You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from July 18, 2012 through September 19, 2012. You can also view the most recent posts.

Democrats Finally Get a Framing Win with "Vouchercare"

Democrats always seem to lose the all-important discussion framing battle. But with “vouchercare,” they’ve finally won one.

“Vouchercare” describes the republican approach to the reform of Medicare. It frames the discussion around the concept that a fixed price voucher will be given to retired people who must then accept the risk that the insurance industry might price coverage higher than the voucher or, worse, will not insure them at all. It frames the discussion making “vouchers” front and center. Republicans must defend the vouchers instead of discussing the limitations that their approach is intended to address.

The label “vouchercare” has (ironically) been defined by republicans, which makes their effort to reframe harder. The concept “care” as in “Obamacare” implies the essence of a medical insurance program. And “vouchers” are defined by the long-term republican position on education reform. The basic idea is that if parents are given vouchers…

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September 19, 2012  •  Permalink

10 Steps to Building a Successful Brand Portfolio Strategy

Creating effective brand portfolio strategies is one of the most difficult and critical challenges facing today’s executives. Too often, the family of brands generates customer confusion, inefficiencies, mixed opportunities, and misallocation of resource rather than supporting each other and the brand’s underlying strategy. Gathered from my book, Brand Portfolio Strategy, here are 10 guidelines that point toward the creation of a cohesive, effective, well-defined brand portfolio strategy.

1. Make sure that each brand has a well-defined role or set of roles to play in each product-market context that it is expected to contribute. Each brand needs to be actively managed in order to be successful within that role. In particular, brand building resources should be allocated on the basis of these roles and not based on the sales and profits they are currently generating. For example,…

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September 12, 2012  •  Permalink

What is a Business Strategy?

A key ingredient to success is to have a clear, realizable, impactful business strategy. But what is a business strategy? I developed my view for part of my book, Strategic Market Management (updated edition coming soon), and I deduced that four dimensions define it. The first concerns where you should compete, and the remaining three concern how you should compete.

The first dimension concerns the product-market investment strategy, the scope of the business and the dynamics and resource priorities within that scope. Which products should be offered, and which segments should be targeted? Which should get aggressive investment to enter or grow, which should get minimal investment, and which should be milked, exited or avoided? Where should growth come from? Options include bringing existing products to new markets (market expansion), bringing new products…

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September 5, 2012  •  Permalink

Apple's Court Win Feels Good

Apple’s court win over Samsung feels good. Finally, a firm in the consumer electronics sector has stood up to those that copy substantial, transformational innovations that have resonated in the marketplace. That means that others will have the motivation to engage in “big” innovation, and the innovators will have a chance to benefit from their extraordinary advances and time to improve and leverage those advances. It just feels right.

The only way to grow is to innovate and create “must haves” that define a new category or subcategory (as documented in my book, Brand Relevance). All of that “my brand is better than your brand” marketing rarely creates real growth. The problem is that big, impactful innovations are often copied, so building barriers is necessary for success.

The ultimate…

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August 29, 2012  •  Permalink

How Burger King Is Attacking Their Relevance Problem

For over a decade, Burger King has experienced mismanagement of relevance challenge by a series of “new” owners. Menus were not suitable for large, important segments such as women, families and the health conscious. At one point it was all about the young male and their burgers, but even this group was attracted to new fries/burgers/shakes concepts with attractive personalities and/or local connections. The experience was inconsistent and at times disappointing. The advertising and the “King” symbol was ineffective and even strange even to the young male. For many in the broad market that needed to be served, Burger King was simply irrelevant.

As recounted by Jordan Melnick in QSR, CEO Steve Wilborg, who was hired in 2010, may have finally gotten it right. In April of 2012 Burger King announced a four-prong initiative to make the brand relevant to more than the young male burger crowd. In particular,…

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August 22, 2012  •  Permalink

Democrats are Losing the Framing Battle - Again

Another election, another framing battle. And once again, the Republican party seems to have the edge. Tax relief, death taxes, pro-life, small government, tax and spend. Why don’t Democrats come up with these kinds of memorable, emotive frames?

