Posts Tagged ‘brand’

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What the Hell is a Brand Anyway?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014

“A brand is something that won’t come off in the wash.” - Cowboy’s adage

Now that we’ve driven the B word into a box, let’s look inside that box.

Charles Revson, who founded and built Revlon, is often quoted as saying: “In the factory we make cosmetics, but in the drugstore we sell hope.” In other words, companies and products build intellectual relationships while brands build emotional relationships. Consumers buy products but become emotionally invested in brands. Put yet another way, once consumers are emotionally vested, you have a brand.

Let’s remind ourselves once again: A brand is a marketplace response, not a marketer’s stimulus. You can’t brand something. You can only position it:

-If you manage to create a position that is compelling, different and competitively advantageous, you’re off to a good start

-If your organization has the ability to consistently execute that position, you have a shot at becoming a successful brand

-If that position can stand the test of time, you have a shot at becoming a strong brand

-If that execution stays on strategy, is simple yet powerful, and is somehow kept fresh and surprising over time, you have a shot at becoming a great brand

-If you can do all of this better than your competition, your brand will win

Those are a lot of “ifs,” but no one said this marketing thing is easy- and at the very start of that chain of “ifs”  is the notion of the right positioning. So how do you know if you’ve found the right position?

You know you’ve found the right position when your position is built around a single idea that:

-Is highly differentiated

-Creates competitive advantage

-Guides and inspires your organization and your audience

-Is sustainable over time

-Is provocative, even disruptive to the marketplace status quo

-Can be consistently executed over time, but in ways that evolve and stay fresh

That’s a daunting list and few companies pull it off, which is why we all tend to use the same limited set of case studies (e.g. Apple, Nike, ESPN, Google, Starbucks). Marketing is positioning. Great marketing is positioning that fits all these criteria (and probably a few others I haven’t articulated). Great marketing is the exception rather than the rule.

And you will need to work your but off to become that exception.

Stay tuned next week when Austin explains how Great Brands are Built from the Inside, out.

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Sterling Buzz…

Monday, February 24th, 2014

designthinkersEach year, some of the biggest influencers in design gather at the Design Thinkers conference in Toronto, combining insights from design, advertising and business to discuss industry trends, strategies and predict what will inspire the next year in design.

This past fall, we were proud to send Austin McGhie to talk about what it means to be a brand, and how ‘branding’ doesn’t mean a thing.

Click here to view his presentation on why Brand is a Four Letter Word

Thanks to RGD for hosting the video!

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Definitions: Communication

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

We throw around a lot of jargon in the business world, but do we truly know what we mean when we talk about ‘Vision’, ‘Business Model’, ‘Position?’

We’re going to talk a lot about Positioning on The 3rd Button in the coming months, but we’ll spend the first few weeks with a clear definition of terms.

Today, let’s talk Communication…

communication

COMMUNICATION:

-Presenting your position to your audience in a way that assures its attention is more difficult than many marketers seem to realize. It’s easy to communicate an idea to someone who is paying attention. It’s remarkably tough to accurately communicate an idea in a way that captures the attention of someone who doesn’t care. And by and large, you have to assume that your customers do not care.

-As we’ll discuss, position drives communication. Communication is a stimulus designed to operate in a cultural medium in order to elicit a desired response. The desired response is the position. A simple closed loop- except for one critical factor. People process that stimulus in wildly different ways. What you say is seldom what they actually hear.

IMPACTFUL COMMUNICATION

-Corona’s ongoing campaign to find new and interesting ways to take us to the beach has done a remarkable job of selling the brand. The “Most Interesting Man in the World” campaign  has done the same for Dos Equis.

-As the Old Spice Guy, ex-NFL player and actor Isaiah Mustafa has actually made Old Spice cool for the first time in its life.

-But for ongoing communication excellence, it’s hard to get past Nike and its ad agency, Wieden+Kennedy. Time after time, they have managed to hit the creative ball out of the park, all the while maintaining that consistent thread you need to hold a brand together.

-And let’s not forget Apple’s “1984.” One great ad, placed just once, and still being talked about to this day.

