You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from January 8, 2014 through March 19, 2014. You can also view the most recent posts.

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

Is the Influence of Brands Fading?

James Surowieck recently published an article in The New Yorker entitled “Twilight of the Brands,” in which he suggests that brands are losing their ability to influence consumers. His logic was based on a book by my friend Itamar Simonson and Emanual Rosen, Absolute Value in which the authors argue that customers are now able to behave much more rationally than in the past in light of increased access to objective information about products and services through the Internet. Users of products and services share their experiences, experts share their opinions, and price information is readily available all with the tap of a button. Relevant product and service information can be conveniently accessed on Amazon and any

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March 12, 2014  •  Permalink

The CMO's Job Has Changed (For the Better)

In 2006, the average tenure for CMOs amongst the top 100 advertised brands was 23 months. It is now over 45 months, according to the 9th annual study from Spencer Stuart.


The logic for CMO tenure doubling can be found in my book, Spanning Silos. In the past, CMOs of major businesses tended to be passionate change agents who aggressively worked to centralize and standardize. It’s hard work, and it led burn-out. Powerful, autonomous product and country silos were creating brand problems such as inconsistency, inefficiency, inability to scale, and lack of sharing good programs – and the CMO had to fix all of them. In talking to CMOs that had faced such problems, I concluded

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March 5, 2014  •  Permalink

Whats Motivating IKEA? A Higher Purpose That Works

I’m always looking for examples of brands that do an exemplary job of communicating their higher purpose. Lately, IKEA has caught my eye. Their “People and Planet Positive” initiative is amazing. IKEA is on a path to generate 70 percent of their energy from renewables by 2017 and 100 percent by 2010, with multi-billion dollar investments in solar and wind energy. By 2016 they will only sell energy efficient LED light bulbs. Their percentage of cotton goods from sustainable sources increased from 34 percent in 2012 to 72 percent in 2013 and will continue to climb. Their IWAY supplier code of conduct, which provides sustainability guidelines, has teeth. They have a set of visible and effective programs to encourage homeowners to be more energy efficient.

So why is IKEA doing this?


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February 26, 2014  •  Permalink

What Inspires You?

At Prophet, we are always trying to get out of our comfort zone in order to become more creative and freshen up our idea generation process. I recently experimented with an exercise we conduct with our clients: Spend one hour outside the office walking, observing, and thinking. Then, identify a thing, person, event, incident, or something that inspires.

While I was walking down the Embarcadero just outside Prophet’s San Francisco office, the Bay Bridge appeared more and more inspiring the more I looked at it and thought of the stories behind it.

It inspired me because:

It’s awesome in its scale. It towers over the road that runs under it. It is striking to watch some 270,000 vehicles on an average day driving 200 feet above the water and heading toward

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February 19, 2014  •  Permalink

5 Lessons From T-Mobile's Game-Changing Strategy

Typical mobile industry players are regarded as arrogant and insensitive to the frustrations of the consumers. It’s an industry that has long frustrated customers with complex plans, locked-in contracts, restrictions against upgrading phones and the loss of investments in existing devices. But now, T-Mobile has introduced a game changer to the market.

They call themselves the Un-carrier, to vividly emphasize that they are doing something radically different. They’re basing their whole philosophy around doing exactly what the customers want, as indicated by their feedback. It sounds simple. So why did it take so long to create such a strategy? And why was T-Mobile, the number 4 player in the industry, the first to innovate? (Full Disclosure—Prophet was a partner with T-Mobile in developing the new strategy.)


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February 12, 2014  •  Permalink

Personal Branding at Its Best: Three Kids in NYC

Personal branding is for everyone. There isn’t a person out there who wouldn’t benefit from developing a brand vision for his or her professional and personal brand. Personal brand visions need to be interesting, differentiating and authentic to succeed.

Once a brand vision is in place, the challenge is to live the vision and present it to others. Effective presentations will involve stories with a strong storyline, a punchy conclusion and visuals. One of the most wonderful examples of effective story presentations are three books, each describing a four month adventure of three kids, who happen to be my grandchildren…

Developed with help from their mother, each book records the kids’ experiences with colorful illustrations and one professional rap video, with a style that is both enticing and

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January 29, 2014  •  Permalink

Collaborative Global Brand Management Is the Answer, According to Larry Light

I always enjoy seeing what ideas my friend, the provocative Larry Light, comes up with. His latest, in an article published in the Journal of Brand Strategy (Autumn-Fall, 2013), centers around the concept of collaborative global brand management. The idea is that both the strategy and tactics of a global brand need to be a shared responsibility of the local brand team and the global brand team. Larry has real credentials with global brands. He was a turnaround CMO at McDonalds and now is the global brand strategist at Intercontinental Hotel Group, a chain of some 4,500 hotels that include the Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza brands.

Collaborative global brand management rests on two assumptions:

  • The world has evolved to a place that standardization just does not work. Rather, we see strong local cultures, unique preferences,

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January 22, 2014  •  Permalink

California Casualty: A Role Model for the Power of Energizers

California Casualty is a 100-year-old property and casualty insurance firm with premiums just over 300 million dollars and an admirable sense of values and culture that harks back to the founder. Now run by a fourth generation CEO, the firm proudly states “We protect American heroes” and primarily serves affinity groups such as police, firefighters, nurses and educators. The firm is able to offer specialized products and services to these groups and provide added value to their associations as a result. (Full disclosure, I am a former board member of California Casualty.)

It’s a great company, but they have a problem cutting through messaging clutter, creating branded energy and gaining visibility in the marketplace. They have two handicaps that are shared by many firms. First, their product, insurance, is regarded by many as being either

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January 15, 2014  •  Permalink

Need a Digital Role Model? Consider Burberry.

Luxury brand think tank L2 recently rated Burberry as the best digital program of all the luxury clothing brands. So, I set out to see what prompted this appraisal.

Burberry has creatively used digital to inject energy into the brand with a variety of programs, some with little obvious link to their clothing.


  • Their “Art of the Trench” website where customers can post pictures of themselves wearing the iconic Burberry trench coat. The project is an ongoing collaboration between Burberry and some of the

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January 8, 2014  •  Permalink