Chrysler Redefines Minivans [Again] with the 2017 Pacifica


Chrysler is at it again. The brand, which created the minivan subcategory and has led its evolution, is coming out with a new generation of the minivan, the 2017 Chrysler Pacifica minivan. It is designed to take the minivan to a new level and allow it to take sales away from the SUV subcategory.

Chrysler is a great representation of my theory that growth happens (with some exceptions) when you develop must haves that define subcategories instead of relying on “my brand is better than your brand” marketing. The firm illustrates not only how to create a category and manage it over time, but how to stimulate new growth and protect its position as a subcategory leader by evolving its defining must haves.

The 2017 Pacifica will open

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February 4, 2016  •  Permalink

Strategic Brand Agility


In these dynamic times, customers change, trends disrupt strategies, technologies transform the competitive context, and new subcategories emerge. As a result, there is a pressing need to be agile; to have the ability to adjust the offering, the core brand position, the value proposition, and customer relationship.

Strategic brand agility does not mean to change the brand or its presentation to satisfy a manager who is bored with the current brand strategy and wants to put his or her mark on the brand. Nor does it mean a misguided effort based on the assumption that a brand deficiency is holding back growth when actually the brand is not the problem in the first place. What then is strategic brand agility?

A strategically brand agile firm is one that can detect and respond quickly and strategically to significant changes in the marketplace. Such firms need to have four assets

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January 19, 2016  •  Permalink

Relentlessly Relevant Brands: The Role Models

Earlier this week Forbes ran an article announcing the release of a Prophet study which ranks the “relentless relevance” of 400 top brands from 27 categories. The respondents were U.S. consumers, active in the category and familiar with the brand, so the results go beyond visibility and reach to understand attachment to the brand.

Relentless relevance was measured by four dimensions:

  • Customer Obsessed: Being important to a person’s life, connecting emotionally, and creating happiness.

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January 12, 2016  •  Permalink

For Brands “Happily Ever After” is in Storytelling

Stories work better than facts. Stories capture attention. Stories are remembered and can be very persuasive. All of these are reasons why stories and storytelling have become such a hot topic in marketing communications in the era of ‘Content is King’.

Imagine this – you are a brand manager at L.L. Bean and tasked with communicating that the Maine Hunting Shoe possesses great qualities; it’s waterproof, full-grain leather, steel shank, rubber chain-tread, shaped foot form and made by expert craftspeople. In addition, you aim to prove that L.L. Bean is innovative, passionate about the outdoors and obsessed about quality and customer experience. You could simply tell them these true facts. Or you could tell a story...

Once upon

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December 22, 2015  •  Permalink

The Four Faces of Digital Marketing

Digital marketing has four variants and each has its own objectives, organizational players, technological tools and programs. Failure to recognize the differences between these core digital marketing program types will lead to ineffective and suboptimal overall digital effort. A misstep like this can be compared to creating a European branding strategy, but ignoring all cultural differences in lifestyle, brand profiles, and distribution channels.

The four digital program types can be defined by observing that digital can:

Support the product offering and its uses by providing information about its benefits, how it can provide value, its applications and how to obtain it. For some offerings and/or segments, the digital route will be the primary source to learn about the offering and a place to engage in interactive dialogue about the offering, its value, and its functions. For example:

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December 8, 2015  •  Permalink

Should You Always Apologize for Brand Failures?

Jeffrey Pfeffer, a Stanford professor and author of the book Leadership BS, wrote a provocative article suggesting that, despite conventional wisdom, apologizing for brand disappointments or missteps is not always the best strategy. In my view, an apology need not always be present, but when it is needed, it should be framed in a way that the brand damage is minimized.

Sincere apologies given to wronged customers, like the ones we have seen from GM, Volkswagen, United Airlines and others, is based on sound logic. Customers, like anyone wronged, want to hear someone say, “I’m sorry that I screwed up.” An apology signals understanding and empathy with the customer’s discomfort and the acceptance of responsibility. The apology can take much of the anger and frustration out of the room.

However, Pfeffer notes that an apology has some significant negative results that should lead

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December 2, 2015  •  Permalink

Is Big Data Killing Your Brand?

“Big data” enables brands to quickly and precisely measure an audience’s short-term response to marketing activity. However, the danger with basing marketing decisions on this information is that detrimental behavior to long-term brand equity such as price promotions tends to spike such measures. The result can be gravitation toward programs that ultimately degrade the brand. This happened when scanner data emerged in the 1980’s and it is happening again today.

An article in the November issue of HBR, “Don’t Let Big Data Bury Your Brand,” by Peter Horst and Robert Duboff chronicles the dangers of relying to heavily on big data and what can be done to reduce those risks. The article notes that major companies such as Time, Michelob, and Capital One succumbed to the trap of measuring the ROI of marketing programs using short-term markers, and their brands were significantly damaged as a

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November 9, 2015  •  Permalink

Creating Compelling Brand Stories: Lifebuoy

In my last post, I wrote about why I believe Lifebuoy’s “Help a Child Reach 5” campaign is the most effective social responsibility program running today. The program’s mission is to help one billion people develop better handwashing habits and thereby prevent some of the two million deaths of children under five that occur annually due to poor health and hygiene. In this post, I discuss why two particular stories Lifebuoy shares in its program are so powerful.

Brand stories are the hot, new currency of content marketing as firm after firm hires editors, writers, and videographers to find and record these narrratives..Lifebouy seems to have cracked the code. The following two videos produced by Lifebouy provide insights into what it takes to tell an impactful story in a mere three minutes.

The first video was filmed in the Indian

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November 2, 2015  •  Permalink

Lifebuoy: The Best Social Responsibility Program Ever?

My current nominee for the best social program ever is “Help a Child Reach 5”— a hand-washing program sponsored by a brand that virtually disappeared from the U.S. a half century ago, Unilever’s Lifebuoy soap. However, Lifebuoy is far from dead internationally. The brand is dominating the market in India and other emerging countries, with a fourth place ranking in Kantor World Panel’s 2015 valuation of users and their buying frequency of 11,000 global brands in 35 countries—only falling behind Coca-Cola, Colgate, and Maggi.

With “Help a Child Reach 5,” Lifebuoy’s mission is to save lives by spreading the importance of good handwashing habits around the world. This campaign is driven by two facts: 1) Every year, 2 million children fail to reach their fifth birthday because of diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia. 2) Handwashing with soap at key occasions can reduce diarrhea by

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October 26, 2015  •  Permalink

3 Branding Trends You Need to Know

There are three accelerating branding trends that affect nearly every business. The winners of tomorrow are going to be riding these waves rather than swimming against them.

First, there is a trend from “my brand is better than your brand” marketing to subcategory competition driven by the fast pace of innovation in the marketplace and a growing recognition that, with some exceptions, meaningful brand growth spurts are caused by a new “must have” defining a new subcategory for which competitors are not relevant.

The evidence that subcategory competition is driving growth is abundant. For me, the insight started with my analysis of some 40 years of Japanese beer data. During that time there were only four major changes in market share trajectory. Three of these were caused by new subcategories being formed or solidified: Dry Beer, Ichiban, and Happoshu. The fourth were when two subcategories,

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September 17, 2015  •  Permalink