Friday, July 31, 2015

The Three Things Every Brand Needs to Be

Based upon extensive research, a brand needs to possess these three qualities to be a strong brand:
To say this another way, a brand cannot possess one or more of these three qualities and still be a strong brand:
  • Dishonest or otherwise lacking in integrity
  • Unpleasant, unfriendly or disagreeable
  • Boring
While this may seem obvious, it is important that you know where your brand resides on these three continua. 

Components of a Brand Positioning Statement

I have helped position more than 150 brands over the past 15 years. During that time, my thinking on what should be included in a brand positioning statement has evolved. Here are the components I focus on today:

  • Target customer description - To whom does your brand most appeal? Who is your brand's most advantageous customer? Who is your brand primarily serving? I ask people to think about  today and in the future. I have them think about primary, secondary and tertiary targets. I have the marketers describe the target customers in as much detail as possible. The more targeted the brand is, the more clear the brand's promise becomes. Targeting a brand in great detail does not rule out secondary or tertiary markets or people who aspire to be the primary target.
  • The brand's essence - The heart and soul of the brand, its timeless quality, stated in the form "adjective adjective noun." This does not need to differentiate. It just needs to capture the brand's core essence.
  • The brand's promise, including its competitive frame of reference, its primary differentiating benefit or shared value within that frame of reference, the market forces that make that differentiating benefit relevant or salient and proof points for and reasons to believe the brand's promise. The brand's promise is very similar to the brand's unique value proposition. I focus on benefits or shared values that go beyond functionality, ones that are emotional, experiential and especially self-expressive.
  • The brand's archetype - Based on Jungian archetypes, this provides insight into the brand's core motivations, what drives it to behave as it does. 
  • The brand's personality - seven to twelve adjectives that describe the brand as if it were a person.
  • Other important brand associations - brand associations that are core to its character and identity.
For more information on brand positioning, read chapter 6 (Brand Design) of Brand Aid.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Robust Brand Identity

A brand's identity system helps people recognize the brand. It helps people encode the brand in their memories and quickly extract it from their memories. The system incorporates a number of identification triggers. These almost always include visual components but can also include other sensory components such as Cinnebon's cinnamon scent and Harley-Davidson's engine sound. Several hotels are exploring distinctive aromatherapy scents. The visual components can include a shape or icon such as Nike's swoosh, McDonald's arches or the Olympic rings. Often packaging shapes are a part of the system such as Coca-Cola's distinctive bottle shape or Absolut vodka's unique bottle shape. Colors are usually a part of the system such as John Deere's green, UPS's brown or Southwest Airline's vibrant color palette of blue, red, gold and orange.

Consider personal brands. I am known by my name. Sometimes people associate me with my Brand Aid book. Many people know that I earned an MBA at Harvard. People who interact with me in person know that I usually wear a bow tie with a jacket.  People that know me well expect me to arrive in a Toyota Prius as I have owned three of them since 2000. And friends know that I am a passionate sailor. Each of these are "brand" associations that may also serve as triggers for people to think of me. My brother associates me with scary clowns, but that is another matter entirely.

The more distinctive elements that you can build into your brand identity's system the better. They may include names, shapes, colors, patterns, type fonts, visual styles, sounds, scents, textures, flavors, spokespeople, jingles and feelings. You can also associate your brand with occasions, events, situations, product uses, lifestyles or particular types of people.

The system should be rich but not overly complicated and flexible enough to be effective in every media, use or application. And here is the most important part - you must use the elements consistently over time once you have decided what they are. This is key to memory encoding and decoding. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Brand Familiarity Leads to Liking

Research has shown that brand familiarity leads to liking. Prior use of a brand increases its favorability. And sampling (or even touching or otherwise interacting with the product) increases the probability of purchase.

Consider the automobile salesman who encourages the potential buyer to take a test drive. Colleges and universities find that high school students who visit their campuses have a much higher probability of attending their schools. This, along with asset utilization, is why colleges and universities also hold summer academic camps for promising high school students. 

