You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from October 22, 2014 through January 14, 2015. You can also view the most recent posts.
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…
January 14, 2015 • Permalink
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,”…
January 12, 2015 • Permalink
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…
January 7, 2015 • Permalink
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
December 17, 2014 • Permalink
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…
December 10, 2014 • Permalink
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:
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…
December 3, 2014 • Permalink
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
November 19, 2014 • Permalink
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…
November 12, 2014 • Permalink
I was recently shopping at the Uniqlo store on 34th street in Manhattan and was blown away by the quality and styling of the clothing, the store size and product scope, the presentation, the breathtakingly low prices, the service experience, the innovations and the energy. How did Uniqlo pull that off? And why has Uniqlo experienced dramatic profitable growth over two decades?
In 1994 it had approximately 100 stores in Japan. In 2015, it will have 840 stores in Japan and 1,170 stores outside of Japan, 820 of which are under the Uniqlo brand (and another 270 under the GU brand, which is a low-priced version of Uniqlo). In fiscal 2014 it will continue a sharp sales trajectory with sales around 14 billion dollars becoming a top five global “own brand” clothing retailer.
First, Uniqlo has a clear vision of its brand to provide high quality, performance-enhanced, basic casual…
October 29, 2014 • Permalink
What is your higher purpose? Sales and profit goals can no longer be the prime motivator if they ever were. In my book, Aaker on Branding I note that more and more brands have a higher purpose that is meaningful. It is increasingly becoming more about “why” in addition to “what.”
A higher purpose can provide inspiration, an aspirational goal, a work-together logic, respect, a motivation for social programs and paths to growth. In particular, it can:
P&G’s purpose to improve the lives of the world’s consumers, now and for generations to come elevates the work experience of all employees. General Motors’ passion for “earning customers for life” affects employee decisions on a day-to-day basis.
Set a high aspirational performance bar that can stretch the organization
Apple’s Steve Jobs famous mission to create “insanely…
October 22, 2014 • Permalink