You are viewing Aaker on Brands blog posts from February 12, 2014 through April 16, 2014. You can also view the most recent posts.

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

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