You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from May 14, 2014 through July 16, 2014. You can also view the most recent posts.

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

What Makes A Good Story?

The concept of storytelling is one of the hottest topic in marketing today. By communicating a narrative that has a beginning, an end, emotions and facts, brands are able to become more human and more compelling.

Both research and common sense tell us that when facts are put into story form they are powerful because stories are more easily remembered. When facts are embedded into a story, counter-arguing is less likely because the power of the story distracts. When an argument is in a story context, people deduce the logic themselves and we know, again from research and common sense, that self-discovery is much more powerful that having people talk at you. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, a storyteller is usually more liked than one attempting to persuade an audience with facts.

There is a

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June 11, 2014  •  Permalink

How Chobani Won The Subcategory Competition

In the future, branding and business in general is going to involve more subcategory creation and competition and less “my brand is better than your brand” competition. This is because, with rare exemptions, that is the only way to achieve real profitable growth. In category after category, real growth results not from market share increases, but from brands that have created a set of “must haves” that define a new subcategory and then manage that subcategory by becoming its exemplar. These brands continue to innovate and create a moving target. By managing the perceptions and attitudes toward the subcategory, the subcategory wins.

I’ve previously discussed in my blog and my book, Brand Relevance a host of examples of brands that have created subcategories and won a subcategory battle. The Chrysler minivan, Asahi Super Dry, Enterprise-Rent-a-Car, Muji (the no-brand retailer), Patagonia, Zipcar,

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June 4, 2014  •  Permalink

5 Ways to Combat Counter-Arguments, The Barrier to Brand Persuasion

How do you persuade your customers that your brand will actually keep its promise? It’s a common challenge especially if you have lost some trust because of some event or problem that is connected to your brand or your category. You and your brand must convince a doubting audience that it will deliver on its value proposition, its higher purpose, its commitment to customers, its personality, and much more.

There is a practical barrier to that goal: Counter-arguing. Customers hear the brand argument and voice their skepticism, perhaps just in their own thoughts. They counter argue against the persuasive efforts of the brand. The result is that persuasion is neutralized and, perhaps worse, negative brand thoughts are solidified or even generated by the encounter.

There are 5 ways psychologists recommend you can minimize counter-arguing:

A persuasive source

If Phil Mickelson

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May 28, 2014  •  Permalink

Brands as Media: A Route to Trust

This week, I’m taking a different perspective on the concept of the “customer sweet spot” I've discussed before and in my book, Aaker on Branding.

The “sweet spot” idea is based on the fact that brands should consider moving from a digital strategy driven by selling a brand, offering, or firm to connecting with a customer sweet spot by becoming an active partner in a shared-interest program. A “sweet spot’ reflects a customer’s beliefs, values, activities and passions. The fact is that customers are fundamentally uninterested in your offering, brand or firm – but they are interested in their own things that affect or influence their day-to-day life, and will actively engage in those topics.

I’ve written before how Nature Valley’s Views, “street-view” style portrayal of trails in national parks, connects with hikers. How American Express’s Open Forum allows a small

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May 21, 2014  •  Permalink

How Whole Foods Market Created the Ultimate Successful Subcategory

In the future, business and the business of branding is going to involve much more subcategory creation and competition, and much less “my brand is better than your brand” competition. It’s the only way to achieve real, profitable growth. Whole Foods Markets is a case in point.

Whole Foods Market created a new subcategory in grocery stores, one defined by a passion for foods that are healthy, organic and natural. As the exemplar and the acknowledged thought leader of the subcategory, it provides subcategory substance with its ban on some 70 plus additives, by delivering consistent high quality, by being a leader in transparency and labeling, and by associating with like-minded customers and partners. Their exceptional prepared food selections, their 365 line of private label organic and natural products, their interesting array of food selections, their overall execution, and their staff interactions

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May 14, 2014  •  Permalink