Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Global Competition & The Increased Importance of Carefully Crafted Messaging

Mobility and communication have increased substantially since the dawn of inexpensive air travel and the Internet. Historically, competition was mostly local or regional, but with every breakthrough in transportation and communication technology, every business is increasingly competing with every other similar business across the globe. 

Companies that used to pay hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars for a well thought through brand identity system, are now seeking out smaller agencies from smaller local markets that can do the same work for a fraction of the cost. And if a logo is all that one wants for one's business, many price-sensitive organizations are turning to graphic designers in countries where wages are so low that they can get a new logo for $200 or less. 

In the twenty-two years that I have successfully positioned brands for my clients, more and more product and service categories have become mature and overcrowded with too many brands saying (and doing) exactly the same things. Unless an organization pursues leading-edge innovation, disruptive technologies, "category killer" business models or other radical out-of-the-box approaches to competition, even though they may have distinctive brand identities, they have for all intents and purposes, become commodities that are beholden completely to price and convenience for their survival. 

This is why carefully crafted - no perfectly crafted - brand messaging is so important. Almost all brands are now competing in a sea of choices that can hardly be differentiated from one another in the minds of potential customers. Your brand needs to stop potential customers in their tracks. The messaging needs to be so "spot on" that it derails their continued product search.

Radical innovation is still a competitive advantage. And there are a myriad of ways to increase convenience (location, 24/7 operations, individual targeting, responsiveness, etc.), however competing on price is a slippery downward slope that ultimately leads to disaster. But if you don't get your messaging right, not much else matters. 

Does your messaging...

  • Immediately address the potential customer's pain point or need?
  • Meet the potential customer where he or she is now?
  • Make your brand sound substantially different from every other brand?
  • Engage the potential customer emotionally?
  • Help the potential customer to feel completely understood?
  • Convey a brand personalty that is highly compelling?
  • Use just the right amount of words (no more or no less) than the medium requires?
And are the word choices highly relatable by the target customer? And is your messaging memorable? 

As the global competition gets stiffer, don't forget to substantially improve your messaging. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Brand Spokespeople and Characters

Not every brand uses a spokesperson or character as a part of its identity system or advertising campaign but many have over the years. The spokesperson or character can give the brand a distinctive voice and personality. 

This blog post is a celebration of some of the more memorable brand spokespeople and characters. 

Some of the earlier characters were used by food brands, especially children's cereals.

Some have changed gradually over the years.

While others have been put to rest.

Some brands feature a legion of characters.

Many insurance companies have used them over the past decade or two. It all began with this guy.

But then others followed.


Some were very cool and effective, but perhaps too effective in socially unacceptable categories. 

Some sell drug discounts.

While others sell CPAP cleaning devices.

Some eat too much.

And some are afraid of being eaten.

Some seem to be cousins, perhaps creating links between product categories where none should exist.

Some were rather short lived.

While others had a particularly long run.

And some just keep going and going and going...

Some are intended to be friendly and fun, but for people suffering from coulrophobia, they evoke other emotions.

Some brands were embarrassed by their spokesperson choices.

While others stuck with their spokespeople even after times got tough. 

Some spokespeople are always trying to be in control.

And finally, a salute to one of the first characters - a giant of a guy.

Here is to all of the characters and spokespeople that have given voice and personalities to their brands!

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Customer Brand Insistence Revisited

I have been preaching about the five drivers of customer brand insistence since we first developed and tested this brand equity measurement system in the late 1990s. Since then, we have tested this system with hundreds of brands across almost as many product and service categories. It indicates that five things drive customers from being aware of a brand to insisting upon the brand and then ultimately being loyal to and even being advocates of the brand.

Again, these are the five drivers:


The first driver is awareness. If you offer the best product in its category backed by the best service offered at the lowest price delivering the best value, and no one has heard of it, you will not achieve any sales. Awareness is the cornerstone of any marketing campaign. Awareness not only puts a brand in a purchase consideration set, it also increases customer preference, quality perceptions and purchase intent. Strong marketing campaigns with both reach and frequency increase awareness as does broader distribution. And PR and proactive publicity, including publicity stunts, can significantly increase brand awareness.


The difference between a commodity and a brand is not a name or a logo - it is relevant differentiation, or put another way, a unique value proposition. Give customers a reason to choose your brand over other brands in its product category. The best differentiators are shared values, self-expressive benefits ("brand as a badge"), extraordinary product purchase or usage experiences, superior customer insight that leads to anticipating and addressing latent needs, easy one-stop shopping and offering a superior value based on the perceived benefits received for the amount of time and money required to receive those benefits. Once the relevant differentiation is created, then the marketer needs to make the relevant differentiation very clear at each and every point of customer contact. Focusing on just one differentiating benefit increases a customer's ability to recall that benefit so choose the brand's differentiating benefit wisely. Here is a post on how to position your brand in overcrowded markets. And here is a post on branding in highly competitive categories.


I already touched on this. For most people, the two scarce resources are time and money. Give them more time and more money while solving their problems or meeting their needs and you have delivered a good or perhaps even excellent value.


All things being equal, the more accessible brand will get the sale every time. Wider distribution not only increases brand awareness, it also increases brand accessibility. 24/7 brand access is better than more limited access. Accepting multiple payment methods and one-click shopping also increases accessibility. There is also a psychological aspect to accessibility. Do people believe your brand to be accessible, or for one reason or another, do they feel that your brand is less accessible to them?


Brand personality, brand voice, brand visual style, brand trustworthiness (which includes brand consistency and reliability), brand responsiveness, outstanding customer service and technical support (with includes front-line employee training and empowerment), loyalty programs and purchase and usage frequency can all lead to increased emotional connection. Well thought-out marketing campaigns with highly emotional elements can also add to this. Here are two posts on the related concept of brand tribalism - Tribal Branding, Brands & Tribalism.

I am going to add one other thing to this list. Powerful brand MEMORY TRIGGERS that are consistently used over time and across campaigns will increase the ability of customers to remember the brand and associate it with its most powerful benefits to them. These triggers may include distinctive colors, shapes, icons, sounds, scents and other mnemonic devices. And they might be incorporated into the product itself, its packaging, its merchandising, its signing, its marketing campaigns, its insignia merchandise or other communication vehicles. Often, key elements of a brand's identity system are its primary memory triggers. Here is a related post on brands and memory structures

So, to create a winning brand, focus on awareness, relevant differentiation, value, accessibility, emotional connection and memory triggers. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2021

Brand Identity & Architecture

I have just created a new e-learning course, "Brand Identity & Architecture." 

This is a comprehensive course on brand identity and architecture. In it, you will learn about common brand identity problems, brand identity system components including names, taglines and non-visual components, types of branded entities and their relationships, types of brand architecture, how to rationalize brand architecture following mergers and acquisitions, brand naming conventions and decision criteria, brand identity systems, how to build flexibility into brand identity systems, brand standards, brand style guides and their key elements and ways to insure consistent brand identity execution.

To learn more about the course or to take the course, click HERE.

This is a companion course to my "Importance of Color to Brand Identity" course, available HERE.