Friday, January 30, 2015

Fifteen Important Questions for Every Brand Manager to Ask

  1. Have we tightly defined our brand’s target customers?
  2. What is the brand’s awareness level among its target customers?
  3. Do we know what our brand stands for in its customers’ minds?
  4. What is our brand’s unique value proposition?
  5. What is our brand’s story?
  6. What makes our brand admirable?
  7. Does our brand possess values that it shares with its customers?
  8. Does our brand engage its customers in meaningful ways?
  9. Is our brand available where its target customers shop?
  10. What does our brand do to surprise and delight its customers?
  11. Have we carefully designed our brand’s customer touch points?
  12. Are we completely consistent in how we present our brand to the world?
  13. Does our brand connect with its customers on an emotional level?
  14. Can its customers use the brand as a vehicle for self-expression?
  15. What processes have we put in place to ensure that the brand is carefully managed?

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Customer Segmentation

It is important to know who your most loyal and profitable customers are. Ultimately, you will want to identify prospective customers who are likely to have the most positive impact on your business and you will want to maximize the lifetime value of each of your customers.

Key in understanding this is to correlate customer revenues, profits and longevity with other factors that will help you identify and target your brand’s most advantageous customers. Those factors include demographics (age, income, gender, relationship status, presence of children in the household, etc.), beliefs, attitudes, values and lifestyle, and for B2B customers, job function or title. Product usage and customer benefits may also be factors. Depending on the category, there are several other dimensions on which you may want to segment customers.

The trick is to identify those factors that correlate with increased purchase rates or amounts or greater loyalty over longer periods of time. It is important to spend time thinking through what those factors are for your brand and its category. For instance, the beliefs, attitudes and values to be tested vary significantly across categories.

All of this can be designed into quantitative research studies of current and former customers.

I wish you great success with your customer segmentation efforts.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Importance of Color

Color is an important consideration in your brand identity system. Colors have a significant impact on people’s emotional state. They also have been shown to impact people’s ability to concentrate and learn. They have a wide variety of specific mental associations. In fact, the effects are physiological, psychological, and sociological. For instance:

  • Nonprimary colors are more calming than primary colors.
  • Blue is the most calming of the primary colors, followed closely by a lighter red.
  • Test takers and weight lifters perform better in blue rooms.
  • Blue text increases reading retention.
  • Yellow evokes cheerfulness. Houses with yellow trim or flower gardens sell faster.
  • Reds and oranges encourage diners to eat quickly and leave. Red also makes food more appealing and influences people to eat more. (It is no coincidence that fast-food restaurants often use these colors.)
  • Pink enhances appetites and has been shown to calm prison inmates.
  • Blue and black suppress appetites.
  • Children prefer primary colors. (Notice that children’s toys and books often use these colors.)
  • Forest green and burgundy appeal to the wealthiest 3 percent of Americans, and often raise the perceived price of an item.
  • Violet is often associated with spirituality, royalty, and quality.
  • Orange is often used to make an expensive item seem less expensive.
  • Red clothing can convey power.
  • Red trim is used in bars and casinos because it can cause people to lose track of time.
  • Most people (76 percent) associate “speed” with the color red.
  • White is typically associated with being cool, clean, and fresh.
  • Red is often associated with Christmas, and orange with Halloween and Thanksgiving.
  • Red and black are often associated with being sexy and seductive and are favored by porn sites. Red and black also have a high association with fear and terror.
  • Black clothes make people look thinner (as most people know).
  • Black is associated with elegance, sophistication, and mystery.
  • Black is the favorite color of Goths.
  • “Fun” is most associated with orange, yellow, purple, and red.
  • “Trust” is most associated with blue and white.
  • “High quality,” “high technology,” and “reliability/dependability” are most associated with black and blue.
  • Men’s favorite color is blue (57 percent) followed by green (14 percent) while women’s favorite color is blue (35 percent) followed by purple (23 percent).

 Color preferences vary by gender, geography, culture, use and over time. 

© 2015 by Brad VanAuken
Excerpted from Brand Aid, second edition

Available here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Competitive Frame of Reference

Choosing the most advantageous competitive frame of reference is a very important part of brand positioning. I have already talked about Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute redefining itself from an engineering school to a place where technological innovation thrives (why not change the world?). I have also talked about The Strong redefining itself from a children’s museum to THE place that studies and explores play and American University redefining itself as a place for WONKs, focusing on its location in Washington, DC and even its association with public policy.  In all three of these instances, the brands intended to move from more crowded categories to a category of their own creation in which they became the only (category-of-one) brand.

