My next book, Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles that Drive Success will be released later this year. It will present the 20 essential principles of branding that lead to the creation of strong brands and brand portfolios. It provides a checklist of strategies, perspectives, tools and concepts that represent not only what you should know but also what actions you should take. At 200, pages it provides access to my perspective on branding in a very compact form.
But before the book is released, it needs a cover. Cover design is fascinating. Just peruse Amazon or any bookstore and consider the variety of concepts. In doing that exercise many times, I have come up with a few “truths” about cover design. But with every rule comes an exception, and I have no explanation for some of the huge best sellers that seem to violate the rules I’ve discovered.
I look for three things in a cover. First, a cover should have a title that pops not only in the front but also on the spine. There should be no doubt about the what title is. It should not be obscured by a busy font or color choice. Second, the cover should be unique in terms of color and design. At a distance, it should be identifiable. Third, the cover should be clean, not busy.
I really liked and still like all of the covers of my branding books that follow these precepts. The exception to my rules was Building Strong Brands, which I resisted and then became the biggest seller. Go figure.
Which one would you pick? Which would you find most intriguing on Amazon.com or in a bookstore? Which stands out from other covers? Would you change anything like the color?
Having trouble with the poll? Vote in the comments!
Is your brand-building effort effective? Is the budget spend effective? In my first branding book, Managing Brand Equity, I identified indicators that brand-building was misdirected, mismanaged, or underfunded–problems that are increasingly relevant today. With a few edits, here is the list.
Managers cannot identify with confidence the existing brand image, its strength, and how it differs across segments and over time.
Knowledge of levels of brand awareness is lacking or imprecise, and the visibility of the brand among segments is just guesswork.
There is no in-depth understanding of the basis for customer loyalty or of how it is lost or reduced. A systematic, reliable, sensitive, and valid set of measures of customer satisfaction and loyalty by segment is not available.
The measures of brand performance and brand-building programs are quarterly and yearly, often based on sales. There are no indicators of the brand tied to long-term business success that are used to evaluate marketing programs. Aspirational brand associations, in particular, are not part of the decision criteria in selecting and managing brand-building programs.
The reward structure and tenure of brand managers do not motivate them to manage strategically.
There is no long-term strategy for the brand, no vision as to what brand association is desired and what product classes in which the brand should be competing.
There is no person or team in charge of the brand. Instead, silo organizational units have independent control of the brand with their product-markets.
Any combination of these is a recipe for strategic problems and lost opportunities.
Unless your brand is one of the exceptions, it needs energy!
A brand that has insufficient energy has two potential liabilities. First, it will lack visibility and it will no longer be amongst those that come to mind when considering a purchase. It will be lost in the noise of the environment and no longer be relevant. Second, and perhaps worse, it will see declines in key image items such as perceived quality and trust and, in addition, have its ability to drive differentiation and loyalty degraded. There is disturbing evidence to back up these assertions.
The Y&R Brand Asset Valuator (BAV) database includes more than 38,000 brands measured on over 75 metrics for over more than 40 countries, from 1993 to the present. The Brand Bubble by John Gerzema and Ed Lebar reports findings from the BAV database that show brand equities (measured by trustworthiness, esteem, perceived quality and awareness) have been falling sharply over the years. For example, over the span of 12 years, trustworthiness dropped nearly 50 percent, esteem fell by 12 percent, brand quality perceptions fell by 24 percent, and remarkably, even awareness fell by 24 percent. This fall continued, even accelerated, after the financial shock of 2008.
Restaurants are interesting to me, particularly because there is frequent innovation-driven differentiation driving emerging subcategories and strong brands with a lot of energy. In restaurants, there are a lot of levers to pull and there are significant customer engagement possibilities. A lot can be learned from restaurant brands that are hitting a home run.
A fast food brand located in San Francisco, The Melt, caught my eye because it not only has a differentiated offering but also has the opportunity to connect with customers in different ways.
The Melt has a simple menu that harkens back to the days of grandma’s fixing lunches of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. There are five kinds of cheese, each with a matched bread, five soups, interesting drinks such as Izze Sparking Pomegranate, five desserts including a Chocolate Marshmallow S-more’s Melt, and a breakfast menu that includes Steel Cut Maple Raisin Oatmeal and Banana Maple Waffles. It is the only restaurant with grilled cheese sandwiches as its core item. And its specialized technology enables the quality to be higher and more consistent than grandma used to make.
A customer’s mobile device is an integral part of the experience and contributes a “coolness” component. When an order from a mobile device is entered, all of The Melt restaurants in the area get the information. Their strategy is to get a critical mass of outlets in an area. A customer then simply walks into any one of them and has his or her order scanned from the device. The order is immediately processed. There’s no standing in line and thinking about what to order. When a customer becomes part of the mobile system, the information can be used to make the process even more efficient and personalized. It also has the potential to create an ongoing relationship. …Continue reading
“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 and allowed to choose schools, then the resulting competition between schools will result in the improvement in education. It is based on the logic of a free market, a logic that may not be as palatable in the medical arena even for those that accept it in the education context.
We will see if the democrats can show the same discipline that republicans have exhibited to leverage their early framing win with “vouchercare.” It requires a willingness and ability to be relentless in keeping the “vouchercare” label as the only descriptor of the programs being discussed. …Continue reading
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, future master brands, emerging brand platforms, endorser brands, and lynchpin brands (brands like GM’s “On-Star” that provide differentiation to other brands), for example, should receive adequate funding so that they can fulfill their role.
2. Identify the strategic brands that will play a driver role in supporting major businesses or product platformsin the future. A brand is said to have “a driver role” when it drives the purchase decision and defines the use experience. A brand with a driver role will represent the offering and summarize its value proposition and lead the charge against competitors into the product market. A strategic brand is the present or future star player, a brand that the future success of the business will hinge on. …Continue reading
Adapting to change: Business lessons from the natural world
You’d be surprised at the lessons you can learn from a whale. Dr. Joy Reidenberg, professor of anatomy and functional morphology at Mt. Sinai, has made it her career to expose these lessons. Joy looks to nature for inspiration to solve human problems. Today we look to Joy for a new approach to a common business concern – adapting to change. Just as whales and other organisms have adapted to dramatic change in the natural environment, companies need to adapt to ever-changing business climate. What can we learn from the processes of change in nature that we can apply to our organizations? To answer this question, Joy discusses the evolution of whales and how nature can teach us some unique lessons. We also talked to David Aaker, Prophet’s Vice Chairman and the author of the best-selling book Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant, for a valuable business perspective. [Music brought to you by: Greenland]
From Prophet’s curator and provocateur team, Interested and Interesting is a monthly exploration of the business of brand, marketing, innovation, digital, design, and analytics. Hosts Geof and Josh introduce listeners to inspiring stories that engage and illustrate business principles in an abstract, provocative way. Our goal – to inspire listeners and liberate ideas to help drive business growth.
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 to existing markets (product expansion), or entering new product markets (diversification).
The seconddimension concerns the customer value proposition, which needs to be relevant and meaningful to the customer, reflected in the positioning of the product or service, sustainable over time and differentiated from competitors. In can involve elements such as providing good value (Wal-Mart), excellence on an attribute such as getting clothes clean (Tide), quality (Lexus), product line breadth (Amazon), innovative offerings (3M), personality that connects (Harley-Davidson), organizational values (saleforce.com), or a shared interest (Pampers and baby care). …Continue reading
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. …Continue reading