Thursday, June 30, 2016

Logo Research

When exploring new logo executions, the research may include any or all of the following components:
  • Logo Imagery. Imagery evoked by various logo alternatives vs. that evoked by the current logo. (This exercise usually includes the intended brand personality attributes and attributes such as “boring.”)
  • Logo Recognition. A “mock-up” of each variation of the logo is placed in its most likely usage environment (e.g., store marquis, product packaging) and then people at various distances are asked about what they see. This technique measures visibility, recognition, and the ability to break through visual clutter at various distances.
  • Logo Recall. One at a time, different logo alternatives and the current logo are mixed in with other companies’ logos on a panel. People are allowed to view the panel for a few seconds. After that, the panel is covered or taken away and they must write down all of the brands that they remember seeing. Results are compared for each variation of the logo.
  • Logo Preference. Each variation of the logo is featured on a card. People are given the deck of cards and asked to sort the logos/cards in order of preference. They are then asked to comment on why they ranked each logo variation the way they did.
At BrandForward, we conduct similar research for brand positionings, names, tag lines and messaging. 

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

Monday, June 27, 2016

Online Brand Building

Key considerations in online brand building:
  • When building brands online, content is king. If your brand is not associated with continuous stream of useful or entertaining content, it will be taken far less seriously.
  • The online medium invites feedback and engagement. Build this into your brand’s online experience.
  • Visuals (including videos) are becoming increasingly important to any online brand experience.
  • An important benefit of the online medium is that it makes it possible for your brand’s messages to go viral. There are specific strategies and tools to help you initiate and accelerate this viral process.
  • As with any other brand activity, you must start by defining your target audiences.
  • Furthermore, your brand must have a unique value proposition and you must be very clear about your brand’s promise.

In the Online Brand Building chapter of my Brand Aid book, I focus on eleven key components of online brand building:
  • The Brand Website
  • The Importance of Content
  • The Power of Blogs
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Online Advertising
  • Using Social Media
  • Web Analytics
  • E-Mail Marketing
  • Online Public Relations
  • Mobile Apps
  • QR Codes

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

Brands & Price Sensitivity

It is extremely important to be able to estimate the impact of price changes on sales and profits. That is, it is important to know how a price change will impact consumer response, competitive response, and unit volume. Many businesspeople erroneously believe that a price increase is the most cost-effective revenue-generating marketing tactic. I have heard generally intelligent professionals share their excitement about how a price increase will drop to the “bottom line” dollar-for-dollar. Most of the time, this is simply not true.

People display different price sensitivities to different products in different situations. Often people are relatively price insensitive, but only within a relevant price range. Once a price exceeds that range, people become very sensitive. Raising the price across that threshold is akin to walking off a cliff.

Factors That Decrease Price Sensitivity
  • Relevant brand/product differentiation.
  • Marketing and selling on factors other than price.
  • Convincing consumers that quality differs significantly among products and brands in the category.
  • Self-expressive or “image” products or brands. (For example, if I wear sports apparel featuring Nike’s swoosh logo, it implies I have the “Just do it” attitude of Nike’s “authentic athletic performance” essence. If I carry a Gucci handbag or wear a Rolex watch or drive a Mercedes-Benz, it says I have social status. If I wear a Harvard ball cap, it says I am extremely smart and successful; and if I wear a Harley-Davidson tattoo, it says that I know the freedom of the road, that I am a free spirit.)
  • Brand advertising.
  • Situations in which price is a signal to quality—usually for relatively new or unknown products or brands.
  • When it is difficult to ascertain a “reference price” within the category.
  • When there are significant switching costs—in dollars, time, effort, risk, or emotional impact.
  • Product categories for which the risk of failure is an important issue.
  • When the price is insignificant relative to the total budget or discretionary income.
  • When the item does not significantly contribute to the cost of the products and services that a business sells.
  • When the price falls within the expected price range for products in the category.
  • When offering “value-added services” vs. “price discounts” to motivate purchases.
  • New markets.

Factors That Increase Price Sensitivity
  • Price promotions, especially when people are able to stock up on the price-discounted items
  • Mature and declining markets

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Donald Trump Brand Personality

I am conducting an online survey to better understand Donald Trump's brand personality. I will report the results on this blog when the survey is complete. Please help me spread this survey throughout the Internet as I want to have as large a sample size as possible with as diverse a set of respondents as possible. Later I will look at the impact of Donald Trump's changing personality perceptions on the Trump brand and its equity. Thank you for helping me with this. 

Here is the LINK to the survey. 

