You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from March 19, 2014 through May 21, 2014. You can also view the most recent posts.

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

Find Your Customers' Sweet Spot For Digital Success

How do you create a digital strategy that involves customers in an energized social community? How do you generate an engaged, active “go-to” website? You must change the orientation of marketing from selling the offering, the brand, and firm to becoming an active partner with a shared interest program around a customer’s “sweet spot.”

A sweet spot reflects customers’ “thinking and doing” time, beliefs and values, activities and passions, possessions or places they treasure. Ideally, it would be a part of, if not central to, their self-identity and lifestyle and reflect a higher-order value proposition, much beyond the benefits provided by the offering.

To illustrate, Pampers went beyond diapers by creating the Pampers Village community that provides a “go to” place for all issues relating to babies and child care. Its

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May 7, 2014  •  Permalink

Why You Must Prove Your Brand Has Asset Value

The concept of brand equity, which began to gain acceptance over two and a half decades ago, dramatically changed marketing. Marketing executives moved into the executive suite, dealt with strategy as well as tactics, and shifted their goals to include building brand assets as well as stimulating sales.

These changes were based on the premise that brands were assets. There was and is pressure from CEOs, CFOs and others to demonstrate that, in fact, brands do have strategic asset value.

How can that challenge be addressed? There are several perspectives that can help.

Estimate Brand Value

Starts by estimating the value of the product-market business units driven by the brand. Business from Ford Focus sales in the United States, for example, would be evaluated by discounting its future expected earnings flow. The value of tangible assets (using either book or market value) is

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April 30, 2014  •  Permalink

Strong Brands, Not Same Brands

Having the same brand vision in all contexts has enormous advantages in coordinating brand efforts across product categories and markets, scaling brand-building programs and gaining internal clarity for the brand.

But the goal should be strong brands everywhere, not the same brand everywhere. Adaptation is often helpful and sometimes necessary.

Brands often span products and markets. Some brands face market share differences; look at Volkswagen’s dominance in Germany but not in the UK. Some brands have brand image differentiations, being “premium” in some geographies and “value” in others. Sometime, customers have different motivations. For example, P&G’s Olay brand found that in India people wanted skin that was brighter looking, rather than younger looking and had to readjust their strategy. Distribution channels can be a challenge. Cultural differences and local heritage can play

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April 23, 2014  •  Permalink

3 Ways to Re-frame Your Category (And Win)

There is way too much emphasis on “my brand is better than your brand” competition. The real payoff comes as a result of shifting positioning the brand to framing the subcategory (or category) and thereby changing the way people perceive, discuss and feel. It changes which brands are relevant.

Your goal should be to define what people are buying in such a way that competitor brands are at a disadvantage or are not even considered at all. This route to winning is often the only path to real growth and is a way toward a marketplace niche that will result in enduring leadership, energy and success.

Winning by framing the subcategory can take several forms:

Elevate your offering by defining what the customer is buying. Ideally, it will become a “must have,” which means that if a brand is deficient on that characteristic it will be less relevant and unlikely to be considered. It may

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April 16, 2014  •  Permalink

Is Your Brand Vision Realistic?

Look for Proof Points and Imperatives

What does a winning brand vision look like? As I noted in a recent post, the brand vision should reflect and support the business strategy, differentiate from competitors, resonate with customers, energize and inspire employees and partners, adapt to different markets and precipitate a gush of ideas for marketing programs.

Creating a brand vision that meets these requirements is a great start to success. However, the brand vision implies a promise to customers and a commitment by the organization. It cannot be an exercise in wishful thinking but, rather, needs to have substance behind it.

Is your vision really feasible given organizational limitations, resource demands and competitive dynamics? The answer comes

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April 9, 2014  •  Permalink

Personal Branding Lessons from The Haas School of Business

Perhaps the most important aspect of your professional life is your personal brand. How are you professionally perceived by colleagues and others? Given that your professional image is critical to your success and well-being, why would you not have a personal brand vision and manage toward that vision? In reviewing the Haas School of Business brand vision, I was struck with its potential to be a role model in developing and implementing personal brand vision elements.

The Haas School of Business at UC-Berkeley, under the leadership of Dean Rich Lyons, has developed an outstanding brand vision that resonates with relevant audiences, differentiates from competitors and guides programs. While a personal brand will need to be based on your interests, ability and professional context, I believe that the dimensions of the Haas School of Business vision elements can provide inspiration in developing

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April 2, 2014  •  Permalink

Is Your Brand a Giver, or a Taker?

Adam Grant’s book Give and Take suggests that all people take different dominant approaches to their jobs. They are either defined as “givers,” “takers” or “matchers.” Research shows that these different styles can affect performance and satisfaction.

I wonder if the same paradigm could be applied to brands, and whether some of the psychologically based research that Adam reports could shed light on the management of firms and brands. Are some brands and the firms they represent “givers?” And if so, under what circumstances is that style of operating likely to result in superior short-term or long-term performance?

A “giver” is concerned with what others need and is both willing and able to spend time and energy helping others, even if that time and energy will not result in personal gain. A “taker” is self-focused with an unrelenting goal of advancing his or her

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March 26, 2014  •  Permalink

It Starts With a Brand Vision

As I was writing my latest book, Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles that Drive Success, I realized two things:

First, brand identity is the cornerstone of brand strategy and brand building. You need an articulated description of the aspirational image for the brand, what you want the brand to stand for in the eyes of customers and employees. That description drives the brand-building component of the marketing program, and greatly influences the rest of your brand’s activity. In fact, seven of the 20 principles in my book are centered on getting the brand identity concept right.

Second, I had a chance to re-label brand identity as “brand vision,” something I had long wanted to do. In golf, we call that a do-over. I had been stuck with the term brand identity, because it was described in two

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March 19, 2014  •  Permalink