Thursday, December 21, 2017

The Elements of Business and Marketing Strategy

The terms "business strategy" and "marketing strategy" are used a lot, which begs the question, "What are the components of these strategies?" Here are some of the strategic questions that businesses should be asking.


  • What is our mission?
  • What is our vision?
  • What are our values?
  • Who will we serve?
  • What is the most advantageous business model for us?
  • What will our sources of revenues be?
  • What products and services will we offer?
  • How will we source and deliver these products and services - manufacturing, strategic partnerships, licensing agreements, M&A, etc.?


  • What should the organization structure look like?
  • How should we distribute power throughout the organization?
  • Where in the organization will planning occur?
  • What will our decision making processes be?
  • What types of positions and individuals are required to support the organization's goals?
  • Where should ideation and innovation reside in the organization?


  • What are our financial goals?
  • What are our revenue, profitability and growth targets?
  • How will we manage our growth?
  • How will we manage our cash flow?
  • What will our sources of financing be?


  • Again, who is our target customer?
  • For what will our brand stand? What are its values?
  • What types of benefits will our brand deliver to its customers?
  • What is our brand's unique value proposition?
  • What is our brand's promise?
  • What is our brand's archetype and personality?
  • What identity will we give our brand? What is its name and what are the other elements of its identity system?
  • What is our brand's story?
  • What sort of customer experience do we want to create?


  • What are our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats vis-a-vis our competition?
  • How broad will our product range be?
  • What functions and features should our products have?
  • What is the optimal pricing strategy?
  • How bundled or unbundled will our products and services be?
  • What will our distribution strategy be?
  • How will we present our products and services to our customers?
  • What mix of marketing tactics shall we use?
  • What are the dimensions of each tactic - advertising, promotion, publicity, event marketing, sponsorships, CRM, Internet, mobile, etc.?


  • What are our key messages?
  • How will we communicate those messages?


  • What media vehicles will we use to communicate our messages?
  • How much should we spend on each vehicle and in what pattern over time?


  • What is our sales model? Direct, tele-sales, retail focused teams, major accounts management, consultative sales, organized by line of business or geography, independent sales reps, outsourced sales, etc.?
  • How will we configure our compensation packages for our salespeople? What percent of compensation is incentive-based? What behaviors do we want to drive?

While there is some overlap between the questions, they roughly fall into these strategy "buckets." And there is a rough hierarchy of strategies too. For instance, business strategies should be determined first, while marketing communication and media strategies are generally the last to be determined. And each "tactic" has its own supporting strategies. For instance, the Internet tactic might have its own strategies including website design, search engine optimization, email marketing, blogging, content management and social media marketing.

I hope this helps you as you think about business and marketing strategies.

Monday, December 18, 2017

The Exploding Use of Drones in Marketing

According to Gartner, the drone market grew 36% to 2.2 million in unit sales and $4.5 billion in revenues worldwide in 2016. But according to the Consumer Technology Association, 2.4 million personal drones were sold in the US alone in 2016, more than double the 1.1 million sold in 2015. Regardless of the exact numbers, the drone industry is one of the fastest growing industries, especially since the FAA granted exemptions to hundreds of companies to operate drones in 2015.

The market is very broad. and other companies (including Google and DHL) are exploring product delivery via drone. Roofing companies use drones to inspect roofs. Farmers use drones to inspect their crops. Realtors have found drones to be very useful in selling houses and land. Videographers are using drones to create more compelling video content. And there are even more inventive uses. YO!Sushi has experimented with drones to serve food to their customers. And, as one might imagine, there are many military applications for drones. The recreational, commercial and military uses are myriad and still expanding.

I bought a personal drone earlier this year. In the short time that I have owned it, I have used it in the following ways. I have taken aerial videos of my Adirondack mountain property, weaving them into a promotional video to rent my Adirondack home. I have taken videos of a local yacht club and its regattas to create a marketing video for that club. In the process of making that video, the club officers asked me to take aerial still photos of the waterfront area to help them optimize waterfront and dry dock space in 2018. I was even asked by a friend to help her locate her friend’s horse that ran away during a local Steeplechase event.