Stay tuned for our next term as defined by Austin McGhie, Sterling Strategy

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Definitions: Vision

Thursday, January 23rd, 2014

We throw around a lot of jargon in the business world, but do we truly know what we mean when we talk about ‘Vision’, ‘Business Model’, ‘Position’?

We’re going to talk a lot about Positioning on The 3rd Button in the coming months, but we’ll spend the first few weeks with a clear definition of terms.

Don’t be shy to use this as a refresher, and of course we’ll provide examples to guide you through.

Today we start of with ‘Vision’….

vision

VISION:

-The idea that drives the organization. Vision is the reason a company’s employees come to work every day. This vision must work actively to imbue the organization- and by extension, its strategy- with a clear sense of purpose. Better still, with a sense of mission. This vision must also have utility. It must inform all decision-making, including marketing strategy and, therefore, positioning.

-Must be deeply internalized. Most people don’t spend nearly enough time ensuring their vision paints a clear picture for their people.

-Weak vision = weak brand. Smart and creative marketing may delay the inevitable, but a business without a strong vision is ultimately a brand fighting to stay afloat.

-What business are you in? It all starts with that disarmingly simple question. Apple’s answer to this question transformed the company, while Yahoo! still has to answer this question if it is to have any hope of success.

SOME EXAMPLES OF VISION

-Visa has been working hard to replace paper with plastic; ultimately, it wants to replace both with smart devices.  Everyone wins in the world Visa hopes to create- consumers, banks and, of course, Visa itself.

-While consumer electronics companies are scrambling to harness technology, Apple has moved from technology to entertainment, from fascinating computers to irreplaceable and constant companions. Its vision (devices matter) is increasingly in direct conflict with the Amazon vision (intelligence in the cloud), and while both can still prosper, only one worldview can be right.

-Google  wants to organize the world’s information. How’s that for a vision?

Stay tuned for our next term as defined by Austin McGhie, Sterling Strategy

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A Plea for Doing Less

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

It’s a busy world. We’re busy people. The busier we are the more important we must be. Right?

Sadly, pace and workload are connected to importance in too many business minds. Here’s what I’ve found, both in my own work and working with our clients- this is nonsense. Worse, it’s damaging- to people and to the businesses that employ them.

I see companies trying to do too much. That seems like a noble cause, but it’s not. They spread too few resources (people and money) across too many things. In marketing, those things fit many descriptions but, for simplicity, let’s call them “campaigns”.

And here’s what happens in the world of marketing- each of these campaigns is executed fairly well. Each of these campaigns gets some of the budget. Each of these campaigns ALMOST gets noticed by the target audience it’s directed against. These sins are perpetuated every day. Sins, because they are so wasteful. Wasteful of the money that is spent. Wasteful of the labor that goes into them. Wasteful of the pride that people would like to find in their success.

What if you did this?

Simply list all of these campaigns, in an order of priority based on the impact you think they can have on building your business. Then, starting with the first campaign, be ruthlessly honest about the time and money required to execute perfectly, with enough critical marketing mass to grab the attention of a reluctant and generally uninterested audience. Place that time and money against it, then move onto campaign number two and repeat the process. Combine the amounts and move onto number three. And so on, until you run out of time and money. Then STOP. Don’t do anything further. Focus every hour of effort and dollar of spending against executing that smaller number of campaigns perfectly.

You’ll see an immediate and positive impact on your business and culture, because:

1.) What you do will be done better – much better

2.) What you do will actually be noticed – in the real world – by your customer

3.) Your people will work less, but more effectively, and will have much greater pride in their work product

In short, everybody wins.

Try it, you’ll like it!

Austin McGhie, Sterling Strategy

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Sterling Buzz…

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013
Check out the Buzz from Innovation this week, as DeeDee Gordon shares her insights on how to innovate for the future.
How do we innovate for the future? It is a driving question for many businesses, but many of them are looking into too short-term of a future.  DeeDee Gordon provided a case study with insights into how to innovate not just for tomorrow, but for the decades to come.

