You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from January 16, 2013 through March 20, 2013. You can also view the most recent posts.

Can Delta Own Sleep with its Branded Differentiator?

The only path to brand and business success is to develop and own an offering feature or service that is judged to be a “must have” by a significant customer group. Competitors lose by being irrelevant. Delta Airlines, who operate in an arena in which differentiation is difficult, is attempting to do just that.

Delta is trying to create and own a new subcategory, namely, airlines that offer superior sleeping experiences for upper-class passengers. They identified sleep as the most important in-flight experience, which means that is an important consideration for a worthwhile customer group. Then they developed a comprehensive program to deliver. In includes a white noise channel on the in-flight radio, full flat-bed seats and a special “Westin Heavenly” comforter and

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March 20, 2013  •  Permalink

Brand Building in the Mobile World: Find the Right App

The newest and fastest growing brand building communication channel is no doubt mobile marketing. And the initial instinct is to buy ads reach the mobile user. But that’s a problem, since ads are becoming more and more challenging to notice, especially considering the limitation of smaller screen sizes. The solution? Sponsor an app or become embedded and involved in the app’s functionality.

Mobile users typically download many apps, but use only 15 or so regularly. So how do you get into the top 15? You have to have an app that users are motivated to download and use. In an article Sunil Gupta wrote for HBR, he describes five app strategies that can get your brand in the sweet 15 and either cement an existing customer relationship or create a new one.

His strategies correspond with basic

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March 13, 2013  •  Permalink

Why CMOs Fail, and Why They Don’t Have To

The average tenure of a new CMO, according to one study, is less than 24 months. And in a recent study, 60% of respondents thought that this failure was not due to the CMO’s failures but to the fact that the company was not as open to change as they thought. CMOs are hired to drive a change agenda, but just can’t get enough support.

My take is a bit more nuanced. Most organizations do inhibit change and thwart CMO objectives. But how, and why? I believe the power of the product and sometimes the country or functional silo units are the primary impediments. Nearly every organization is decentralized with silo units that have budget and strategy power. One rationale is that such power provides accountability and close-to-the-market decision making. To

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March 6, 2013  •  Permalink

Should Your Brand Unsell its Product?

If a firm believes that one of its products is bad for its customers or bad for the environment, what should it do? If the product is contributing to youth obesity, to alcoholism, or to energy waste, is there a responsibility to “unsell” that product in order to get people to use it less?

A firm can make product or program decisions that will be a win-win. The Marks & Spencer “Shwopping” program gives customers a voucher for every M&S item they bring in to recycle, enhancing both sales and image. Both diet sodas and reduced fat ice creams are examples of products that don’t hurt taste, but have provided their brands with a healthy business while addressing a societal problem. McDonald’s “healthy” menu items have shown a profitable direction for the brand. But what about decisions that risk damaging the brand or business? Are such risks ever warranted?

Assume that a snack and

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February 27, 2013  •  Permalink

Points of Parity

Most brand strategists focus on developing points of difference that will give consumers good reasons to prefer their brand. The key to winning is assumed to be differentiation.

However, if there is a key “must have” dimension on which your brand is perceived to inadequately deliver, your brand will not be considered. You will not be a player, which means you have no chance of winning - no matter how compelling your point of differentiation is. It will not compensate for a fatal liability.

The solution? Change that liability into a point of parity (POP). In other words, change that liability so that on that dimension the brand is “good enough” to no longer exclude it from the conversation. The point of parity concept provides another perspective on how to make or keep a brand relevant. In this post, I’ll discus two different points of parity you should consider experimenting with.

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February 20, 2013  •  Permalink

Panera Bread: A Brand Winner

Panera Bread dominates the bakery/café category. It owns over 60% of the market share, with sales over three billion dollars obtained from over 1,500 units. And just in the last five years Panera Bread has increased its earnings per share by over 24% each year. In 2010, Fortune magazine named it as one of the 100 fastest-growing companies. Operating under the names Panera Bread, Saint Louis Bread Company and Paradise Bakery & Café, its excellence performance has been recognized in several other ways. For example, it had the highest level of customer loyalty among quick-casual restaurants according to a 2012 TNS Interesearch survey and was named Casual Dining Brand of the Year in a 2012 Harris EquiTrend Poll.

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February 13, 2013  •  Permalink

Super Bowl Roundup: Top 6 Memorable Ads

The 2013 Super Bowl ads were not an impressive group. I was looking for commercials that were memorable, liked, linked to a brand, and were likely to advance the brand proposition. The majority of the ads I saw didn’t qualify. However, here are six that caught my eye. The first four were among the five most popular ads, according to a USA Today survey taken just after the Super Bowl.


Last year, Chrysler hit a home run with its “Imported from Detroit” ad that supported a brand platform that led to a sharp increase in market share. This year, Chrysler’s Dodge Ram and Jeep each had two minute ads that provided an equally emotional experience with a more subtle message.…

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February 6, 2013  •  Permalink

Six Reasons Why Incumbent Firms Fail to Create “Big” Innovations

One of the empirical facts of business strategy is that “big” innovations that create new categories or subcategories do not come from the leading incumbents - they come from outsiders. Successful incumbents have the resources to lead but, in fact, success breeds complacency, lethargy or arrogance. What is also disturbingly true is that incumbents not only fail to innovate, but also fail to be relevant to major innovations of others and sometimes lose not only their momentum but their very existence as a player.

In a brilliant new book, Unrelenting Innovation: How to Build a Culture for Market Dominance, Gerry Tellis explains why this is. His answer, based on nearly a dozen major clinical studies conducted by he and his colleagues, is that it is the culture of the incumbent firm

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January 30, 2013  •  Permalink

P&G’s “Thank You, Mom” is a Model Campaign in a Global World

P&G’s “Thank You Mom” Olympic marketing program was a brilliant effort to draw on a universal human value to create a program with energy, relevance and emotion that spanned brands and countries. Plus, it’s ongoing with a life beyond one Olympic Games.

In my book Spanning Silos I noted that brand and country silos have advantages. They are close to market and product technologies, they promote accountability, and they encourage decisive decisions. But they simply don’t work in today’s environment. One reason is that brand messaging, especially as it is spread through global digital communities, is hard to confine to local markets. As a result, a brand that has different local positions can become confused. A second reason is that the necessary scale of advertising, promotions, and

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January 23, 2013  •  Permalink

Two Emerging Charismatic Brands

A charismatic brand is one that delivers self-expressive benefits to a committed, involved customer base that is enthusiastic about the brand experience. Think Apple, Harley-Davidson, REI or Tiffany & Co. It’s not an easy goal for a brand to achieve. But I see two brands making that leap: Zipcar and Tesla. Neither has been shy about their goal to change the world and define a new user experience.

Zipcar became the market leader, exemplar and spokesperson for the shared car concept. Any time of day or night, members can simply reserve cars online or by phone, choosing the model that will match their mood and task. When they arrive at the car pick up destination, the microchips in their Zipcard membership cards will signal the cars to unlock. They then drive and pay for the cars for hours or days. All this is aided by the Zipcar iPhone application. Parking, fuel and comprehensive insurance are part

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January 16, 2013  •  Permalink