The top two distribution channels for drones are dedicated drone dealers or distributors and directly from the manufacturers. and hobby stores are #3 and #4. Best Buy and other big box stores are a distant #5 for drone sales.

One can segment the market into three levels – smaller drones/toys, larger personal drones and professional drones. Drones can also be classified by ranges – 0 to 299 meters, 300 to 999 meters and 1,000+ meters. I bought a drone in the 1,000+ meter range. The best brands in that range are Yuneec Typhoon and DJIPhantom (the industry leader).  Other top drone brands are Parrot, Holy Stone, UDI and 3D Robotics. GoPro has entered the drone market too given the importance of high quality photography to the product category. Many other brands are flooding the market, which is still in its infancy.

For the most part, the product names are interesting and consumer focused – Typhoon, Phantom, Parrot, Force1, Blade, Raptor, GoPro Karma, Quanum Nova, AirDog, etc. While other names fall in the category of somewhat boring and techy.

Drone prices can range from $20 for a cheap toy drone to thousands of dollars for professional drones. Top personal drones can run from $500 to $2,000 including accessories.

Drone features that matter include range, battery life, camera quality, portability, obstacle avoidance and a myriad of intelligent flying modes. Technical support and repair services are also important as drones occasionally encounter accidents.

Accessory sales are a big part of the drone industry. Product/accessory bundling is a competitive advantage for some brands. I bought the YuneecTyphoon Q500 4K Quadcopter because it came with its own aluminum carrying case and a complete set of accessories (including an extra battery and propellers) at a value price of $799 on and $899 at hobby stores.

Because of its emergence as an interesting new category, the drone industry is receiving a lot of free publicity and online and offline buzz. Many publications have created lists of top drone brands and most of the brands can be compared and purchased on Several of the top brands have Facebook pages including owner group pages.

DroneCast and Hoovy are dedicated to helping companies use drones creatively in advertising and publicity events. Coca-Cola’s Happiness from the Skies advertising campaign featured drones. Drones were also featured as the villains in The Drones, a TV spot produced by Audi to launch its Audi 6 model in 2015. The Flower Council of Holland used a red drone named Cupidrone to drop red roses on people in Verona, Italy. Watch the YouTube video here. Captain Dave’s Whale Watching & Dolphin Safari created a drone shot video to promote its safaris. This amazing video has been viewed more than 14.5 million times on YouTube. 

The Skye Aero project builds 10-foot helium-filled balloons with small propellers attached. These serve as flying drone billboards. Drobotron also creates flying drone billboards. But theirs can feature motion graphics and even videos.

In 2013, Paramount Pictures promoted its Star Trek Into Darkness film by flying a group of drones over the Thames in London. One of my favorite South Park episodes, The Magic Bush, makes fun of the drone industry. And YouTube is increasingly populated by drone videos. Watch a fleet of 500 Intel drones create a spectacular light show.

Singapore-based Near has tested drones to collect publicly available Wi-Fi signals to help it profile audiences. Imagine the marketing intelligence that could be gathered by merging this information with Internet- and mobile-based data and then applying big data analytics.

In summary, so far, the drone market is intersecting with brand management and marketing in the following ways:
  • It enables much more compelling video content
  • It can serve as a new advertising medium
  • Because of its novelty, it can play a featured role (as an actor of sorts) in ads
  • It can be used to gather marketplace intelligence that can be used for customer targeting
  • It is an emerging product delivery technology, which can provide distribution advantages

 The rapidly growing drone industry is ripe for successful new business approaches and out-of-the box branding strategies. This is a market to watch as it grows and matures.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Big Data and Customer Targeting

Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media and networking websites coupled with smartphone GPS, AI and big data analytics allows the marketer to target customers in a way that was never possible before. 

Not only can the marketer target based on demographics, psychographics and physical location but also on intangibles such as highly correlated behaviors, purchases, web searches, affiliations, etc. 