Take this election cycle’s biggest controversy: health care reform. Republicans sidelined their rivals by framing the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act around “mandates” and “taxes,” and by calling it “Obamacare.” Who could possibly support “mandates” or “taxes?” And “Obamacare” certainly doesn’t provide associations with any positive elements of the act. This leaves Democrats once again playing defense. How could they let it happen again? They’re just not the best marketers.

Being able to frame the discussion by imposing a perspective that’s driven by a label is key to winning — whether it’s a divisive political argument or a tough brand battle. The linguist, George Lakoff (

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August 15, 2012  •  Permalink

Why the Chick-fil-A Brand Won't Suffer

The CEO of Chick-fil-A reportedly said on a syndicated radio show, “I think we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at him and say, ‘We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage.’” The quote and other statements about gay marriage resulted in a firestorm of criticism including statements from several major city mayors saying that his firm and its opinions were not welcome. However, the belief that this controversy will hurt the company and its brand is, in my view, misguided.

The generally accepted hypothesis is that a brand should avoid controversy, because it will alienate a portion of its customer base. So the best course is to remain agnostic with respect to any controversial issues, at least visibly. Following this logic, the Chick-fil-A position was therefore at the intersection of a smaller brand mistake and a larger brand blunder with lasting implications.

This hypothesis is probably true for brands such as Coca-Cola…

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August 8, 2012  •  Permalink

Want "Big" Innovation? Centralize Innovation Budgets

Big innovation happens too rarely. This is the kind that creates real, enduring “must haves” that define new categories or subcategories and is the only path to real growth. One major reason is that the budgets are controlled by the large business units that are focused on their profitable businesses that use incremental innovation to improve the offering and/or reduce costs. Returns to such investments are predictable, and there are organizational and personal biases against risky alternatives even when the upside can more than compensate for the risk involved.

Organizations can attempt to counter those biases by creating an entrepreneurial culture, with centralized innovation budgets that take power away from the existing big business units. The entity controlling those budgets will have to encourage ideas and idea champions to surface, select those that seem most promising, and then support progress toward commercialization. The goal is to overcome the bias toward incremental…

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August 1, 2012  •  Permalink

Learnings from A Human Library

The human library has its roots in the city library of Malmo, Sweden, which allows curious visitors to check out living people for a 45-minute conversation. The experience is designed to confront prejudices and promote understanding. The people available to be “checked out” included a gypsy, a transvestite, a blind man, a journalist and an animal rights activist, and the conversation allows people to learn about the life and beliefs of an individual that had been misunderstood, stereotyped and often avoided.

Prophet’s version of a human library is designed to provide inspiration to a team that wants to develop a big innovation, improve an offering or user experience, enhance a brand relationship, or improve a sales or marketing program. With context and objective in place, a wide array of human “books” that are relevant but tangential to the context are purposefully selected to create unexpected sources of insight.

An apparel manufacturer found that its multi-product…

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July 25, 2012  •  Permalink

Four Strategies for Staying Relevant

A serious threat facing most brands in dynamic markets is the loss of relevance because the category or subcategory they are serving is declining. Customers are no longer buying what the brand is perceived to make. New categories or subcategories emerge as competitors' innovations create "must haves." This dynamic can happen even if the brand is strong; customers are loyal; and the offering has never been better, thanks to incremental innovations.

Relevance dominates. If a group of customers wants a battery powered car it does not matter how much they love your hybrid brand. It will not be relevant. A newspaper can have the best new coverage and editorial staff, but if readers are diverted to cable news or blogs, relevance will decline. The ultimate tragedy is to achieve brilliant differentiation, winning the preference battle, only to have that effort wasted as its relevance declines.

How does a brand stay relevant? How can a brand avoid the disinvest or milking decision? There…

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July 18, 2012  •  Permalink