I like to buy artwork. The owner of one of my favorite art galleries lets me take home paintings that I like (without paying for them) before I know if I have a space for them on my walls. He knows that if I take them home with me, most of the time I will decide to keep them.

AOL built its briefly very popular franchise (of a mediocre product, in my opinion) by sampling millions of CDs with free access to their online portal. Grocery stores sample food products that they would like you to purchase. And many ski resorts offer new ski demos for a small fee to encourage people to try new ski products and brands.

Many consumer packaged goods companies sample their wares at large festivals. I have tried many free food items at the Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival.

Tobacco companies gave away free cigarettes to our troops during war time. Not surprisingly, many soldiers came back addicted to smoking.

If you want people to know, like and purchase your brand, get it in front of them as often as you can. Find ways for them to see, touch, interact with and use the brand. This will increase your brand's favorability with them.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Brands and Memory Structures

An important role of the brand manager is to determine the memory structures associated with the brand so that marketing communications can reinforce and leverage these structures. Also, potentially useful new brand associations can be discovered in the process.

For instance, Bush beans might be associated with summer, picnics, grilling, family and Duke (the dog). Coke might be associated with its bottle shape, the color red, the beach, parties and nightclubs. A pizza brand might be associated with cheese and tomato sauce, family and friends and watching sports on television. Hallmark's greeting cards are associated with holidays, special occasions, family and friends. But they also are associated with candy and flowers among other product categories.

Everyone knows McDonald's arches and Nike's swish. Most people associate Harley-Davidson with the sound of its engine. Many people associate Tesla with Elon Musk and batteries and alternative energy. People associate Cinnabon with the cinnamon scent. Many brands are associated with fond childhood memories or with sex. What is Old Spice associated with? How about Dos Equis? ("Stay thirsty, my friends.") GEICO? 

The trick is to discover all of the items people associate with the brand so that those associations can be reinforced, built upon and used to help people recall the brand associated with not only marketing communication and the brand identity itself, but also with specific relationships, occasions, complimentary products and other memory triggers.

If you have not identified and mapped out your brand's memory structures, you need to do so. it will help with the effectiveness of your advertising and your brand's identity system.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Brands and Trademarks

Trademarks, like brands, build in strength over time. The test for trademark infringement is “confusing similarity.” Put another way, if the average consumer believes both products to have come from the same source, there is infringement. Obviously, the more a consumer is familiar with a particular brand, the more defendable its mark. That’s why it behooves a company to do the following:
  • Choose a distinctive mark, including a “coined” name. As I mentioned in the chapter on brand identity, brand names range from generic and descriptive to suggestive and arbitrary or fanciful (“coined”). Obviously it takes longer to build meaning for coined names, but they are also more distinctive and easiest to protect legally. Kodak, Xerox, and Exxon fall in that category. Suggestive marks are the next most protectable. Examples include Coppertone, Duracell, and Lestoil. Even common words can be used as trademarks as long as they are not used descriptively. These common words/phrases are also suggestive marks: Amazon (big), Twitter (brief and chatty), and Apple (different, offbeat). Descriptive marks are not protectable unless the brand creates a secondary meaning for the word, such as Weight Watchers, Rollerblade, or Wite-out. Generic marks, such as Shredded Wheat and Super Glue, are not protectable at all.
  • Avoid geographic names as a part of your mark—they can be the basis of trademark refusal.
  • Register the mark.
  • Be consistent in the use of the mark.
  • Create strong trade dress (as discussed later in this chapter).
  • Widely advertise and distribute its trademarked products.
  • Do all of this over a long period of time.

Because the strength of a mark is dependent upon consumers’ familiarity with it, it is much easier for a competitor to neutralize your mark soon after it has been introduced than after it has been in use for a long period of time.