So first, through factor analysis, cluster analysis and other big data analytics, you need to discover what correlates most closely with the purchase of your brand. Once you have discovered this, then you need to find ways to target people with those attributes. This allows for hyper-efficient targeting that makes old fashioned media planning seem quaint. 

Sometimes it is as easy as using the Facebook platform to run a highly targeted ad. At other times, you have to be creative about how to reach people with certain attributes.  

The beauty of this approach is that you can send very specific messages to each target group or segment. Each message will focus on the angle that will most appeal to people in that group or segment. 

Microtargeting is a related concept. it is the use by political parties and election campaigns of direct marketing datamining techniques that involve predictive market segmentation (aka cluster analysis). It is used by United States Republican and Democratic political parties and candidates to track individual voters and identify potential supporters. The term "microtargeting" was coined in 2002 by political consultant Alexander P. Gage.

When you combine prospect location with targeted messages on mobile phones you are entering the realm of geo-fencing and geo-targeting. Because I know A and B about you and because I know that correlates with an interest in my product and brand and because I know you are in a physical location proximate to where my brand is available for purchase, I will send you a highly personalized alert using the most compelling message for you indicating that I will give you an incentive to purchase my brand now. For an example of this, click here.

While brands need to be managed at a global level, increasingly they need to be marketed at an individual level. With today's tools, that is becoming more and more possible. 

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Give the Gift of Brand Aid!

'I am a huge fan of Brand Aid #2 and have been using it in my keystone graduate class called IMC 463 Brand Communications Decisions. I feel your book is one of the most practical and valuable books ever written about brands. I love the checklists and remind the students that your book is my graduation gift to them because it is a resource they will find useful every day they are developing, managing or increasing the value of brands.'

John Greening, Associate Professor at Northwestern University in Evanston IL heading up the Brand Management specialization in the Graduate Medill Integrated Marketing Communications Program

‘VanAuken has distilled his enormous practical knowledge about the theory and practice of brand management into this smart…volume. The book is packed with information and good ideas – so many, in fact, that it is virtually an encyclopedia of brand management does and don’ts’

Publishers Weekly

‘Of all the books I’ve read on marketing and branding, this one is the shining star! I’ll also go out on a limb and assert that it’s one of the best books I’ve seen published by AMACOM.’

Roger E. Herman, Midwest Book Review

'Powerful yet intangible, a brand is the personification of your organization. Learn to build, nurture, and grow a strong brand that inspires people, forges emotional bonds, and moves customers to insist on buying your brand.

This book guides you through the entire branding process, from using social media effectively to linking your brand to human needs.'

Advertising Educational Foundation

Purchase Brand Aid at or Barnes &

Monday, December 4, 2017

Industry Game Changers

Over time, there have been a large number of industry game changers. They completely disrupt an industry and often put even dominant share leaders out of business. As examples:

  • The Ford Model T largely put horse and buggies out of business
  • Computers replaced typewriters
  • Vacation timeshares created a whole new industry, as did timeshares of private jets
  • The Internet made the world a whole lot smaller
  • Digital photography replaced film-based photography
  • Smart phones have far surpassed any functionality Star Trek imagined for its communicator device and have largely replaced land lines
  • Robots are replacing more and more manufacturing jobs
  • Airbnb is disrupting the hotel industry
  • Uber and Lyft are giving taxicab companies a run for their money
  • Zipcar car sharing has changed things as has Zagster bike sharing
  • and other online retailers are making shopping malls obsolete
  • Self-driving cars will play havoc with a number of industries
  • AI and medical diagnostic learning systems are already replacing Internists in remote areas
  • Eventually, people's vitals will be routinely measured and fed back to health care monitoring systems
  • Stem cell research is leading to organ regeneration techniques
  • Photonics may one day replace silicon chips
  • E-learning may one day replace the way colleges and universities deliver their services
  • With energy storage improvements, it may become routine for individual residences to be self-contained regarding their energy usage
  • With energy storage improvements, electric vehicles may just upend gasoline powered vehicles
  • A break-through in hydrogen fuel cells will have a similar impact on the petroleum industry

