You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from October 1, 2014 through December 17, 2014. You can also view the most recent posts.

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

6 Reasons Why Uniqlo Is Winning

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

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October 29, 2014  •  Permalink

What Is Your Higher Purpose?

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:

Inspire employees

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

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October 22, 2014  •  Permalink

Perception is Reality: The NFL Needs a New Leader

It’s no news that the NFL is in crisis-mode due to evidence of mishandling cases of spousal and child abuse as well as a recent report stating that football has led to dementia in 1/3 of their players. If the damage to its brand is to be controlled, the NFL needs a new commissioner.

First, the public will likely assume that current commissioner Roger Goodell, who has spent his whole career in the NFL office, is not the best person to create solutions. There are those that believe he lacks fresh eyes, he is too tied to the underlying culture that spawned the problems in the first place, and because of the perception and probable reality that he has too little independence from the owners.

Second, the retention of Goodell sends the signal that the NFL is not holding anyone accountable and thus is not serious about making basic changes that are necessary. As a result, any sets of programs

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October 15, 2014  •  Permalink

Build Your Brand From The Inside Out

Test your organization by asking employees two questions. What does your brand stand for? Do you care? If employees are unsure of the brand vision or don’t care, there is little chance that you will successfully implement your business strategy.

There are several benefits to having a strong internal brand.

A clear, compelling internal brand provides direction and motivation to employees and partners. People and teams will be more likely to know if a decision or program is “on-brand” if the internal brand is successfully communicated. The internal brand can inspire employees to find and implement creative, breakthrough brand-building programs, to stretch for a “big” idea. An employee base that is energized by a strong brand will be motivated to talk about the brand to others on social media and elsewhere. A solid brand, especially one with a vision that includes a higher purpose,

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October 8, 2014  •  Permalink

Move from Functional to Self-Expressive, Social and Emotional Benefits

There is a compulsion to focus in on functional benefits. It comes perhaps from the legacy of the Rosser Reeves unique selling proposition that brought us the candy that “melts in your mouth instead of your hand.”

A functional benefit is appealing. Our instinct, especially if we reside in the high tech or a B2B sector, is to assume that customers are rational and will be swayed by functional benefits. Further, when asked why customers buy this brand or avoid that one, we assume they will give functional reasons. The resulting insights often have an inordinate influence on strategy.

But we have too much evidence from behavioral economists and market researchers that shows customers are far from rational. We see it every day. Even an airline, when buying a plane, will in the end be influenced by their gut even with piles of proposal details in front of them. In most contexts, customers

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October 1, 2014  •  Permalink