Courts use the following tests to determine infringement:
  • Strength of the trademark claiming infringement.
  • Similarity of the two marks.
  • Evidence of consumer confusion.
  • Care a consumer takes in comparing products.
  • Intent of the organization in using the potentially infringing mark.
  • (Some drugstores and grocery stores use generic brands that emulate a leading brand’s package shape, colors, typestyle, formulation, etc., and display the product side-by-side with the leading brand to imply that there are no differences between the two, encouraging consumers to purchase the lower-priced generic item. In this situation, there is clearly intent to emulate the leading brand and reduce the perceived differentiation and value advantage of that brand, but it is not clear that there is intent to deliberately cause confusion as to source.)
  • Relatedness of the two businesses.
  • Overlap between communication and distribution channels.

By using the mark in association with your products and services over time, you gain trademark protection. Registering your mark (marks can be registered at the state and federal levels) provides additional protection. Although common law and federal trademark statute protect an unregistered mark, registering your mark transfers the burden of proof to the second comer in challenging a mark’s registration. With federal registration, you can sue infringers in federal court. Also, after five years of registration, the mark becomes incontestable. Federal trademark registrations last ten years and can be renewed every ten years ad infinitum.

You can acquire trademark rights in one of two ways. To acquire trademark rights based on use in commerce, you must be the first person or organization that uses the mark in conjunction with the products or services for which trademark protection is sought. To acquire the mark base on intent to use, you must apply to register the mark through the United States Patent and Trademark Office.

Before choosing a trademark, first conduct a simple search to weed out marks that are not available. This search can be done online for free. After that, for the remaining candidates, conduct a full search through a law firm specializing in trademark law or through an experienced trademark search firm.

Strong brands run the danger of becoming category descriptors. Always use trademarks as adjectives, not verbs or nouns. If your brand is in danger of becoming a category descriptor, consider talking about your brand in the following way that differentiates the brand from the category. For example: “Jell-O® gelatin,” “Kleenex® facial tissue,” and “Xerox® photocopier.”

Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Brands Reflect Culture

Organization or group culture often determines how decisions are made and how people behave in different situations. Culture is driven by beliefs, values, attitudes, assumptions, personal and group goals, roles, systems and processes. Culture changes are often required to support new business models and new brand promises and positions. But culture changes, because of their complexity, are well beyond the roles and skill sets of most marketers. Organization design experts must be enlisted for these types of changes. 

One can promise a certain organization behavior to outside audiences, but unless the culture is designed to support the intended behavior, that behavior may not occur. Culture changes can take months and even years to fully implement so patience is required and the brand should not make promises prematurely before it can keep those promises.   

Once you have decided how your brand and organization will win in the marketplace going forward, it is important to assess whether the organization culture will support that winning direction. If it will not, a culture change project is required. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Measuring Customer Touch Point Experiences

We often work with clients to help them create additional brand promise proof points at each point of customer contact. This goes well beyond marketing communication. It also includes the product purchase experience, the product usage experience, customer service, technical support and a variety of other customer touch points. We helped a federal credit union enhance its brand experience at its ATM, branch location, online and telephone support customer touch points. Airlines have online, airport checkin, gate area, information/help desk and telephone support among other touch points in addition to the airplane experience itself.

What are you doing to solicit feedback on the quality of the customer experience at each of those touch points? Delta Airlines requests ongoing feedback from its customers, and especially its frequent flyers, on the quality of various components of individual trips taken on its airline. 

The trick is to establish a simple and unobtrusive process for monitoring customer feedback so that the customers can quickly and easily share their feedback on a regular basis without becoming fatigued or annoyed. 

Monday, July 20, 2015

The Art of Persuasion

There are certain techniques that advertisers, politicians, salespeople, speechwriters, preachers, and others have long known to be effective in persuading people. Social psychologists have studied many of them in great detail. Anthony Pratkanis and Elliot Aronson, in their book, Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Persuasion, outline four basic strategies to effectively influence others: 1) defining/structuring how an issue is discussed, which includes setting the agenda and creating the frame of reference, 2) establishing credibility (authority, likability, and trustworthiness), 3) vividly focusing the audience’s attention on the key point the communicator intends to make, and 4) arousing emotions in a way that can only be satisfactorily addressed by taking the communicator’s desired course of action.