So, what are some of the disruptors one should consider?
  • Any Internet-enabled business
  • Any business that benefits from network effects
  • Any business that is scalable
  • Anything that can create disintermediation
  • Any business model that allows for the sharing of specific resources
  • Any new source of energy
  • Any receptor that can detect a new bandwidth of energy along the electromagnetic spectrum
  • Any technology that allows for increased storage of energy
  • Any human activity that can be replaced by robots
  • Any expertise that can be replicated by AI and learning systems
  • Any new mobile phone application that can replace something else

And what are some of the critical skills required to create marketplace disruptions?
  • An entrepreneurial mindset
  • Out-of-the-box thinking
  • Risk-taking
  • Software expertise
  • Internet proficiency
  • Systems thinking
  • Design thinking
  • Some minimum proficiency in science and technology
  • Broad exposure to a wide variety of disciplines

Brand Manager's Span of Influence

A brand is experienced at each customer touch point. So, the brand's perceptions are created, reinforced or diminished at each customer touch point. And given that a brand must consistently deliver on its promise wherever it is encountered, this argues for an extremely large span of influence for the brand manager. 

As an example, consider banking. The brand touch points include, but are not limited to, ATMs, the branch locations including drive-through banking, online banking, online customer support and telephone customer support. But it also extends to interactions with loan officers, wealth managers and other specialists. And, of course, there are the typical marketing communication touch points, which may be executed differently for each product and service. 

How then does the brand manager make sure the loan officer or wealth manager is operating "on brand"? What if a particular branch location is performing its own outreach to its customers? Is that outreach "on brand"? Is the design of the ATM experience "on brand"? What if different types of ATM machines are used at different locations? Does this lack of consistency hurt the brand?

While brand managers can influence brand identity accuracy and consistency through brand identity guidelines, digital asset management systems and cross-functional brand identity management councils, it is less easy to influence all customer-facing or customer-impacting processes or systems. Some are impacted by IT professionals and purchasing agents, both of whom are typically far removed from the end consumer. 

This is where influence on organization culture and employee training can help. If brand positioning and strategies are communicated to all employees through new employee and new manager training, it helps. It also helps to establish ongoing employee updates about the brand. And it also helps to build brand metrics into common measures and balanced scorecards. Alignment of personal objectives to brand objectives may be necessary for certain key employees. Organization-wide recognition and reward systems for brand reinforcing behaviors can also help. 

This wide span of influence implies that a brand manager should possess the following qualities to be highly successful:
  • High emotional intelligence
  • Good listening skills
  • Strong verbal and written communication and persuasion skills
  • The ability to subtly influence others
  • Friendly assertiveness
  • A good understanding of other business functions including organization design, finance and general management
  • Systems design thinking

Remember, as a brand manager, you are more than a brand identity expert or a marketing communications specialist. You are the general manager of a brand, requiring you to think and act very broadly - like a general manager.  

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Tapping Into Self-Esteem Affirming Symbols

Winning a cheerleading contest. Spending time with a cousin on a sailboat. Attending a prestigious university. Winning a fiction writing contest. Traveling across the ocean on an ocean liner. Performing as a soloist in the church choir. Spending Christmas Eve with your family. Scoring the winning goal in a hockey game. Riding with a neighbor in his sports car. Hanging out with your cousins at your uncle's country club's pool. Spending time with your family pet. Being attended to by a compassionate nurse while in the hospital. All of these can create fond memories, memories that are linked to a particular vocation, avocation, activity, organization or group of people. Then, in your adult life you gravitate toward these again as they make you feel good. They tap into those previous fond memories. Or, perhaps they were your one touch-point with happiness or prestige. Maybe they are associated with the one time that you felt best about yourself. 

So, a church, a sport, a breed of dog, a hobby, a club membership, a profession, a place or even a specific color can evoke fond memories. Or, perhaps more than that, they can evoke a sense of belonging, safety, self worth, status or prestige.

