You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from June 18, 2015 through December 2, 2015. You can also view the most recent posts.

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

Clif Bar Lets Its Farmers Tell the Brand Story

A unique storytelling experience from Clif Bar recently caught my eye. In the “Farmers Speak” series, the brand’s farmers and suppliers explain and discuss why they got started in organic farming and how they operate their businesses.

It works for three reasons.

  • It reflects a perfect constellation of three huge trends in marketing and business strategy: the prominence of a higher purpose, the recognition that such a purpose often requires partners, and the power of stories.
  • The stories are masterfully told. They are intriguing, authentic and involving. Each of the four minute videos have gotten over 600,000 views.
  • It represents a great example of what I call signature stories, which are dramatically effective stories that become a strategic

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August 5, 2015  •  Permalink

General Mills Gains Relevance Through Products and Acquisition

A sizable and growing customer segment is looking for organic and natural products, and as a result, packaged food companies are facing a relevance problem.

One company that has done well in this difficult and changing environment is General Mills. There is a lot to like about their product and acquisition strategy.

The most recent major General Mills acquisition is Annie’s, bought in 2014 for just under one billion dollars. Annie’s makes Mac & Cheese, snacks, dressings and frozen food all under the organic and natural labels. The brand is fast growing, authentic and high quality with an expanding product footprint. The purchase provides General Mills another growth platform in the healthy eating arena.

And there were important acquisitions even before the purchase of Annie’s. Back in 1999, General Mills acquired

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July 22, 2015  •  Permalink

What Brands Can Learn from Damien Hirst

Observing brands in contemporary art can be instructive, especially for brands selling services or products that matter to them but have functional benefits that are hard to objectively value such as wine, financial advice, consulting and sometimes automobiles.

Contemporary art, non-traditional art from 1970, can sell for incredible amounts, amounts that do not seem to be objectively merited. For example, a Damian Hirst mounted shark in the Metropolitan Museum of Art under the title “The physical impossibility of death in the mind of someone living” is said to be worth $12 million. There are some 2,000 On Kawra paintings that consist of a date precisely painted on a black background. One piece, “May 1, 1984,”

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July 9, 2015  •  Permalink

The Uniqlo and MoMA: A Partnership that Wins

On May 3, 2013 Uniqlo became the exclusive, multi-year sponsor of the New York Museum of Modern Art’s Friday night program, which offers free admission in the evenings. Almost a year later in March of 2014, Uniqlo launched SPRZ NY (Surprise New York) in partnership with MoMA. Under SPRZ NY, Uniqlo puts artwork inspired by top contemporary artists such as Andy Warhol, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring on some 200 items that will sell from $6 to $50. Some of the artists, including Ryan McGinness, will personally design clothing items based on their works hanging in the museum. It’s “the place where art and clothing meet.”

The sponsorship is designed to showcase the huge signature 5th Avenue Uniqlo store that is located around the corner from MoMA. The store redesigned the second floor so it looks and feels like a museum, with framed

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July 1, 2015  •  Permalink

Google: Talent Trumps Experience

Google is undoubtedly one of the most amazing success stories of our time, with a market cap of over 365 billion making it one of the top three or four most valuable firms in the world. How did they do it?

The book, Google: How Google Works by Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg provides several explanations behind their story, but I was struck by Google’s rather unique perspective on people.

When hiring, training and promoting people, most managers in most firms focus on finding, leveraging or developing relevant experience. It dominates from the hiring interview to career management. Not at Google, where they instead look for and nourish talent. Talent trumps experience.

CEO Eric Schmidt hired Sheryl Sandberg even though they did not have a job for her. When a 2003 search for a

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June 18, 2015  •  Permalink