In his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert B. Cialdini, Ph.D., focuses on six principles of persuasion: 1) reciprocation (people try to repay favors out of a sense of obligation); 2) commitment and consistency (people behave in ways that support an earlier action or decision); 3) social proof (seeing other people doing something makes it more acceptable and appealing); 4) liking (people are more likely to say yes to people and brands that they know, like, and trust); 5) authority (people are inclined to yield to authority); and 6) scarcity (people are more motivated by the thought of losing something than by the thought of gaining something). Cialdini also indicates that many approaches lead to “liking”: physical attractiveness (which studies have shown to be a function of body/facial symmetry), similarity (people feel comfortable with you and can relate to you), compliments, familiarity (through contact and cooperation), and direct or indirect association with other likable entities.

Both books are quite interesting and well worth reading, if only to help you better understand how third parties attempt to persuade you on a daily basis.

Other considerations in creating highly persuasive communication:
  • Always design the message to play off of the audience’s preexisting beliefs, values, and prejudices.
  • To be effective, your point of departure must be from a place of agreement.
  • Try to define the issue in a way that your brand can’t help but “win.” This is why it is so important to choose the optimal “frame of reference” in brand positioning.
  • Sometimes, just asking the right questions can reorient people’s thinking about a topic in your favor.
  • Comparisons/contrasts alter perceptions of the items being compared/contrasted.
  • For example, when I moved to Rochester, my realtor first showed me a number of overpriced houses that required much work. When we got to the houses that she wanted me to buy, they seemed even more appealing than they might have otherwise if she hadn’t first shown me the other houses. This concept is also used in establishing reference pricing. Create reference prices that make your price seem more reasonable or even a “bargain.”
  • Be careful when labeling, categorizing, or describing competing brands or approaches in ways that cast them in a negative light. While it is an effective technique (that is, it usually works), in the long run, it may cast a less favorable light on your brand.
  • Making people feel as though they are a part of a group (assigning brand labels, brand-as-a-badge) helps sell products and brands.
  • Fear and guilt sell. (Example: “When you care enough to send the very best.”)
  • Paint vivid pictures of desired or dreaded end states with words or images, or both.
  • Let people touch, try, use, and otherwise interact with your product or brand before they buy it. Once they have done so, they are much more likely to want to purchase it. This works for a wide variety of situations: from automobile test-drives and in-home free-trial uses of products, to overnight stays on the campus of a college that you are considering attending (assuming the experience is positive).
  • Neurolinguistic programming (NLP) is a well-studied technique that increases persuasion. Through NLP, you can establish a strong rapport with the audience by mirroring the mannerisms and expressions of the audience, which allows you to more easily lead them in the direction of your choice.
  • “Largest,” “fastest growing,” “most popular,” “highest rated,” and other similar claims provide strong third-party endorsements for a product or brand. (Alternatively, they may be perceived to be puffery by a jaded audience unless you back them up with credible proof points.)
  • Repetition increases the effectiveness of communication.
Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here

Thursday, July 16, 2015

The Brand Management Process - An Overview

While the brand management process is not a linear process (it is organic and iterative), it generally begins with customer and market research, followed by brand strategy and positioning. The brand strategy and positioning comes to life through brand identity, marketing communication and organization design-related activities for brand-promise alignment. Sometimes there are also customer touch point design activities to create more proof points for the brand promise at each point of customer contact. Brand equity monitoring and adjustments then occur on an ongoing basis. These should result in the five drivers of customer brand insistence - awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility and emotional connection, all of which contribute to strong business results including increased brand loyalty, decreased price sensitivity, ability to charge a price premium, increased ability to attract and retain the best employees, increased ability to align the organization in a specific direction, increased bargaining power with business partners, greater flexibility for future growth, increased sales and market share and increased market valuation and stock price.

