You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from January 7, 2015 through March 11, 2015. You can also view the most recent posts.

Most Brands Don’t Get Credit for Their Environmental Programs. Why These 5 Have.

I believe that most firms in the world have made commitments to environmental programs as a higher purpose. Their motivation is to inspire employees, do the right thing for the planet, reduce costs and appeal to customers thereby engendering admiration, respect and a sense of shared values. All of this leads to a brand-consumer relationship based on more than functional benefits.

BrandJapan conducts an annual survey measuring the strength and profile of 1000 brands, and this year added a question involving whether the brand is “concerned with environmental issues.” The response to this question confirms my suspicion that few brands get recognition of their environmental efforts, even though most brands have significant environmental programs. Why? How can brands with strong environmental goals and programs get customer credit? To answer those questions let’s first look at those few brands that have

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March 11, 2015  •  Permalink

A Roadmap to Managing Your Personal Brand

Every person has a brand, represented by a name and face. This brand has a host of associations. The brand will influence all relationships and affect how a person is perceived and/or respected.

Your personal brand can be actively managed with disciple and consistency over time, or it can be allowed to drift. There is a huge payoff to employing the active management option and large risks to the alternative.

Here is a road map to getting control of your personal brand:

Assess Your Target Audience

Describe the group who you would like to have the right impression of you. Who would want to spend time with you? Who might admire you? Who do you want to respect you? For example you may want a professional audience, a family audience and a friend audience. You might pick out a few representative people in each segment to provide focus and clarity. It may be useful, at least at the outset,

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March 3, 2015  •  Permalink

How "Like A Girl" & "Real Beauty" Deliver Business Impact

Many strong brands have a vision that includes a higher purpose such as environmental stewardship, healthy eating or third-world water safety. These programs make a difference with regards to corporate responsibility. But do they really help the brand and business? Can the investment in a higher purpose have a brand rationale? Consider the efforts of Always and Dove to improve the self-esteem of girls. What impact do the campaigns have on the two brands? And how is that impact measured?


Last summer, Always launched a three minute video by award-winning director Lauren Greenfield, #LikeAGirl that showed the stereotypical view of women from the perspective of boys, men, and women as well doing things like running, throwing, or fighting “like a girl.” The caricature was one of awkward incompetence. The assumption was that girls are not equal to boys in these activities, an assumption

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February 25, 2015  •  Permalink

6 Ways Your Brand Personality Should Add Value

What is the worst thing you can say about a person? High up on my list would be that someone has no personality. Who wants to spend time with someone so boring? I’d rather hang out with a jerk. At least then it would be interesting. The same reasoning applies to brands.

Not all brands have a personality, or at least a strong, distinctive personality. But the brands that do have a significant advantage in terms of standing out, communicating an on-brand message and supporting customer relationships. Personality is an important dimension of brand equity because, like human personality, it is both differentiating and enduring.

A brand personality can…enhance self-expression benefits

People express themselves in part by the brands that they buy, especially when the brand is socially visible. For some, using a MacBook expresses a non-corporate, creative self, based in part on the

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February 9, 2015  •  Permalink

The Few Super Bowl Ad Hits Among Many Misses: Aaker's Picks

Overall, I was underwhelmed with the ads that aired during this year’s Super Bowl. Too many ads showed zero connection with the brand. A few did stand out, got me interested, and showed a worthwhile message.

There were a few spots that displayed a strong story narrative with a point of tension, interesting characters, humor that worked, and the “brand as a hero” placement. Snickers used some celebrity character actors dropped into a classic scene from The Brady Bunch. It was authentically funny and provided a new perspective on a familiar brand. The Avocados from Mexico ad centered around the First Draft Ever, where each country nominated a mascot. The pinnacle of boring was America’s choice of wheat, but Mexico chose the avocado which excited commentators who analyzed the pick just as they would analyze a wide receiver in an NFL draft. The ad was funny, memorable and fit the setting. The

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February 4, 2015  •  Permalink

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