You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from June 26, 2013 through August 27, 2013. You can also view the most recent posts.

Choose The Cover of My Next Book, Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles that Drive Success

My next book, Aaker on Branding: 20 Principles that Drive Success will be released later this year. It will present the 20 essential principles of branding that lead to the creation of strong brands and brand portfolios. It provides a checklist of strategies, perspectives, tools and concepts that represent not only what you should know but also what actions you should take. At 200, pages it provides access to my perspective on branding in a very compact form.

But before the book is released, it needs a cover. Cover design is fascinating. Just peruse Amazon or any bookstore and consider the variety of concepts. In doing that exercise many times, I have come up with a few “truths” about cover design. But with every rule comes an exception, and I have no explanation for some of the huge best sellers that seem to violate the rules I’ve discovered.

I look for three things in a cover.

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August 27, 2013  •  Permalink

7 Indicators of Brand-Building Inadequacy

Is your brand-building effort effective? Is the budget spend effective? In my first branding book, Managing Brand Equity, I identified indicators that brand-building was misdirected, mismanaged, or underfunded--problems that are increasingly relevant today. With a few edits, here is the list.

  • Managers cannot identify with confidence the existing brand image, its strength, and how it differs across segments and over time.
  • Knowledge of levels of brand awareness is lacking or imprecise, and the visibility of the brand among segments is just guesswork.
  • There is no in-depth understanding of the basis for customer loyalty or of how it is lost or reduced. A systematic, reliable, sensitive, and valid set of measures of customer satisfaction and loyalty by segment is

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August 21, 2013  •  Permalink

Charity: Water - The Ultimate Brand Storyteller

Storytelling succeeds. Stories are more attended to, more memorable and more impactful than any other type of communication. For an example of a brand that has found and leveraged stories successfully, take a look at Charity: Water.

For example, one of their most popular videos tells the story of the water crisis in Africa and other emerging countries. They brought the story to life through images of women and children carrying 40-pound containers of water for hours a day - trips that are dangerous and time-consuming. Worse, the water they collect is polluted and responsible for sickness and death, particularly among the very young. The story relates this problem to education, work and entrepreneurship, as that valuable time and energy hauling water takes away from

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August 14, 2013  •  Permalink

McDonald’s Struggles to get “Fresh,” Relevant

McDonald’s is addressing a new relevance problem among the key 18 to 32 year old demographic that wants freshness in their fast food fare. Their “solution” is the McWrap, a freshly prepared sandwich wrap. The tortilla-based wraps contain sliced tomatoes, spring greens, shredded lettuce and even cucumbers, a first at McDonald’s, together with chicken, cheese and sauce. The wraps are prepared to order and the vegetables are indeed fresh. The problem is that there is a difference between fresh food and a fresh experience.

McDonald’s has had some success addressing other relevance issues in the past, though it took years to get it right. The unhealthy stigma was somewhat softened when they developed, after a lot of trial and error, a set of salad entrees plus some fruit and yogurt items developed especially for kids. The competition from Starbucks was neutralized with McCafé. Will McWraps

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August 7, 2013  •  Permalink

The Desktop Demise? Not so Fast.

Desktop computer sales are declining while tablet and laptop sales continue to skyrocket. There are predictions that the desktop will be soon be history, based in part on projecting real purchasing trends and in part on an assessment of the technology and uses of the alternatives. Microsoft’s Chief Evangelist Steven Guggenheimer was quoted as saying that over time, the desktop is likely to go away altogether, though he expressed uncertainty about the pace of decline. He has a lot of company in his analysis.

But it’s problematic to make predictions about products that appear to have been overtaken and made obsolete by innovations. There is a tendency to underestimate their functional benefits and the tenacity of the core of committed

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July 31, 2013  •  Permalink

The Retail Revolution Is Here

The retail revolution is here. The online retail force has finally arrived, and the results are dramatic.

Retailing sectors that are most sensitive to online competitors are downsizing. That set includes book sellers (Borders), video stores (Blockbuster), consumer electric stores (Circuit City), office supplies, stationary/gift shops, and big box stores. Chains are going out of business or dramatically downsizing the number and size of stores. The fact is that online competitors often have lower costs and a wider selection. Big box storefronts are being replaced growing retail concepts such as fast-food and fast-casual restaurants, fitness/health clubs, dollar stores, thrift stores, medical services, automobile services and wireless stores. The retail revolution is here, but the number of retailers, on average, is not declining.

The retail sectors that are less sensitive to online competition

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July 24, 2013  •  Permalink

The Real Reasons Chinese Firms Have Weak Branding

In a column for the New York Times, David Brooks posited that the U.S. has one clear advantage over Chinese competition: branding. He notes that U.S. firms are powered by "eccentric failed novelists" (presumably from agencies and consulting firms that are gifted at brand positioning and execution) and "visionary founders" (think Steve Jobs) who have created exceptional brands. This talent is lacking in the Chinese market where "executives tend to see business deals in transactional, not in relationship terms," as Brooks says. This observation is important because there are Chinese firms that seem to have everything to win globally except for branding and marketing.

Speaking as a long-time observer of brands and brand strategy, I believe that Brooks is correct but his analysis

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July 17, 2013  •  Permalink

Can Employee Policy Lead to Customer Loyalty? Costco and HP Prove It Can.

Treating employees “right” as a priority over profits is unlikely to be rewarded by customers. It is difficult for firms to get credit from customers for good works such as sustainability or social programs because they are difficult to attain prolonged effectiveness, and because they fail to get visibility. So how can employee programs that are usually mostly invisible to customers, make an impact on preferences or loyalty?

Employee policies that do stand out can generate “respect” for the organization, and that respect turns into liking and trust.

Consider Costco versus its competitors. Their average employee pay is nearly $21/hr compared to under $13 hr at Walmart. 88% of Costco employees have company-sponsored health insurance and pay less that 10% of the fees while Walmart

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July 10, 2013  •  Permalink

A Different "Kind" of Healthcare Branding: Dignity Health

A full page newspaper ad for a major hospital group, Dignity Health recently caught my eye with the headline “The Earth’s health is our health.” It turns out that Dignity Health, formerly Catholic Healthcare West (about 60% of its current hospitals are Catholic), has 60,000 providers in over 40 hospitals and hundreds of locations in 17 Western states. And it has a very unique brand message.

The ad talks about how our health is connected to the health of the planet, and how the healthcare industry needs to be involved in removing toxic and non-biodegradable substances from the environment and to help conserve resources. And this should be done in the name of “humankindness” – where the power to heal, to inspire and to love is harnessed to do good.

The premise is that there is

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July 3, 2013  •  Permalink

Velcro: How A Category Exemplar Successfully Rebranded

Velcro, from Velcro Industries, is a fascinating brand. It’s a wonderful example of a single product (hook-and-loop-fasteners) brand that created a new category and maintained control and exemplar status over that category for nearly a half century. It illustrates how even a strong brand can get tired and need a rebranding effort.

The Velcro founder story is a powerful part to the brand. It has human interest and also serves to explain the value proposition of their product. A Swiss electrical engineer, George de Mestral came home in 1941 from a hunting trip curious why burrs kept sticking to his clothes and to his dog’s fur. Under a microscope he found that they contained hundreds of “hooks.” That led to an inspiration to recreate the attachment properties of the burrs in cloth. It took nearly 20 years before he had something that was commercial, and several companies turned their back

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June 26, 2013  •  Permalink