Check out the buzz for Sterling Innovation this week, as DeeDee Gordon shares her insights on how to innovate for the future.

deedee

How do we innovate for the future? It is a driving question for many businesses, but many of them are looking into too short-term of a future.  DeeDee Gordon provided a case study with insights into how to innovate not just for tomorrow, but for the decades to come.

For the answers, click to read more.

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Now UP! On Design Matters….

Monday, April 29th, 2013

Check out the latest episodes of Design Matters as Debbie chats up Amy Webb, Jennifer Sterling and Emily Oberman!

triplethreat

Click here to hear the podcast!


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A Brand On a Mission

Wednesday, April 24th, 2013
A brand on a mission
Back in 2002, when we worked with the Dove brand team to create the Real Beauty strategy, we were thrilled to have found a positioning strategy that was built on a very rich consumer insight, and facilitated Dove’s entry into more beauty-centric categories (e.g. face, hair) in a way that was differentiated and compelling to the target audience.
While the position was “sold in” as a big and powerful idea, we had very little inkling at the time that we had created the kernel of a “mission”.
Driven in large part by a very courageous brand team and a very ambitious content strategy (including use of traditional media), Dove has become what we would call a “mission-based brand,” keeping company with brands like Method and Ben & Jerry’s.  Mission-based brands are generally built from the inside out. They decide who they are and what they will be. This is also what makes the Dove case so amazing, as the “inside” of the brand is actually a huge CPG company, unlike most of our other mission-based brand examples.
WOULD PUT VISUAL OF PRINT AD WITH WOMAN WITH FRECKLES
A mission will inspire and attract consumers, or it won’t – but it doesn’t change to meet the whims of the marketplace.  The insight that underlies the Real Beauty strategy is based on a woman’s desire to be her most beautiful self – accepting of flaws and all – rather than the perfected ideal of marketplace beauty.  If you look around – other beauty brands, magazines, TV shows – you can see that the Dove insight isn’t necessarily indicative of the beauty zeitgeist overall.  Especially in 2002, before others hopped on the “I’m beautiful as I am” bandwagon.
WOULD ALSO PUT VISUAL OF “AVERAGE” WOMEN IN THEIR BRAS
As a mission based brand, Dove was selling a transformational idea to the marketplace. Mission-based brands often make a unique and important cultural contribution. Dove’s current “Sketches,” blowing up all over social (and traditional) media, is reigniting the conversation around self-acceptance and self-appreciation that Dove started with their original “Real Beauty” campaign.

Importantly, mission-based based brands aren’t just in it for the good of the world, it’s still about making money and building their brands. They operationalize their mission and harness it as a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Their mission is often their most sustainable competitive advantage.

This idea of sustainability is important. Missions aren’t “this year’s ad campaign.” The deeper your competitive differentiation sits within your business, the more real it is to your audience and the more difficult it is for your competitors to emulate. As a marketing idea that wasn’t really grounded in a product experience, “Real Beauty” could have been copied. But, once it became a mission within Unilever it became harder to emulate. Once it became accepted as a mission by the audience, attacking it became even more difficult.
Missions aren’t for the faint of heart, but we suggest you go through the exercise, even if it’s just academic. If you were to put your brand on a mission, what would that mission be?

Back in 2002, when we worked with the Dove brand team to create the Real Beauty strategy, we were thrilled to have found a positioning strategy that was built on a very rich consumer insight, and facilitated Dove’s entry into more beauty-centric categories (e.g. face, hair) in a way that was differentiated and compelling to the target audience.

While the position was “sold in” as a big and powerful idea, we had very little inkling at the time that we had created the kernel of a “mission”.

Driven in large part by a very courageous brand team and a very ambitious content strategy (including use of traditional media), Dove has become what we would call a “mission-based brand,” keeping company with brands like Method and Ben & Jerry’s.  Mission-based brands are generally built from the inside out. They decide who they are and what they will be. This is also what makes the Dove case so amazing, as the “inside” of the brand is actually a huge CPG company, unlike most of our other mission-based brand examples.

freckles

A mission will inspire and attract consumers, or it won’t – but it doesn’t change to meet the whims of the marketplace.  The insight that underlies the Real Beauty strategy is based on a woman’s desire to be her most beautiful self – accepting of flaws and all – rather than the perfected ideal of marketplace beauty.  If you look around – other beauty brands, magazines, TV shows – you can see that the Dove insight isn’t necessarily indicative of the beauty zeitgeist overall.  Especially in 2002, before others hopped on the “I’m beautiful as I am” bandwagon.

realwomen

As a mission based brand, Dove was selling a transformational idea to the marketplace. Mission-based brands often make a unique and important cultural contribution. Dove’s current “Sketches,” blowing up all over social (and traditional) media, is reigniting the conversation around self-acceptance and self-appreciation that Dove started with their original “Real Beauty” campaign.