A marketer's role is to discover and tap into these affirming symbols of personal well-being. Is the symbol a beach, a pet, a family dinner, a season, a certain type of architecture, an automobile brand or something else?

People pursue hobbies (genealogy, sailing, dressage, baseball card collecting, comedy improv, etc.) and careers (an engineer, a nurse, a doctor, an architect, an artist, a professional musician, a marine biologist, etc.) based on these early life experiences. 

Do you know which symbols make people feel each of the following:

  • Safe
  • Happy
  • Contented
  • Important
  • Purposeful
  • Respected
  • Successful
  • Smart
  • Powerful
  • Free and unencombered
  • On top of the world

Consider how early life experiences factor into creation of the "ideal self" as one matures. This will help you tap into something very deep and emotionally compelling. The symbols and elements can be integrated to the brand's advertising and perhaps the brand experience itself. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Brands & Tribalism

As in the television program, Cheers, everyone wants to belong somewhere.  Everyone wants to call some place home. Nuclear and extended families have always been tribes. Often, churches are tribes. Some times, towns are tribes. Schools can be tribes. Increasingly, political parties are tribes. Is your state a blue state or red state? You may be part of the NRA tribe or perhaps you are a part of the Tesla tribe. Maybe you are a part of the Wall Street tribe. Or maybe you are a part of the super yacht tribe. You could be proud to be called a tree hugger. Or maybe you feel completely comfortable with the redneck label. 

Recently, a growing number nation states are shying away from regional and global alliances to retreat to their nation-state tribes. And sometimes people feel more comfortable in their state or local tribe. Witness Texas or Vermont or Quebec. Or how about Portlandia or "The City" (New York) or the "Hub" (Boston)? Everyone knows Austin is intent on keeping itself weird. And everyone knows what happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas. And, as the recent emergence of hate groups have brought to light, some people only feel comfortable with people of their own race and are intent on dehumanizing people of other races. 

This all get down to personal identity, comfort and feeling safe. Often, we fear what we don't know. At a minimum, many of us feel uncomfortable in places that seem alien to us. For instance, some people may not feel comfortable in an upscale specialty store that requires one to be buzzed in. While others may not feel comfortable at a hockey game or in a trailer park. Many people may not feel comfortable where confederate flags are flying, while others may not feel comfortable at a black tie gala. City folks may feel scared in the country while country folks may feel scared in a big city. And, if you are in a tribe, it is easier to place blame on the other tribe rather than take personal responsibility for an outcome. And most of us enjoy having an enemy or two. I remember wearing at hat that was given me at "The Game" (Harvard vs. Yale football). It said "Go Harvard Yale Sucks." At the same game, they were also passing out a variation of that hat: "Go Yale Harvard Sucks."

Brands can play off of tribalism in a variety of ways. They can appeal to a specific tribe such as Tesla, FOX News, MSNBC, The Peninsula Hotels, Duck Dynasty, Orvis or Carhart. Or increasingly, they can appeal to a much broader view of the world in which one reaches out across tribes. Witness these recent ads: 

A spiritual counselor once told me that to reach a deeply awakened state your embrace needs to be unbounded. That is, your loving kindness and compassion needs to be unconditional and unbounded. Rather than a response of judgment and condemnation, the response should be one of empathy, understanding and caring. Put another way, you have only truly arrived home when your concept of tribe is as wide as the universe. 

So whether your brand aligns itself with a specific tribe or two or whether it is one of the more enlightened brands that encourages one to extend one's reach across tribes, the notion of tribalism is useful for brand managers to understand and use. 

Monday, November 6, 2017

What's Your Brand's Buzz?

A brand is owned in the minds of its customers. So, what is your brand in their minds? Do you know?  If not, do you know where to go to find out? You can always use marketing research, but today, the Internet provides an unfiltered ongoing look into your customer's minds. And it is as simple as monitoring what is said about your brand on several different websites. Some websites even let you respond to your customers comments and address their concerns. 