Here is a chart that provides an overview of how this works.

Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here. © 2015 Brad VanAuken

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Products & Services Matter

I have said this before and I will say it again. Outstanding branding only goes so far. It builds awareness, creates a consistent identity for encoding and decoding brand associations in people's minds and can imbue products and services with emotionality. That is, it can make products and services more admirable and more likable. Having said all of that, the products and services must be adequate at a minimum, but preferably innovative and superior. Outstanding products and services overlaid with outstanding branding is an unbeatable combination. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Did You Know?

Psychologist Erich Dichter found that consumers are more apt to relax and accept advertiser recommendations when the tone is that of a friend or an unbiased authority.

(Source: Emanuel Rosen, The Anatomy of Buzz: How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing. New York:

Doubleday, 2000, p. 210.)

There is a direct correlation between advertising spending, brand awareness, and market share (given that the brand’s distribution is equal to that of other brands in the category and consumers like the brand’s point of difference). In fact, James Gregory and the Corporate Branding Partnership (and others) have linked advertising spending to increases in sales, earnings, market share, and stock price.

A brand’s perceived quality increases with increases in advertising impressions, regardless of message.

Research has shown that the media environment affects advertising claims. For instance, quality claims are more effective on elite or prestigious websites because people associate the claim with the media environment.

(Source: Dean Donaldson, “Location Matters: How Ad Environments Affect Performance,” Advertising
Age, December 10, 2009,

Aspirational, upscale, and high status brands have the potential to alienate customers who lack confidence. While these customers might admire these brands, they don’t feel comfortable using them. Building warmth, humor, and less formality into the brands to make them more approachable helps overcome this problem.

(Source: Max Blackston, “Observations: Building Brand Equity by Managing the Brand’s

Relationships,” Journal of Advertising Research 32, no. 3, May/June 1992, pp. 79−83.)

Risk taking, innovation, breaking industry rules, products that outperform, and services that exceed customer expectations strongly contribute to brand vitality. “Adequate,” “suffice,” and “good enough” are not a part of a vital brand’s vocabulary.

The products and services that achieve the most “buzz” and that benefit the most from buzz are innovative, leading edge, and of superior quality—often creating a new standard for customer experience.

The typical No. 1 brand is worth 10 percent more than the No. 2 brand to consumers (range: zero percent to 35 percent).

© 2015 Brad VanAuken, excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

Sources of Competitive Information

  • Competitor websites.
  • Press releases. There are free online services that can send you daily e-mail messages with press releases on topics of interest to you.
  • Industry analyst reports.
  • Financial analyst reports. (If you have a Charles Schwab or Fidelity account, you can use their research functions to view company research reports from a wide variety of financial analysts.)
  • News clipping services.
  • OCRInternational ( and Avention ( consulting and research services.
  • Harte Hanks (, Hoovers (, and other company databases.
  • Online database searching services, such as FirstSearch, ProQuest, and Lexis-Nexis Academic Universe.
  • Services that track advertising spending.
  • Search engines and intelligent agents.
  • Online chat rooms, bulletin boards, and discussion groups.
  • Product/brand review websites e.g. (Chapter 11 has more).
  • Trade magazines.
  • Trade shows.
  • Competitor direct mail campaigns. Add a friend or relative to their lists.
  • Your field sales force. Responding to the information they send from the field will encourage them to send more.
  • Ex-employees from competitors’ firms. They may be under your employ now, or they can be identified from job search databases.
  • Current customers. Many of them will pass on competitive communications they receive.
  • Primary and secondary research (qualitative and quantitative, including brand equity studies). Make sure to investigate syndicated studies. Syndicated studies are typically published by large research firms such as ACNielsen, Harris Interactive, and Forrester Research. An example is IntelliQuest’s Computer Industry Media Study.
  • Purchase and use a competitors’ products (i.e., become a customer). Your entire management team should do this; it is an excellent way to understand competitors’ customer experiences.
  • Market tours. If you work in retail, visit stores that carry your competitors’ products and talk with the sales associates about their products and services and what the companies are like to work with.
  • Competitive intelligence firms.