I have also talked about how to define the category that a cola brand might be in. Is the category colas, or carbonated beverages or soft drinks or non-alcoholic beverages or all beverages or rehydration or human liquid consumption or refreshment or something else?

What category is Dasani Drops in? Perhaps the tagline defines it – “flavor enhancer.” Does this mean that the category is not flavored water? How does that help Dasani Drops competitively?

There are hundreds of professional associations and societies in health care, reflecting the degree of complexity and specialization in that field. We recently worked with a professional society that focuses on developing physician leaders. Is their competitive frame of reference professional societies for physicians, professional societies for physician leaders, professional societies for health care executives, professional development for health care administrators, leadership development for physicians or something else? While these may all seem similar, depending on what they have chosen, their competitive set and unique value proposition changes, especially in this crowded field.

Just as choosing the most advantageous target customer definition is not a trivial exercise, so too is choosing the competitive frame of reference. Choosing a competitive frame of reference based on the most powerful motivators for the target customers can lead to a previously undefined category in which your brand has few, if any competitors. That category definition helps your brand own the benefit more quickly before any other brand is able to claim it. Being able to redefine the category requires out-of-the box thinking.

If interested, we have tools to help you explore category description alternatives, including those that could transform your band into a category-of-one.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Branding Rochester, NY

It is essential for a place to take inventory of its assets to determine which of those are unique and compelling to each of its target audiences. For instance, Rochester, NY has identified the following as potential assets:
  • Large number of cultural amenities
    • Largest number of cultural workers per capita
    • Rich musical scene – Eastman School of Music, Hochstein School of Music and Dance, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Rochester International Jazz Festival, numerous other music festivals
    • Numerous film festivals
    • Garth Fagan dance (and several other professional dance companies)
    • George Eastman House International Museum of Photography and Film
    • (Strong) National Museum of Play with the National Toy Hall of Fame
    • Rochester Museum & Science Center/Strasenburgh Planetarium
    • Abundant live theater, including Geva Theatre Center, the most attended regional theater in New York State
    • Numerous commercial and public art galleries
    • Writers & Books (one of the largest community-based literary centers in the US)
  • Abundant outdoor recreational opportunities
    • Close proximity to the Finger Lakes
    • Lake Ontario, Erie Canal, Genesee River
    • Nearby skiing
    • Very large number (100+) of public and private golf courses per capita
  • Light traffic, short commutes
  • Affordable housing
  • Excellent suburban school systems
  • Large concentration of colleges and universities
  • Smart, highly educated people
  • Concentration of optics, biotechnology, food and beverage science and fuel cell technology businesses
  • One of the largest number of utility patents issued per capita
  • Very high United Way and community foundation giving per capita
  • History of civil rights advocacy (Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass)
  • Friendly people
  • Four seasons, pleasant summers, no severe weather events

We then clustered related assets under broader headings to begin to paint a high level picture of the municipality’s key talking points. From this, we developed and then tested fourteen different brand positioning statements against the following criteria – compelling, unique and believable.

Three statements emerged as superior to the others and rated highly against all three criteria, but especially against compelling:
  • A progressive small city where science, culture and families thrive
  • Small town feel, big city culture
  • Gateway to the Finger Lakes

We found that Rochester has the greatest appeal to early career professionals from larger, more sophisticated cities who have decided to form families. They are seeking the same high level of sophistication and culture but without the long commutes, high cost of living and other hassles. In focus groups, we discovered that they talked about this as "easier access." People who had grown up in the Rochester area are even more inclined to move back when they reach that child-rearing stage in their lives.

"Finger Lakes" has many positive associations as an up-and-coming wine and tourism region and Rochester was perceived to be a cultural gateway to the region. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Branding Places

According the World Travel and Tourism Council (, travel and tourism “contributes 9.5 percent to the global economy in 2013…and could generate as many as 5.1 million jobs by 2015 in the G20 economies.”[i] When one considers that businesses, residents and event and meeting planners also choose one place over another, it is no wonder that cities, regions and countries are branding themselves in earnest.

Places are some of the most interesting things to brand. This phenomenon has been labeled “place branding,” “geo-branding” and “destination marketing” among other labels. In some respects, branding places is no different than branding anything else. Finding the most powerful and unique image for the place (“unique value proposition” or “brand position”) is the most important activity. After that, building awareness is next most important. Both of these activities assume that the requisite research has been done with the most advantageous and receptive target audiences.