Thursday, June 23, 2016

When to Reposition a Brand

Brand repositioning is necessary if one or more of these conditions exist:
  • Your brand has a bad, confusing, or nonexistent image.
  • The primary benefit your brand “owns” has evolved from a differentiating benefit to a cost-of-entry benefit. (For example, for airlines cost-of-entry benefits would be safe flights, needed routes, and required times.)
  • Your organization is significantly altering its strategic direction.
  • Your organization is entering new businesses and the current positioning is no longer appropriate.
  • A new competitor with a superior value proposition is entering your industry.
  • Competition has usurped your brand’s position or made it ineffectual.
  • Your organization has acquired a very powerful proprietary advantage that must be worked into the brand positioning.
  • Corporate culture renewal dictates at least a revision of the brand personality.
  • You are broadening your brand to appeal to additional consumers or consumer need segments for whom the current brand positioning won’t work. (This should be a “red flag” since it could dilute the brand’s meaning or make it less appealing to current customers or even alienate them.)

You follow the same steps and address the same brand design components when repositioning a brand as you do when first designing the brand. But, brand repositioning is more difficult than initially positioning a brand because you must first help the customer “unlearn” the current brand positioning (easier said than done). 

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Brand Equity

Brand equity is the commercial value of all associations and expectations (positive and negative) that people have of an organization and its products and services due to all experiences of, communications with, and perceptions of the brand over time. This value can be measured in several ways: as the economic value of the brand asset itself, as the price premium (to the end consumer or the trade) that the brand commands, as the long-term consumer loyalty the brand evokes, or as the market share gains it results in, among many others. From an economist’s perspective, brand equity is the power of the brand to shift the consumer demand curve of a product or service (to achieve a price premium or a market share gain).

To use a metaphor, brand equity is like a pond. People may not know how long the pond has been around or when it first filled with water, but they know that it supports life, from ducks to deer. It also may provide recreation, irrigation, even human drinking water. Clearly it is a valuable resource. But many people take the pond for granted. It seems as if nothing can diminish its supply of water, yet we sometimes notice that it rises with the spring rains or lowers after a long drought or overuse for irrigation.

Similarly, brand equity is a reservoir of goodwill. Brand building activities consistently pursued over time will ensure that the reservoir remains full. Neglecting those activities or taking actions that might deplete those reserves will reduce the reservoir, imperceptibly at first, but soon all too noticeably until it is too late and all that is left is mud.

This illustrates a chronic difficulty in brand management. Brand equity is critically important to a company’s success, yet because of its reservoir-like nature, it is often taken for granted, overly drawn upon, and not adequately replenished, especially in times of crisis or to meet short-term needs.

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Brands and Memory Triggers

Brands are encoded into memory and decoded from memory using a variety of triggers. Often, specific emotions are also encoded in the brain associated with those triggers. The triggers can be images, colors, shapes, textures, sounds, scents, flavors, attitudes, personalities, voices, characters and other distinctive brand elements.

Consider what triggers exist for each of the following brands:

  • Coca-Cola
  • Apple
  • Harley-Davidson
  • Cinnabon
What triggers exist for your brand? Are you using them consistently? Are they associated with specific emotions?

Monday, June 13, 2016

Brands and Empathy

Successful marketing professionals are adept at understanding human needs and motivations and playing to those through carefully crafted brand stories, messaging and experiences. We have strong intuition and great analytical skills. We have learned how to appeal to people's hearts and manipulate their emotions.  And we have learned how to use fear to our brand's greatest advantage. 

This may be why I have heard some people call marketers "spin doctors," "practitioners of the dark arts," and "master manipulators."

I would have you pause for a minute and consider another approach. We are good at reading people's emotions. Instead of being very clinical about manipulating people's behaviors, why don't we try to empathize with them, have compassion for them and actually adapt our brands to best meet their needs and even surprise and delight them in ways that they had not anticipated? 

Not only is this a more ethical approach, but it also creates lasting value and stronger emotional connection. 

Jean Giraudoux, a French diplomat, dramatist and novelist (1882-1944) once said, "The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that, you've got it made." I have heard several political strategists quote different versions of this over time. But I am recommending that you do not subscribe to this philosophy. Do not fake it. Truly be authentic and sincere and operate out of integrity. Further, know that every organization exists for one purpose and one purpose alone, to meet human needs, and hopefully not just the needs of its shareholders, but most importantly, the needs of its customers, patients, patrons, members or clients. 

So do this - think about how your brand can truly help its customers. What problems can it solve in their lives? What needs can it meet? How can it make them feel better? How can it make their lives easier? How can it heal them or make them happier? Wouldn't this be a more rewarding approach to your job? Consider it.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Category Definition

Choosing the right category definition is not a trivial exercise, despite the casual way in which many marketing professionals approach this. In general, people assume a category definition based on the current product portfolio and common sense. But sometimes common sense is not that sensible.

One can choose to use a category definition for which every advantageous brand position is taken. Or one can choose a category definition that allows for future growth. One can choose a category definition that can breath new life into the brand. Or one can choose a category definition that enables the brand to become a "category of one" brand.