© 2015 Brad VanAuken, excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Brands and Category Definitions

Marketers often take for granted the category that their brand is in. The category may be a given or at least seem intuitively obvious. However, often the obvious can be misleading or not helpful or even harmful to the brand’s growth potential.

What do I mean by this? Let’s consider a symphony orchestra as an example. Its marketing manager likely thinks of the orchestra’s category as "cultural institutions" or "cultural attractions" or perhaps "live musical performances" or "live classical music performances." What competitors might this imply? Chamber orchestras, music festivals, ballet companies, modern dance companies, opera companies, equity theaters, public art galleries including contemporary art galleries, historic homes, recreated cultural villages and architecture tours to name a few.

But do the same types of people attend or otherwise support all of these cultural institutions or attractions?

Is it more about music and people who appreciate music? How about jazz festivals and bluegrass festivals and rock concerts and raves and swing dancing classes, and ballroom dancing classes and nightclubs at which one can dance to electronica and house music? Are they competitors?

To what age ranges do symphony concerts appeal? The general consensus is that symphony orchestras appeal to an older crowd. What income segments are most likely to attend symphony concerts and support symphony orchestras?  Again, general consensus is that symphony orchestras primarily appeal to wealthier people. Do these two assumptions limit the brand’s growth and success potential?

Is there a geographic boundary to the category? A given metropolitan area? That and anything that can be experienced on television or online?  What if there is another metropolitan area nearby? Do brands in proximate markets also compete? Is the target customer likely to travel for other musical or cultural experiences?

What else competes for the symphony concert goer’s time and attention? A night out at the movies? Dinner with friends? A television show? A bridge game? A night at the baseball game? An evening on the sailboat? Travel?

To create your brand’s unique value proposition, you need to know what it is competing against. The way to do this is to understand who your current customers are and what their consideration set was before they chose your brand. That is, what other products or services were they willing to substitute for yours? What were their other options? These may lead you to an entirely different category definition, one that could lead to a stronger brand position or allow for greater growth.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

National Car Rental

I must admit, I have been intrigued by National Car Rental's Control Enthusiast ads. When National first began running these ads, I didn't get it. As someone who is on the road a lot (a "road warrior") and who rents cars a lot, the ad did not appeal to me at all. It seemed to be targeted at salespeople, salespeople who wanted to feel as if they were the masters of their own destinies. 

To me, two things are interesting about these ads: (1) they focus on a basic psychological need - control and (2) they are so overt about it, even more recently, in a humorous way. This reminds me a little bit of the HUMMER ads that ran for a short time. They seemed to be focusing on HUMMER as a solution for men who were unsure of their own masculinity. It gave them the confidence they needed. I couldn't tell if the ads were a spoof on the commonly repeated joke about HUMMER owners or whether they were real ads targeted at that audience. If it was the latter, the ads "spilled the beans" on the deep consumer need delivered by the brand, presumably making the brand less appealing to that segment. 

As I was not involved in the development of either ad campaign or the consumer insights that led to them, all I can say is that it is interesting to me to see brands focusing on deep psychological needs rather than functional benefits, especially in such a humorous way.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Brands and the Emotions they Evoke

Brands can evoke strong emotions ranging from excitement, anticipation and happiness to anxiety, trepidation and revulsion. 

For instance, if your spouse surprised you with a Maserati Quattroporte S for your birthday, how would you feel? If you won an all expense paid vacation in Branson, MO, how would you feel? If you won the same for Paris, France, how would you feel? If Donald Trump was elected president of the United States, how would you feel? If Hillary Clinton was elected president of the United States, how would you feel?

If you were told that your spouse was serving Spam for dinner, how would you feel? If dessert was Ben & Jerry's ice cream, how would that make you feel? If instead, you were going to The Capital Grille for dinner, what emotions would that evoke in you?

