You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from November 28, 2012 through February 6, 2013. You can also view the most recent posts.

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

Five Steps to Getting Brand Touchpoints Right

The brand experience, the essence of a relationship, is created by brand touchpoints. A brand touchpoint occurs any time a person in the marketplace interacts with the brand. To improve the brand experience, a firm needs to identify priority touchpoints and implement a program to improve those that are not on-brand.

Five steps are involved:

1) Identify all existing touchpoints, as well as those that should exist. Touchpoints can be under the control of the firm such through the communication programs, the public relations efforts, the customer contact points such as service and accounting staffs, sponsorships, or customer-focused programs such as the Tide Stain Detective. Touchpoints can also be external and controlled by retailers, run by third parties like the Consumers Report, or operated by a leading recipe website.

2) Provide an internal evaluation of all the touchpoints

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January 9, 2013  •  Permalink

A Glance Back at 2012: The Best of Aaker on Brands

I wrote approximately 50 blog posts in 2012, but there are five that stand out in my mind as being especially provocative or informative. Herewith, my top picks from 2012, with a few runners-up thrown into the mix as well:

My post entitled CEOs Are Born, Not Made really hit a nerve. It was stimulated by Bob Lutz’s book that blamed GM’s problems on “bean counter” CEOs rather that “car guys.” I argued that unless you have inherent CEO talent, being a “car guy” will not help. You need to be born with CEO talent, and no amount of training or background experience will help. Many disagreed. Three other posts had CEO themes: one explained why Steve Jobs and Bobby Knight (the fabled basketball coach) were so successful despite being jerks,…

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January 2, 2013  •  Permalink

Framing Lessons from the 2012 Presidential Election

Brand executives can learn a lot from political professionals who exhibit creative brand building programs and then subject them to huge field tests. Consider the Obama campaign’s early decision to spend a good part of their budget on defining Romney. This money was expended before the conventions and some of it well before Romney wrapped up the nomination. There are a lot of reasons that Obama won the election, but many observers have hypothesized that this decision was key to the final result. The strategy was gutsy both because it took money away from the from the fall campaign and because it was uncertain that it would work.

The premise was that Romney was basing his campaign in part on the fact that the economy was in trouble, as it was, and that because of Romney’s experience at Bain he understood the private sector’s role in job creation and had experience as a problem solver. The Obama campaign’s

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December 19, 2012  •  Permalink

Killing Giants: A Relevance Interpretation

Killing Giants is a provocative book written by Stephen Denny in which he outlines 10 strategies that have worked when small firms took on the giants in their industry - firms with marketing scale, distribution clout, buying power and strong brands. In looking at these strategies, it appeared to me that nearly all had a relevance interpretation. They were reframing a category or creating a new subcategory based on a “must have” that did not exist before, or they were affecting the visibility battle that is part of gaining relevance. Consider the following strategies:

Thin Ice

Fight the giant where its size no longer matters. Boston Beer’s Samuel Adams brand (“not a beginner’s beer”) defined high-quality craft beer, a new subcategory in which Budweiser and the others were not relevant players.


Bring innovations to the market faster than the bureaucratic big guys. Intuit used quantitative and qualitative customer insight information…

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December 12, 2012  •  Permalink

Lincoln Attempts to "Reinvent the Wheel"

Lincoln, has an incredible heritage, nearly a century old, as a premium brand. It had a long run with prestige owners and classic designs. But no longer. For several decades, Lincoln has been perceived as a boring car for very old people who are into cushy rides and waxing nostalgic.

The brand is now attempting a break-out reinvigoration to again become a top premium brand that will appeal to young buyers. The target is the BMW, Mercedes, Lexus and Cadillac buyer. To take a tarnished, upscale brand that is buried in the graveyard (yes, Lincoln has brands with high recognition, but they are rarely considered a viable option) and convince buyers that it is again relevant to the premium market is the most challenging brand task imaginable. It will be fascinating to watch.

The effort rests in large part on the recently launched MKZ midsize sedan. The car looks right, with an appealing fluid design described as “smooth and soft,” an interior that is at least competitive, and…

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December 5, 2012  •  Permalink

A CEO Style to Admire

Tom Aaker, a friend and relative, is a CEO with an exemplary professional style very different from that of Steve Jobs whose style I recently wrote about, and a personal lifestyle that rivals that of Richard Branson of Virgin or Larry Ellison of Oracle. The combination has worked as he has advanced at Standard Chartered, a British banking company operating mostly in Africa, Asia and the Middle East. After successful CEO tenures in Zambia and Qatar, he moved to Indonesia three years ago, which is one of the firm’s largest operations with over 4,000 employees.

His professional style was recently captured in an interview by Sudibyo Wiradji in the Jakarta

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November 28, 2012  •  Permalink