So, where should you look online? Start here:

  • Your brand's Facebook page
  • Twitter search
  • customer reviews
  • Yelp reviews
  • Yellow Pages reviews
  • BirdEye reviews
  • Citysearch reviews
  • Google Reviews (Google My Business)
  • Foursquare
  • HomeAdvisor reviews
  • Angie's list reviews
  • TripAdvisor reviews
  • Expedia, Orbitz, Priceline or Travelocity guest ratings
  • Zamato reviews
  • Open Table reviews
  • PlanetRate
  • Manta (small businesses)
  • G2Crowd (software/tech)
  • Better Business Bureau
  • Glassdoor (employee point of view)

You might want to set up a brand or company intelligence gathering function that regularly checks these sources for customer feedback and reports it to the brand's or company's managers.

Know though that only a small percentage of your customers will provide feedback, usually those who encountered a problem and those who just love your brand. But for everyone who provides a rating or review, there are perhaps dozens, hundreds or even thousands of others who feel the same way about the brand. So carefully listen to what they have to say. 

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Peeling Back the Onion

Sometimes, in brand research, one must continue to "peel back the onion" to better understand what the consumer is really saying. Recently, a client of mine (a heath care system) discovered that it was delivering well against convenience and accessibility. They discovered this through a quantitative brand equity measurement survey. Multiple data points pointed to this strength, including a variety of scaled response questions and some open-ended response questions. 

What they didn't discover, however, is what this actually means. For that, they will need to "peel back the onion" through further research. For instance, in their industry, accessibility could mean any of the following:

  • Convenient locations
  • Convenient hours
  • Convenient parking, including uncrowded parking, valet parking or free parking
  • 24/7 accessibility in a non-hospital setting
  • A wide variety of payment options, including installment payments
  • A wide variety of insurances accepted including Medicare and Medicaid
  • Accepting patients who cannot pay
  • Short wait times
  • Immediate access to doctors
  • Easy access to patient records
  • 24/7 waiting or lobby areas
  • Quality on-site food
  • Easy admissions process
  • Clear wayfinding
  • Easy website navigation
  • Handicap accessibility such as parking spaces, ramps and elevators
  • Accommodations for deaf and blind people

If this client wants to tout (and even enhance) its accessibility, it needs to know how it is perceived to be accessible. A marketer is very lazy if he or she stops at the concept of accessibility without exploring what that actually means. How else can he or she talk about it properly on behalf of the brand and how else would he or she know to whom this might have the greatest appeal?

When conducting brand research dig deep enough to fully understand what the customer is telling you. This may require "peeling back the onion" in a number of steps.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Determining the Current Brand Position

One of the first steps in a brand repositioning project is to determine the current brand position. While this is often done through a brand audit in which the brand's website and its collateral materials are studied along with those of its competitors, this only identifies what the brand in question and its competitors are saying about themselves, that is, it will only help you identify the intended brand position, not the actual brand position. Why? Because a brand is owned in the minds of its consumers (and anyone else who is aware of the brand). It's position only really exists in their minds. 

So, to uncover the real brand position, one must find out what consumers are thinking. This can come from qualitative research such as focus groups or depth interviews or quantitative research or both. I have talked about our proprietary BrandInsistence(sm) brand equity measurement system. It measures over 70 different components of a brand's equity. It uncovers the brand position though open-ended response questions and brand delivery rating questions. This results in brand positioning maps for the brand in question and it competitors. 

Some of this can also be discovered through third party product/service rating websites and social media discussions involving the brand. Examples of third party sites are,, and

The important point is to understand what consumers are thinking and not just what the brand is saying about itself. I have seen brands that have claimed to be the quality, innovation, customer-service or style leaders only to be discovered to be inferior in those areas after hearing from consumers. So, as you can imagine, brand positioning maps and work driven from marketing communication can be quite different from that driven from customer research. Make sure you always conduct customer research before repositioning a brand. Otherwise, you might end up with a highly flawed brand position. 