If you were required to watch South Park on television, how would that make you feel? If you were required to watch Downton Abbey instead, how would that make you feel? How about if you were required to watch FOX News? MSNBC? 

When I say Harley-Davidson, how does that make you feel?

How would receiving a Blackberry smartphone make you feel? How about an Apple iPhone?

What if I gave you a free carton of Marlboro Lights? How would that make you feel?

I hope I have made my point that strong brands evoke strong emotions. Do you know what emotions your brand evokes? Are these the right emotions to stimulate purchase and to reinforce loyalty? Or do they work against the brand in some way? Do the emotions the brand evokes vary by consumer segment? (The answer to this is usually "yes.")

I encourage you to determine the emotions your brand evokes for its different customer segments and then to amplify the emotions that have the most positive impact on the brand.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Brand Accessibility

BrandForward's BrandInsistence (SM) brand equity measurement system recognizes that there are five drivers of customer brand insistence - awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility and emotional connection. I talk a lot about relevant differentiation in the context of brand positioning and every brand manager knows that brand awareness is the keystone of brand equity building. I haven't talked much about brand accessibility, however. 

If a person has a preference for a particular brand, he will consistently purchase that brand if it is equally accessible to competitive brands. If it is not, he may forgo the purchase until it is accessible or he may purchase a competitive brand instead. 

I typically use two examples of this. One is someone who slightly prefers Coca-Cola over Pepsi. As long as there is Coca-Cola in the nearby vending machine, he will purchase Coca-Cola. If he encounters an out-of-stock situation for Coca-Cola in that machine on a given day, he has several options - search out another source of Coca-Cola, purchase Pepsi instead or forego a soft drink altogether. 

Another example I use is a high school student choosing a college. If her preference is Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) but that school rejects her, that option is inaccessible to her. If RISD places her on the waiting list, her accessibility to that school is diminished. If she is accepted but with a year's deferral, again her accessibility is diminished. Finally, if she is accepted but that school provides an inferior financial aid package compared to her other options, again her accessibility is diminished. In any of those situations, she may choose to go to her second choice school instead of Rhode Island School of Design.

I recently purchased a Hobie Getaway sailboat. I live in a suburb of Rochester, NY. When I tried to go online to order needed parts for the sailboat, I discovered that Hobie ( does not allow one to order parts directly from them. One must go through an authorized local dealer. Further, I discovered that the nearest two authorized dealers were 67 miles away in Buffalo and 76 miles away in Syracuse. I do not feel like driving an hour and fifteen minutes in each direction paying New York State Thruway tolls to buy a couple of parts. For fun, I looked up the closest Hobie dealer to Yellowknife, Canada. Hobie's dealer locator returned the information that the "nearby dealer" is 616 miles away in Edmonton, AB. I understand the wish to support local dealers, but when there are no local dealers, one should have other options. Mine will be to purchase non-Hobie parts at one of my local marine supply stores (of which there are several in Rochester). 

Also, see this blog post on the Power of Distribution.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Creating the Optimal Brand Experience

How do you create an optimal brand experience? First, ask the following
  • Will the experience impact all of the human senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch?
  • How will the experience make people feel?
  • Will people want to linger with your brand’s products and services?
  • Will people want to use the brand often? Will they want to return frequently (for applicable product/service categories)? Will they look forward to using the brand’s products and services again?
  • Does your brand reinforce something about who your customers are?
  • Does your brand have a strong “point of view”? Does it stand for something? Is it clear what it cares about?
  • Is your brand exciting, soothing, exhilarating, fun, comforting, relaxing, stimulating, centering, calming, rejuvenating?
  • Will your brand conjure up images in your customers’ minds? Will it evoke memories?
  • Will your brand have the power to take people to “a different place”?
  • Can it put them “in a different state of mind”? Will it have the power to change their mood?
  • Will your brand make people feel as though they belong to something important or good or newsworthy?
Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition, available here.