You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from November 12, 2014 through January 28, 2015. You can also view the most recent posts.

The Evidence You Need to Justify Brand Investment

Many CMOs are challenged with the question, “Where is the quantitative proof that brand investments pay off?” The benefits seen in people, IT, and organizational culture do not provide the necessary evidence. So, let me detail three pieces of quantitative evidence about the power of branding.

Robert Jacobson and I conducted two studies in which the impact of brand equity on stock return was measured using time series models.

The first database included nine high-tech firms such as Apple, Dell, HP, Microsoft and Oracle. Quarterly data over 8 years provided 250 observations. Brand equity was based on an attitude measurement (percent having a positive view minus the percent having a negative one). The model compares the impact on stock return on two variables: changes in accounting ROI during a prior period, and changes in brand equity also during a prior period. We know that accounting

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January 28, 2015  •  Permalink

The Best Ads of the 21st Century

Advertising Age asked a panel of 17 respected leaders in the advertising community to evaluate a set of 50 nominees and declare the top 15 ads of the 21st century. These campaigns represent outstanding and provocative choices. What we see is some impressive messaging and outstanding execution.

The number 1 campaign of the panel, which would have been my choice as I've written in the past, is Dove's “Campaign for Real Beauty.” It was not designed to sell a product but to change society’s view of beauty and enhance the self-confidence of women and teen girls. Wow!

All of the winners were executed perfectly. But five showed particularly inspired creative and amazing execution. Each had little to

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January 21, 2015  •  Permalink

The Importance of Category Labels

I've stated many times before that the only way to grow, with some exceptions, is to innovate and create “must haves” that define a new subcategory (or category) and then manage that subcategory so that it wins in the marketplace and so that your brand becomes an exemplar. When this happens, subcategory competition becomes the focus rather than brand competition, and this can be a foreign concept to most marketers.

A key part of the process is the subcategory or category label or “brand.” The brand that can define and manage the label will be in a position to both help the subcategory win and become its exemplar. A recent article in the Sloan Management Review provides insight into the importance and dynamics of category labels based on a study of several categories.

They observed that categories usually start with multiple labels before a dominate category label emerges. Premature

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January 14, 2015  •  Permalink

Skype Uses Storytelling to Drive Growth

In 2012, Skype brought in a new CMO, Elisa Steele and decided that the way to expand Skype usage (too often restricted to special occasions) was to uncover and promote user stories, especially those that focused on “everyday moments.” The idea was to channel the passion of Skype users into stories that have the ability to impact, contribute emotion, change perceptions, alter behavior, be remembered and stimulate sharing. Needless to say, this approach worked.

The Skype story is worth looking at for two reasons. First, it is a rare case of story-based marketing achieving a documented payoff. Second, Skype is a role model as to how an organization should understand, develop and leverage effective stories. For additional detail, see the Stanford Business School case M348 (A).

The first step was to create a program that attracted stories from Skype users. Users, termed “moment makers,”

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January 12, 2015  •  Permalink

Looking Back at 2014's Best Posts & Preparing For 2015

Before I start a new year of blogging, I wanted to take some time to reflect on the 40 some-odd commentaries that I posted in 2014. Which stand out?

Two stories of brand strategy success stood out as the most popular and most commented.

The first describes six reasons why Uniqlo has achieved dramatic energy and growth during the past two decades. Uniqlo’s success is based on a clear brand vision, amazing innovation, integrated operations that include a direct link from store to factory, a charismatic owner-founder and the ambitious goal of being the top private-label clothing retailer in the world.

The second was the story of Under Armour’s

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January 7, 2015  •  Permalink

Brands As Journalists: The Biggest Idea Yet

These days, many companies are diverting brand-building resources to “brand journalism” efforts. Brand journalism applies the discipline, standards and goals of journalism to telling the brand message. The content need not be about or even closely linked to a brand’s offering. But it does have to be relevant to the brand’s audience. The metaphor suggests that a journalistic brand-building effort could very much be like running a magazine or broadcast media vehicle.

It’s not a token effort. In 2013, brand journalism (or “branded content,” as it is sometimes called) represented over 35% of marketing budgets of large American companies. GE’s Gary Sheffer noted, “We’re practicing what we believe to be journalism on a daily basis.”


  • GE Reports covers topics under headings like “What’s new in tech?” or “Advanced manufacturing” and leverages

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December 17, 2014  •  Permalink

How to Get Customers to "Join" Your Brand

What if your customers wanted to jump on your brand’s bandwagon, not because they thought it was better in quality than your competitors, but because they wanted to become colleagues, friends, partners or teammates in a common venture?

Think of the implications of that relationship.

The relationship would move from one of teaching and persuading to a teammate relationship working to achieve a goal. Which would result in a more meaningful, more positive, more permanent connection?

There are two perspectives that provide routes to the “join the brand” metaphor:

The sweet spot program

A sweet spot occurs when a brand doesn’t just tell a customer about their brand or product’s benefits but rather looks to what the customer’s interests, activities, and passions are – the sweet spot. Then it creates or finds a program that is responsive to that sweet spot and

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December 10, 2014  •  Permalink

The 8 Customer “Must Haves” Driving Tesla’s Success

In my books, Brand Relevance and Aaker on Branding, I argue that the only way to grow, with rare exceptions, is to engage in big innovation to create customer “must haves” that define new subcategories, and then grow and own those subcategories. In most cases, there is not one “must have” but several, as my recent analysis of Uniqlo’s success illustrates.

Tesla is another such success story. It created eight “must haves” to define a new subcategory, made it grow and planted the seeds of enduring success. Those “must haves” include:

Technology-driven performance

Tesla created technology advances that resulted in real, credible superior performance. The performance can be felt when driving the vehicles, but there are also other proof points. Consumer Reports rated the Tesla higher than any other car ever reviewed, and several automobile publications such

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December 3, 2014  •  Permalink

Who Branded Best in 2014?

Each year, HUB Magazine honors excellence in the brand experience. With well over a hundred entries, approximately 37 judges (including myself) determine who has excelled. The criterion is not market response, but rather how the brand lived up to its promise and whether it improved its customer’s daily lives in ways big or small.

Of the 12 gold medal recipients, four stood out in my mind as being particularly noteworthy. All had a modest budget but were unique, innovative, new, involving and represented the DNA of the brand.

Coca-Cola South Africa: A Rainbow for the Rainbow Nation

In the lead up to Freedom Day, Coca-Cola South Africa wanted to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the “Rainbow Nation” by creating a moment of happiness. Using a spray of recycled water they

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November 19, 2014  •  Permalink

Failure to Launch: 6 Factors that Prevent Breakthrough Offerings

I have written that the only way to grow, with rare exceptions, is to create breakthrough offerings with a “must have” that defines a new subcategory and then to manage that subcategory so that your brand is the most relevant option. A “must have” is some offering association, such as a higher purpose, a program or benefit that customers will insist on.

If you look at virtually any product arena over decades two things become clear. Growth spurts within the marketplace are driven by substantial or transformation innovation from whole new subcategories, and they are remarkably rare. Despite that reality, it turns out that most brands focus on incremental innovation.

Most companies seem to be happy for singles – they don’t try for home runs very often. Why?

One reason is that it is hard to come up with “must have” options. It requires a combination of a market need, enabling

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November 12, 2014  •  Permalink