Further, one can choose a category definition that makes sense to consumers or one that consumers find hard to comprehend. One can choose a category definition that provides clear product development direction or one that leaves the product development direction much more wide open.

And one can create a category definition based on product features/content or product use or consumer benefit.

Take the (non-alcoholic) beverage category for example. Following are potential category definitions. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. And each has its closer in competitors and further out competitors.

  • Beverages
  • Bottled water
  • Non-alcoholic beverages
  • Children's drinks
  • Fun drinks for children
  • Soft drinks
  • Carbonated soft drinks
  • Colas
  • Un-colas
  • Juice drinks
  • Healthy beverages
  • Hydrating drinks
  • Sparkling ice
  • Energy drinks
  • Electrolyte drinks
  • Sports beverages
  • Live beverages
  • Fruit beverages
  • Flavored waters
  • Sparkling waters
  • Smoothies
  • Yogurt smoothies
  • Coconut water
  • Vitamin-infused drinks
  • Tea
  • Flavored teas
  • Coffee
  • Coffee drinks
  • Flavored coffee drinks
  • Dairy beverages
  • Flavored milk
  • Dairy alternatives
  • Calming drinks
  • Hot drinks
  • Cold drinks
  • Refreshing drinks
  • Snack drinks
  • Mix your own drinks
  • Frozen drinks
  • Chillers
  • Organic drinks
  • GMO-free drinks
  • Flavor-explosion drinks

And the list could go on and on. Next time you are quick to say which category your brand is in, give it a second thought. You might find that a new category definition is all you need to energize your brand and bypass the competition.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

What is a Brand?

Brands date back to earliest recorded history when they were used to indicate the origin of a product and information about its quality. As far back as 2250 BCE, researchers have found evidence of brands being used by craftspeople and merchants in trade. They often took the form of seals featuring pictorial symbols and text. Brands (stamping with embers or hot irons) were also used to identify harlots or wrongdoers and to identify livestock ownership.
(Source: Karl Moore and Susan Reid, “The Birth of Brand: 4000 Years of Branding,” Business History 50, no. 4, July 2008, pp. 419-432.)

The American Marketing Association describes a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them
from those of competition.”

More important, a brand is the source of a promise to the consumer. It promises relevant differentiated benefits. Everything an organization does should be focused on enhancing delivery against its brand’s promise.

Combining a few different definitions, a brand is the name and symbols that identify:

  • The source of a relationship with the consumer
  • The source of a promise to the consumer
  • The unique source of products and services
  • The single concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect (according to brand management experts Al Ries and Laura Ries, in their book The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding)
  • The sum total of each customer’s experience with your organization
Finally, another way to think about brands is that they are personifications of organizations and their products and services. In this way, brands can hold certain values, have specific personalities, possess admirable qualities, stand for something, make promises, and create emotional connections with people.

Source: Brand Aid, second edition, available here.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Segmenting Voters

Segmentation always begins with in-depth qualitative research to understand hopes, aspirations, fears, anxieties, beliefs, attitudes and values. This can take the form of depth interviews, mini-groups or more traditional focus groups. There are also online qualitative research methodologies. 

While segmentation can be based on demographics, psychographics, cohort groups, geography and behaviors, basing it on attitudinal statements often yields the richest insight into motivation. 

For voters, there are differences between people of different ages, genders, races, religious affiliations, socio-economic groups and geographies. However, the most insight can be gained by exploring hopes and fears associated with the following dimensions, which typically can be represented along continua:
  • Sense of personal competence and mastery
  • Feeling left behind and powerless versus empowered and a change agent
  • Belief in the innate goodness (versus evil) of humanity
  • Moral absolutism versus moral relativity
  • Degree to which one believes that life is a "zero sum" game versus a state of unlimited potential
  • Degree to which one thinks competitively versus cooperatively
  • How broadly one views one's "tribe" (my family, people of my race or religion versus all of humanity or all sentient beings)
  • Belief in the innate equality of all individuals
  • Focus on helping others versus self-reliance
  • Where a person is on Maslow's hierarchy of needs
  • Degree to which one feels "safe"
  • How strongly one embraces personal autonomy, freedom and liberty for all
  • Attitudes regarding rules, laws and authority
  • Fear of power concentrated in government
  • Fear of power concentrated in corporations
  • Fear of power concentrated in religion
  • View of the role of government in people's lives
  • Which form of government one thinks works best
  • Which economic system one thinks works best
  • Pragmatism versus staunch commitment to an idea
  • Openness to new ideas and change

Insights on these dimensions can be correlated/mapped to demographic, geographic and other more actionable targeting criteria. These insights can also lead to the identification of "wedge issues" and talking points that can be exploited to steer voters in specific market segments to vote in specific ways.