities usually enhance the environment, as do public spaces, restaurants, museums and art galleries. Town squares are particularly appealing.

Citizen input in the form of focus groups and design charrettes ensure that the place meets the needs and desires of its residents. Community organizing also helps keep a place on track for success. Citizens should invited and given opportunities to participate in the community.

Ideally, a vibrant place should have all of the elements of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). That is, it is strong in both technology and the arts. And ideally, entrepreneurship is encouraged and enabled. Innovation zones that create close proximity between different entrepreneurial ventures and creatives will spur innovation and growth.

Regarding the more mundane, parking is adequate and clean public restrooms are strategically located. Parking should be at the perimeter or hidden below ground or behind buildings so that street level activity is based foot and bicycle traffic. The place should not be dissected or otherwise divided into separate pieces by large highways. Strategically placed maps and wayfinding are also important. All of these together should lead to a self-sustaining ecosystem. Doing all of this right makes place branding much easier.

These are my other posts related to place making and place branding:




Monday, June 3, 2019

Mayo Clinic Advertising



I am impressed with the latest Mayo Clinic advertising campaign. The ads feature people leaving their homes with loved ones making their way to a destination - Mayo Clinic. The ads are very emotional with stunning visuals, a reflective mood, poignant moments and few or no spoken lines. The music is emotional the way our Hallmark Hall of Fame ads were emotional with simple acoustical guitar, piano or minimalist orchestral music.

The message at the end of each ad is very simple and powerful: "When it's time to find answers,"    "You Know Where to Go." The second line eventually appears below the Mayo Clinic Logo.

Here is a link to the ads. I believe they are examples of well-crafted, well-executed and emotionally powerful ads. I encourage you to watch them.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Sling TV



I love the Sling TV ads. Here's why. Like the first GEICO ads that featured a cute gecko as a mnemonic device to help you remember the name, Sling TV uses strong references to swinging to do the same. Further, like the GEICO ads, it is entertaining and funny. The commercials might even be described as campy. The commercials capture and keep your attention. From there, they go on to the brand message, explaining what Sling TV is and why you will like it. One of the concepts that works in both its reference to swinging and Slinging is "freedom" as many people seek freedom from their cable TV provider and their long-term contracts and high fees. For all of these reasons, I think these are strong ads.

You can see some examples of these ads here: https://www.ispot.tv/brands/oGQ/sling.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Dissecting the Apple Brand


While Apple has never been a client of mine, I have been an Apple customer for years. I am writing this blog post from a MacBook Air attached to my iPhone while listening to iTunes. I am writing this because the brand has been a very successful iconic brand and I thought it would be fun to explore the brand positioning, personality and associations. These thoughts and observations are purely my own and may not reflect the actual brand position or promise.

First, the brand is simple and easy to use. In fact, it is intuitive. When I switched from a Microsoft computer and operating system to an Apple computer and operating system, I did not refer to any instruction manual. I just turned the device on and started using it.

Second, it is sleek and aesthetically pleasing. Its design is minimalist. It and my Tesla Model 3 have that in common. In fact, my iPhone pairs nicely with my Tesla and my Bang & Olufsen headphones have an external volume control that works seamlessly with Apple devices. I feel that these brands fit well together because they share a focus on excellence, innovation and clean design aesthetic.

Apple has not been an open platform. It controls what software is used with its devices, almost eliminating compatibility problems, speeding up processing time and making it more difficult for viruses and malware.

Apple has become the un-Microsoft brand. Put another way, it has become the superior alternative to Microsoft-powered devices. People have tired of the problems associated with Microsoft-based platforms, especially related to computer security, viruses and malware.

In-store customer service is top-shelf, furthering the hassle-free intuitively easy nature of the brand. And the stores reinforce the design aesthetic of the brand.

Apple is an innovative company and is not afraid of creating something new that makes a previous product obsolete. Witness iPods. They are not afraid of anticipating customer needs and desires and are happy to deliver benefits that customers had not even imagined. The creation of iPhone apps is an example of this.

The cross-compatibility and communication between all of Apple's devices is another positive aspect of the brand.

Brand marketing emphasizes the "cool" factor of the brand.

Steve Jobs was a visible entrepreneur associated with the brand.

There is a certain social cache associated with using the brand. All of the above, plus its higher price points, reinforce this.

Empowered and engaged employees would indicate careful hiring practices. In fact, it has been said that Apple managers ask three questions of potential job candidates: (1) Do they display grit? (2) Can they deliver a Ritz-Carlton level of customer service? and (3) Could they have gone toe-to-toe with Steve Jobs?

Related to this, Apple's culture seems to be one dedicated to discovery and excellence.

Considering all of these positive traits together, it is no wonder that Apple is a top global brand.

For my take on why Amazon.com is also a top brand, click here.