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, another told about Tom Aaker, who is a successful CEO with an anti-jerk style, and still another discussed how the talent of Muhtar Kent, the CEO at Coca-Cola, has made a difference.
In February I wrote about how to gain credit for doing social good, given that so many firms would like credit and so few get it. Some 1,000 brands are evaluated annually by the BrandJapan effort, of which I have been a long-term adviser. One question measured their perceived social good effort. Toyota was at the top because of the Prius, and Panasonic was in second place because of their business model around energy and the shift from controlling energy use in buildings to solar cells and low energy appliances, and in part because of their demonstration buildings throughout Asia. The two firms show two routes to getting credit, but both are anchored in the product. Similarly, I also wrote about Disney’s attack on obesity and how that impacted Disney.
I covered the presidential election from a positioning and framing standpoint, and started by explaining how good the Republican party has become at framing, with concepts like “tax relief” and “death taxes.” Framing is more ambitious than positioning as it attempts to control the conversation of a whole category or subcategory rather than just a brand. Later in the season, I wrote about a rare Democratic framing win with “VoucherCare,” and after the election results came in, I wrote about how Obama framed Romney by positioning the Bain experience as predatory rather than job creating.
Through a series of posts, I showed how important it is to energize a brand and the downside of losing energy. It included pieces on internal and external branded energizers. Many posts drew upon my branding concepts and tools, such as “10 Steps To Building a Successful Brand Portfolio Strategy,” “Building Brands — Six Principles Behind the BI Model,” "Marketing Advice that (Almost) Always Works" and "Four Strategies for Staying Relevant."
I reminisced about a classic ad "They laughed when I sat down at the piano, but when I begin to play…” that showed why a combination of emotional, self and social benefits can be so much more powerful than functional benefits. After the Super Bowl, I wrote about my choice for the winning ad, Chrysler’s “Imported from Detroit” and how it reminded me of the classic Saturn ads of two decades ago. As the year passed, data has shown that the Chrysler ad and the positioning it reflected was wildly successful.
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