I have been fortunate enough to help people in Bangkok, Thailand develop strategies to position their city as a global fashion center. I have also helped brand downtown Tampa (FL) as a great place to live for people who appreciate urban living on Florida’s Gulf Coast. And I have conducted brand positioning research for Rochester, NY to help that city reposition itself.

Following are some of the general classes of things that can define a place:
  • A natural feature – Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon, Mt. Everest, the Amazon rain forest, Lake Tahoe, the Matterhorn, Lake Como, Iceland’s volcanoes, hot springs and other natural features
  • Distinctive architecture – Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, Eiffel Tower in Paris, France, Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Burj Al-Arab Hotel in Dubai, UAE, Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain
  • Unique or preeminent museums or other cultural attractions – the Louvre in Paris, France, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art on New York, New York, Colonial Williamsburg in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, Netherlands, the Islamic Arts Museum Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur, Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Royal Palace in Bangkok, Thailand
  • Well known events or festivals – Charleston, South Carolina’s Spoleto Festival, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s Carnival, the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, Fez (Morocco) Festival of World Sacred Music, Mongolia’s National Naadam Festival, Milan’s fashion shows, Edinburgh’s Fringe Festival, the running of the bulls in Pamplona Spain, Tour de France, Indianapolis 500
  • Unusual or distinctive histories – the Killing Fields of Cambodia, founding of the Mormon Church in Palmyra, New York, arrival of the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts, witch trials of Salem, Massachusetts, site of the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York
  • Destination resorts or theme parks – Disney World in Orlando, Florida, casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada, country music venues in Branson, Missouri
  • Distinctive outdoor recreational features – skiing in the Rocky Mountains or the Alps, scuba diving in Cozumel, Mexico or the Turks and Caicos, mountain climbing in the Himalayas
  • Desirable weather, seasonal or year-round – Spain’s sunny Mediterranean coast, San Diego, California’s year-round temperate weather, Hawaii’s year-round temperate weather, the appeal of Florida or Arizona to northerners during the winter, coastal Maine’s appeal during the summer
  • A unique environmental aesthetic – adobe architecture in Sante Fe, New Mexico, traditional western feel in Jackson, Wyoming, art deco in South Miami Beach, Miami, Florida, Spanish Moorish architecture in Kansas City, Missouri’s Country Club Plaza shopping and entertainment district, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, Louisiana, New England shingle style architecture in Nantucket, Massachusetts, Bruge, Belgium’s Middle Age architecture, Esfahan, Iran’s Naghsh-e Jahan Square with its Iranian and Islamic architecture, Venice, Italy’s canals
  • General aesthetic appeal – Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, Canada’s neo-classical architecture and floral landscaping, Québec City (Québec, Canada) with its European flavor and French heritage
  • Distinctive wildlife – orang-utans and rafflesia in Borneo, koala bears and kangaroos in Australia, polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, lions, giraffes, elephants and hippos on Tanzania’s Serengeti Plain

As you might gather from the previous list, aesthetics are important. Strict zoning and codes, scenic vistas, landscaping, parks, boulevards, hanging flower baskets, statues and fountains all add to a place’s appeal as do historical sites and markers. Water features (ocean, rivers, canals, lakes and ponds) also add to the appeal, especially if they provide for recreation, scenic vistas and strolling. Festival and event banners can add to the feeling of a place. Architectural authenticity, uniqueness and environmental consistency add to a place’s appeal. General cleanliness is also desirable.

Wayfinding is important. Public maps and directional signing help tourists and residents alike. Bicycle lanes and bicycle and walking paths are always a plus. Some municipalities encourage bike rentals as a more pleasant and environmentally friendly way to experience their place. Good public transportation enhances a place’s appeal as well. Europe’s interconnected networks of trains or an increasing number of cities’ light rail systems are examples of this. Some cities use cable cars, trolleys, double-decker buses, horse drawn carriages or amphibious vehicles as tourist attractions themselves. Buildings should have pedestrian-friendly/attractive street level frontages. Strategically placed clean public restrooms are also important.

It is essential for a place to take inventory of its assets to determine which of those are unique and compelling to each of its target audiences.

[i] “Governments need to increase people’s freedom to travel, to capitalize on Travel & Tourism’s growth potential.” World Travel & Tourism Council.