This problem can occur with marketing agencies that are weak in marketing research capabilities or that want to reserve the vast majority of a client's budget for the creative work. It can also occur when a client is not willing or able to provide adequate budget for the research. All of the subsequent creative work may be for naught if the positions of the brand in question and its competitors were not really understood because customer research was never conducted. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Importance of Brand Planning

"If You Don't Know Where You Are Going, You Will Probably End Up Somewhere Else" - book title by author David Campbell.

Hopefully, you have developed and are executing against a detailed brand plan. And hopefully, you are measuring the results against that plan. 

Brand plans are much like business plans or marketing plans. You start with high level objectives. What are you trying to accomplish? Increased revenues? Increased profitability? Increased IAT (individual average transaction)? Increased brand awareness? Increased distribution? Increased market share? Increased brand loyalty? Adoption by new market segments? Changing brand perceptions? Dialing up a particular brand association? Changing the brand's unique value proposition? Increasing customer engagement?

These objectives are then supported by strategies and tactics. The tactics usually have budgets and timelines associated with them. And often there is an assigned "point person" for each tactic.

Numeric goals or targets may also be associated with each of these objectives, strategies or tactics. That is, the plan should have some metrics associated with it. 

Finally, a plan is always an "ask" for a certain level of budget in return for a certain level of delivery against the objectives. That is, to some degree, a brand plan is a roadmap for achieving a specific set of objectives for a specified level of investment. 

Plans can look out over a few years but given the changing nature of markets, they often require tweaking on an annual basis if not more often. 

Even if you are in an extremely fast moving industry and even if you are consumed by daily crises, it is an important exercise to step back at least once a year to reassess if you are focusing on the right things to achieve organization and brand objectives. Brand plans reinforce a certain level of logic and discipline.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Twenty Brand Management Tips

Today, I am sharing twenty tips or "rules of thumb" about brands and brand management.

  1. The only thing that stands between a commodity and a brand is relevant differentiation.
  2. More than anything, your brand must be admirable. And, if not admirable, likable. 
  3. In the long run, a strong brand will not completely compensate for a faulty product or service.
  4. Brands that stand for something of substance create more loyal customers. 
  5. In general, broader distribution aids brands in two ways - increasing awareness and accessibility.
  6. Everything else being equal, brand accessibility will translate brand preference to brand purchase.
  7. Your brand must deliver a strong value. Value is the ratio of benefits (functional, emotional, experiential and self-expressive) divided by costs (monetary and time). 
  8. Brand crises are inevitable. Planning for successful crisis recovery is critical. 
  9. Brands are stronger the more targeted they are.
  10. Outside of demographics and usage, attitudes are one of the most effective ways to target brands.
  11. All marketing plans must be informed by in-depth customer insight.
  12. In general, strong brands share these qualities: trustworthy, responsive, reliable, innovative, service oriented.
  13. Online marketing makes it quick and easy to test the effectiveness of different messages and approaches.
  14. The increasing political polarization in the US creates opportunities to target based on this polarization. 
  15. Increasingly over time, services and experiences will be more in demand than tangible products. 
  16. If brand perceptions are a result of the total customer experience then brand managers have a very wide set of dimensions that they must manage or influence.
  17. The market for products and services targeted at the top 1% of income earners and asset owners is large and growing. 
  18. In many ways, the notion of "reach and frequency" is still quite relevant. The importance of each will vary depending on what you are trying to accomplish.
  19. Increasing marketplace transparency will only hurt brands whose delivery does not live up to their promises.
  20. Never forget that you are only employed because your brand and its products and services are delivering something of value to their customers. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Brands, Mystery & Exclusivity

Mystery and exclusivity are two very powerful human motivators. Let's take one at a time.

A partial reveal is always more powerful than a full reveal. And the more often one is exposed to the partial reveal, the more one craves the full reveal. It's human nature. Whether it is in a new product unveiling or a television series plot line, people get hooked based on the mystery and not knowing. I have witnessed many successful new product introductions in which outdoor advertising reveals a little bit at a time in each subsequent iteration until the buzz reaches a very high level. In dating, playing "hard to get" is often a very successful strategy. 

