You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from June 18, 2014 through August 20, 2014. You can also view the most recent posts.

What LeBron James Can Learn About Authenticity from Starbucks

Authenticity and higher purpose are key brand characteristics that are often underappreciated. Authenticity represents the degree to which the brand is trustworthy, honest and genuine. It generates credibility and respect. A higher purpose suggests that the brand is looking beyond financial success to a more inspiring aspiration. When a brand has both, it will be blessed with energy, admiration and loyalty. When it has lost both, the battle to get them back becomes difficult and yet is critical to its future health. Let’s take a look at LeBron James and Starbucks to get a sense of what these two experiences look like.

LeBron James, viewed by some as the best basketball player ever, was an icon in Cleveland because of his awesome ability and because of his history with the Cleveland area. His story of overcoming a disadvantaged background was legendary, as was his commitment to addressing the problems

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August 20, 2014  •  Permalink

5 Reasons "Ask Zappos" Is An Innovation That Works

In my latest book, Aaker on Branding I have argued that the best way to connect with customers, especially in the digital world, is not to promote an offering or brand but rather to focus on the customer’s sweet spots. A customer sweet spot centers on something in which they are involved in and/or passionate about. The idea is to develop and be an active driver or partner in a program that resides in that sweet spot.

“Ask Zappos,” a customer service tool that can help you track down any fashion item you might want even if Zappos doesn’t sell it, is such a program. Ask Zappos provides a digital personal assistant who takes shopping requests in the form of images and attempts to find the exact item for you, online or offline. The image can

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August 13, 2014  •  Permalink

Lessons from the Go-Gurt Growth Story

In my latest book, Aaker on Branding, I assert that the only way to grow (with rare exceptions) is to innovate through creating “must haves” that define new subcategories and then controlling and actively managing those subcategories going forward.

Yoplait’s Go-Gurt provides an exceptional case study to support this assertion. Go-Gurt was introduced in 1999 as a unique, snack-style yogurt for kids. It was a yogurt product delivered in a colorful nine-inch tube that was designed to deliver portability (like their advertising said, “Lose the spoon!”), appealing flavors (Berry Blue Blast and Watermelon Meltdown, to name a few), and fun for kids to eat (What could be more fun than slurping your food?).

Prior to the launch of Go-Gurt, there was a history of a very stable market-share structure

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August 6, 2014  •  Permalink

What Are Your Strategic Brands?

While much attention is paid to building brands, too often the brand portfolio is neglected. The result is marketplace confusion, paralysis in naming new products, under-supported brands and misallocation of brand-building resources. We need to better identify brand roles and, more particularly, distinguish between the strategic brands and their roles.

A strategic brand is one with strategic importance to the organization. It is a driver of reputation, differentiation, loyalty, sales and cash flow. Identifying your strategic brands will be a huge step toward insuring that brand-building resources are not misallocated.

In general, there are four types of strategic brands:

Current power brands

Current power brands will be the ones currently generating significant sales and profits and projected to maintain or grow their position. Large dominant brands such as Microsoft Windows

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July 30, 2014  •  Permalink

Why Would Anyone Write a Book?

This month, my 18th book comes out: Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles that Drive Success. It is a compact description of some four dozen branding concepts and structures that have been developed and used during the “branding” era extending back a couple of decades.

But in this new digital era, why would anyone write even one book, to say nothing of my many? There is so much pain not only from writing the first draft but also the production and marketing as well. My answer has nothing to do with the money.

First, I like the process. I like pulling together parts of a bigger puzzle, seeing a structure evolve, creating and refining concepts, finding good stories, and revising and improving. I also like the communication phase, when

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July 23, 2014  •  Permalink

Need to Differentiate? Consider Organizational Values

Just when you think you have an offering innovation that powers a meaningful differentiation, a competitor brand copies you. Or, worse, appears to copy you.

But what a competitor brand cannot copy is an organization—its people, culture, heritage, programs, assets and capabilities— because each organization should be unique and enduring. There are dozens of organizational values to implement in order to differentiate, but six keep resurfacing as driving forces:

Perceived Quality

A basic organizational function is to create offerings that consistently deliver high quality with respect to their brand promise. Perceived quality is a key consideration in nearly every context. A distinction is made between the argument that an offering is of the highest quality, and the more general claim that the organization so values and rewards high quality that it will ensure that of all its

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July 16, 2014  •  Permalink

Where Do Brand-Building Ideas Come From?

When it comes to brand-building programs quality should come before budget concerns. It is worthwhile to spend a significant proportion of a brand-building budget on finding truly effective brand-building initiatives. The chances of finding brand-building home runs will be higher if one or more of these methods and perspectives are used:

External role models

Find an organization that has successfully addressed a similar problem or task and adapt what they did. And don’t limit the search to those organizations that look like your own – be willing to look more broadly. A retail bank with a broad array of financial services that aspires to provide a trusted adviser role might look to Home Depot as a role model. Home Deport has launched numerous internal and external programs that allow the brand an approachable, knowledgeable friendly face.

The brand experience


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July 9, 2014  •  Permalink

Brands as Assets: The Idea that Transformed Marketing

Sometime in the late 1980s, an explosive idea emerged that brands are assets, have equity and drive overall business strategy and performance. That idea altered perceptions of what marketing does, who does it, and to what end is its purpose. It’s also the focal point of the first chapter of my latest book, Aaker on Branding. It truly transformed marketing, comparable in impact to other transformational ideas that have appeared in the last century such as mass marketing, segmentation and globalization.

When firms adopt this asset view of branding, marketing is no longer perceived as a tactical arm of the business run by middle and lower-level managers (or an outside agency) in order to generate short-term sales for a single brand, offering and organizational unit.

Rather, marketing is seen as:

Strategic and

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July 2, 2014  •  Permalink

On Giving a Luxury Brand Relevance and Energy: Look to Burberry

There is a classic, sometimes intractable, problem for many luxury brands. The brand is losing exclusivity and product differentiation, and its customer base is getting older. How do you maintain relevance and energy with the younger segment given that big innovation is difficult and your brand needs to look and feel prestigious – so you can’t be too wild and crazy?

Burberry is a luxury brand that in the last 10 years addressed such problems and more. They faced common problems: an image issue because of being over-licensed, dealing with off-brand products, and being available at inappropriately low prices. It is a role model for others that would like to do so. Credit is largely due to former CEO, Angela Ahrendts (now SVP of Retail and Online Stores at Apple) and Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s Chief Creative and Chief Executive Officer.

The sheer quantity of initiatives Burberry launched

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June 25, 2014  •  Permalink

The 7 Biggest Issues Keeping CMOs Up At Night

What do marketing professionals really care about? What’s on their wish list? The Marketing Science Institute (MSI) is a consortium of over 75 major firms from all industries that provide an interface between practitioners and academics. Every other year, the MSI goes through a process to identify the priority issues marketing practitioners are facing in order to provide guidance to academic research. The 2014 results are out.

There are two tier one issues, five tier two issues, and four tier three issues.


Understanding customers and the customer experience

What behaviors have emerged in the multi-media, multi-screen and multi-channel world? How has social and digital changed the customer experience and path to purchase? How should customer engagement be defined and measured? How does social media create engagement? What methods provide insight?


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June 18, 2014  •  Permalink