What is the brand strength hidden in your perceived weakness?
Does your company want to be branded as the market giant? Before you answer, consider the success of organizations that have sold themselves as giant killers instead. Most companies are not the dominant feeder in their category; for them, being a niche competitor can be very rewarding both in profitability and consumer loyalty.
One of the most well-recounted examples of this principle is the Avis “We Try Harder” campaign launched in 1962. Trailing Hertz, the top rental car company in the nation, Avis promised that as the underdog, they would provide better service with a try-harder attitude. The campaign, created by Doyle Dane Bernbach, is considered a classic example of embracing your perceived faults and making them brand strengths. Continue reading “Embracing Your Underdog Brand Identity” →
“An organization bound by love is far more powerful than one bound by fear.”
My years of experience crafting brand strategies for both large corporations and small firms have convinced me of one principle above all others: brands are built from the inside out. The best brand strategies in the world will not succeed if there is not a culture – driven from the top – of creativity, authenticity, and humanity. Great cultures perform miracles, for both shareholders and customers.
As proof in point, I offer Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, who is justifiably credited with fostering one of the most emotionally intelligent and resilient companies in the airline industry. Sifting through my files many years ago in my office at the McCombs School of Business, I found the text of Kelleher’s commencement address delivered to the school’s BBA graduates in 2004, entitled “Fourteen Ways to Be a Leader.”
I quickly realized I had discovered a golden treasure of brand wisdom, and to my astonishment, I couldn’t find it published anywhere online. I contacted Kelleher (retired as CEO of Southwest at that point) and asked if the school could publish the notes as a ten-year commemoration in 2014. He graciously gave permission, with one requested change to point number four, which he had reconsidered since delivering the address.
Kelleher passed away this week. I’m pleased to publish his remarks one more time, in memory of a brand genius and a truly remarkable entrepreneur and business builder. Continue reading “How Kelleher Built the Southwest Brand from the Inside Out” →
Simple brand strategies often neglected by even the most earnest marketers.
Co-written by David Wenger and Dave Shaw in 2003. Still relevant today.
There are a thousand theories for how to strengthen your brand, and most of them have worked at one time for some company, or they wouldn’t have found their way into someone’s book on brand building.
But how much of what you read in the marketing press is really applicable to your industry, particularly if you are a technology or manufacturing company? Can the lessons learned from Starbucks brew success in the oil and gas equipment business, for example? The answer is both yes and no.
Over the years we’ve consulted with dozens of companies, such as JSR Micro, KLA-Tencor and Samsung Austin Semiconductor, that operate well beyond the “fun zone” of brand marketing. Our approach is based on integrated marketing—the principle that “everything communicates.” Continue reading “Six terribly boring ways to make your brand sizzle.” →
“We have a mission statement posted in the lobby, but who knows what our vision is now.”
Ernest Auerbach knows his way around the corporate world, including the carnage that often follows after a merger. As a corporate general manager with a global portfolio of senior positions from Xerox and CIGNA to New York Life and AIG, he has seen the ugly when, in his vivid words, “mergers trumpeted as made in heaven end up in hell.”
He warns that mergers sometimes fail because the hard work isn’t done after the announcement confetti is swept up and everyone files back to their office (or collects their severance check).
“Some mergers work well, but it takes good strategic work at the front end and excellent post-merger work afterward,” Auerbach says. Continue reading “What happens to your brand after a merger?” →
Marketers cannot assume that true costs will not be seen or considered in the purchasing decision.
What is the true cost of your company’s product? Behind the simple economic analysis of materials, labor, marketing, and distribution lurks the more complicated question of your brand’s social and environmental impact. Does your brand kill polar bears, and if so how does that fact impact your reputation?
Stephanie Jue, a business, government and society lecturer at McCombs School of Business, says cost economics is just the starting point for determining the societal impact of your product. Continue reading “Reputation alert – does your brand kill polar bears?” →
Does your brand deliver what it promises? To make that happen, both strategy and operations must be on the same page.
Strong brands aren’t just the result of a brilliant brand strategy or excellent execution. In fact, the best brands are companies who have figured out the ideal mix of both. To illustrate the importance of that concept, I have often used this simple chart: The Branding Zone Model for Living Your Brand.
My favorite branding clients have been companies that “bend sheet metal for a living.” In other words, they are industrial enterprises such as Dresser Inc., or technology equipment suppliers such as ThermoQuest. Their executive teams are sharp professionals, but most began their careers as engineers or chemists, not business managers.
Continue reading “The branding zone: where business strategy meets operational reality” →
Is your company a Ford or a Ferrari? You might be surprised that your managers and employees aren’t on the same brand wagon.
This is an enjoyable way to begin the brand discussion with a group, using a forced relationship exercise. It generally creates good discussion and gets participants out of their normal frames of thought. The exercise is basically a technique of forcing yourself to think of your organization’s brand in terms of another product or industry. “If our company were an auto manufacturer, which would it be?” Since we often understand other companies’ brands better than our own, it is a means to start fresh in our thinking. I usually pick three from the list posted at the end of this article and spend about an hour on the discussion.
This technique, in various forms, is also known as a forced analogy, “How is my problem like a (insert random object).”
One approach in a forced analogy is to compare a problem or an organization to the various aspects of something else that is familiar to the participants. How is this similar to a shark’s teeth, a shark’s skin, a shark’s living environment, etc? Continue reading “Forced relationships, a fun brainstorm to begin the brand process” →
“With that much horse manure,” she exclaimed, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
Here’s a useful tool for how to develop a brand, leading your team through the brand discovery process. I’m including it here with relatively little explanation, as most of it is Branding 101 stuff. It isn’t brain surgery, but it takes skill and diligence to pull together a successful brand strategy in actual practice.
The name Pony Sheet came from the old story about the young girl whose parents took her out to the barn on her birthday and announced, “We have a big birthday surprise for you.” Opening the door, she spied a huge pile of horse manure in the middle of the floor, a rather disappointing sight. Yet being a young optimist (most children are), the lass clapped her hands with joy. “With that much horse manure,” she exclaimed, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.”
In discussing what is a brand with executives, I use the pony story to illustrate the long, often frustrating process of digging through mounds of information and piles of attributes that everyone thinks must be included in the brand. At some point, it seems much like digging through a mound of horse manure, but with diligent effort, I can promise that eventually, we will discover the pony.
Continue reading “The Pony Sheet – how to develop your brand and ride it” →