Which leads to exclusivity. If a brand is only available in certain places, especially a limited number of upscale places, it usually has significantly more cache. For instance, if you can only purchase the brand on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Upper Fifth Avenue in New York, Hong Kong's Causeway Bay, New Bond Street in London, Champs Elysees in Paris, Orchard Road in Singapore or The Mall at Short Hills in New Jersey, then your brand likely has significant luxury cache. 

A brand is even more exclusive if the vast majority of people in developed countries have never even heard of it. Such a brand can serve as a badge to inner circle members. These brands might be found in enclaves such as Aspen (Colorado), Costa Smeralda (Sardinia), Côte d’Azur (France), Monaco, Northeast Harbor (Maine), St. Moritz (Switzerland) and Yellowstone Club (Montana). 

Sometimes being mysterious and playing "hard to get" creates even more demand. Some brands might want to choose this strategy.

In case you are wondering, the image at the top of this blog post is of a Maybach Exelero. It's a very nice car with a top speed of 218 mph. You can purchase one for $7.8 million.

Brands & Risk Taking

Sometimes a brand's worst enemy is its risk adverse caretaker. Usually, to break through in an overcrowded marketplace, a brand has to take some risks and do things that other brands in the category are not doing. 

My biggest disappointment as a brand strategy consultant is when, through rigorous research and out-of-the-box thinking, we help a client identify a breakthrough strategy that has the potential to catapult their brand ahead of the competition but then, due to their risk aversion, they decide not to execute that strategy. 

These phrases are telltale signs of that type of thinking:

  • I just don't know if senior management will go for that.
  • It will cost too much.
  • It is a risky move.
  • But we don't know if it will work.
  • We've never done that before.
  • No one else is doing that.
  • There's probably a good reason it never has been done before.
  • It is just too edgy.
  • What if it turns some of our current customers off?
  • I want to hold on to my job.
  • But we don't know how to do that.
  • I think we just need to take small, incremental steps toward that.
  • It's a great idea. Maybe we should consider it again in a couple of years.
  • But that will require a lot of changes.
  • I just don't know if our people are up for that.
  • But how can we walk away from 150 years of history?
  • Don't ask me to present that.
  • But what if it doesn't work?
  • I think it will put our brand too much in the spotlight.
  • That is crossing a line that no one has crossed. 
  • But what if we fail?
  • It's more than this organization can digest right now.
  • I am afraid that there are too many fires we need to fight right now. We do not have time for this.
  • I think the idea is just too far ahead of its time.

Only leadership teams that are willing to try new approaches and take calculated risks will ultimately survive and thrive in the long run. Breakthrough thinking and disruptive strategies are essential to long-term survival and growth.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Customer Profiling

Customer profiling helps organizations identify and then effectively target the most lucrative customer segments including how to best reach them in the shopping process and what brand messages are likely to work best with them.

We help organizations profile their customers in actionable ways. First, we measure brand purchase intent. We then discover the values, attitudes, aspirations, behaviors and demographics that have the highest correlation with high purchase intent for their brand. This helps us identify different customer segments for targeting, including the most promising segments. For more information on customer segmentation, go here or here.

Specifically, we measure the following:
  • Brand purchase intent
  • Customer demographics:
    • Age
    • Gender
    • Marital status
    • Employment status
    • Occupation
    • Presence of children
    • Household income
  • Shopping behaviors:
    • Where information is gathered
    • Influencers
    • Distribution channels and stores shopped
    • Purchase frequency
    • Average amount spent
    • Importance of quality
    • Importance of design
    • Importance of customer service
    • Importance of price and price discounts
  • Values, attitudes and aspirations
    • Lifestyle/activities (3-6 statements)
    • Shopping (3-6 statements)
    • Self-perception and personal style (3-6 statements)

We can also include product usage questions, depending on how many categories the brand represents. And we can correlate values, attitudes, aspirations, behaviors and demographics with brand preference and brand loyalty (including Net Promoter Score) as well.

If you do not have an actionable profile of your customer, you should consider doing this work. It makes your marketing spend much more effective and efficient.