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.
Brands with energy have proved the exception to 2008 decline.
They have, in general, not only resisted an image decline but have retained their ability to drive financial performance. A BAV modeling effort by Bob Jacobson of Washington and Natalie Mizik of Columbia shows that for high-energy brands, increases in energy and attitude drive stock return (based on an analysis of those brands like GE or IBM that represent a significant part of a the sales of a firm). In fact the BAV team has redefined differentiation, now calling it “energized differentiation,” because without energy differentiation, impact is compromised.
So what is brand energy?
- Interesting/exciting: There is a reason to talk about the brand. (Disney, AXE, Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, Pixar, FedEx Cup)
- Involving/engaging: People are engaged; the brand can be part of a valued activity or lifestyle. (Lego, Disney. Starbucks, Google, Amazon)
- Innovative/dynamic: The brand is like to be continually innovative or capable of creating “must have” innovations that create new subcategories. (Apple, Virgin, Dove, GE, 3M).
- Passionate/purpose-driven: There is a higher purpose that propels passion. (Whole Foods Market, Pategonia, Muji, Nike).
One way to energize the brand is to energize the business, and the best way is through offering innovation. Apple, Dove, Virgin, 3M, Subway, and many other brands have a continuous flow of innovations that create interest and visibility. However, that route is not always open. In many cases, successful innovation is elusive even with motivated efforts, talented people, creative processes and healthy budgets. And innovations that really make a difference, that rise above those that simply maintain a market position, are even more rare. Further, some businesses compete in product categories that are either mature or boring — or both. Whether you make hot dogs or market insurance, it is hard to conceive new offerings that are going to energize the marketplace. So the need then is to look beyond the offering for ways to make the brand interesting, involving, dynamic, enthusiastic, and a topic of conversation.
Some suggestions to energize your brand:
- Create an involving promotion. Coke Zero, for example, asked basketball fans to upload their most fanatical videos and photos supporting their favorite teams, and winners were shown in a special show before the championship game.
- Create a promotion to attract new customers. Denny’s gave away more than two million Grand Slam Breakfasts in one day with the help of a Super Bowl commercial and online buzz. Free breakfasts broke through.
- Attach a social network to the brand. The General Mills “Live Gluten Freely” site provides a social network for those interested in gluten free eating. On the Harley-Davidson website, bikers can post pictures of their most recent ride.
- Go retail. The Apple store is a good part of the success of its products and brand because it presents Apple in a way that is completely on-brand. Nike and Sony have statement stores that serve to present the brand and offering story in a compelling and integrative way.
- Bring the brand to the customer. TaylorMade golf equipment representatives travel to golf clubs to demonstrate and sell equipment, giving customers a more vivid and on-brand way to experience them than they would get in a sporting goods store. Target created the 30-day Bullseye Bazaar in Chicago to introduce the Tracy Feith Clothing collection, the private-label food line from Archer Farms, and Target furniture.
- Hold publicity events. Consider the balloon adventures of Virgin’s Richard Branson, the BMW short films created by top directors, or the incredible Red Bull sponsorship of a person jumping out of a balloon 24 miles above the New Mexico desert.
- Support the higher order purpose. Whole Foods Market provides information and support to those interested in organic and natural foods.
There is another option. Find something with energy, a branded energizer, and attach your brand to that. We save that to a future blog post.