Importantly, mission-based based brands aren’t just in it for the good of the world, it’s still about making money and building their brands. They operationalize their mission and harness it as a competitive advantage in the marketplace. Their mission is often their most sustainable competitive advantage.

This idea of sustainability is important. Missions aren’t “this year’s ad campaign.” The deeper your competitive differentiation sits within your business, the more real it is to your audience and the more difficult it is for your competitors to emulate. As a marketing idea that wasn’t really grounded in a product experience, “Real Beauty” could have been copied. But, once it became a mission within Unilever it became harder to emulate. Once it became accepted as a mission by the audience, attacking it became even more difficult.

Missions aren’t for the faint of heart, but we suggest you go through the exercise, even if it’s just academic. If you were to put your brand on a mission, what would that mission be?

Sara Schor, Sterling Strategy

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Content Strategy: Feeding the Beast

Wednesday, April 17th, 2013

In a recent post (that began with our anticipation for the start of Mad Men season 6, which by the way, was as good as we wanted it to be), we talked about the importance of going beyond the “click” (or “Like”) to develop brand stories that create authentic engagement with customers.

There is no longer (if there ever was) a linear path between awareness, acquisition, loyalty, and retention.  With our access to information, all of these decisions and actions are happening in real-time, so we need to keep customers (and potential customers) engaged all the time.

The brands that best go “beyond first click” have done more than good social media. They have changed the core of how they approach marketing. They plan and execute a content strategy – thinking like creators, rather than like advertisers. They are creating content that builds a single brand story, across all platforms, in the real and digital worlds, in a way that appears seamless to the consumer.

Those that are braving this new approach have had a lot to overcome.  In our last post we noted the organizational challenges.  But building a content strategy is also challenging for how marketers think about their business.   Advertising goes in campaigns, and there are planning and review and revision and execution times.  Content doesn’t – content is 24/7, a relentless beast that needs to be fed consistently.

To feed the beast, marketers have to live with imperfection and uncertainty more than ever before.  They need to be making new, relevant and interesting content all the time, every day, related to what their brand stands for, and what their brand is doing.  When faced with creating content, we all wonder what to say, and how to make sure what we’re creating is good enough. The real challenge with a content strategy isn’t so much that the beast needs to be fed, it’s more about overcoming the fear of our ability to create, uncertainty about what works, and doubt about whether anyone is listening. The cool part about this new world of content strategy is that we have the opportunity to see over time what people find compelling, what breaks through and what might actually motivate customers to act.

There are FIVE THINGS to think about when cooking up food for the beast:

1.) You are making content so people will not only engage with it but share it, and that means it has to have value for them – so make it FOR them rather than ABOUT you.

A great example is the latest from the Dove Real Beauty campaign:



2.) Variety is more important than consistency – you never know what will get people’s attention.

3.) Some of the most engaging content is not professionally produced – the bar is high for what’s compelling, but lower than you think for how it’s made.

4.) Creating something quickly that reflects/comments/plays off of current events can make your brand relevant, even when a connection isn’t obvious.

5.) And most importantly, don’t try to do everything yourself – the best case scenario is to involve your customers in creating content about your brand, and then finding ways (and confidence) to use what they create.

The book on best practices in content strategy is being written right now by brands that are brave enough to open their minds to what and where great content can come from.  One of the best examples of content strategy as marketing strategy is coming from GoPro.  Yes, they create cameras – a product that lends itself to storytelling a bit easier to content than foot cream or socks.  But they recognize how valuable content is, whether they create it or their customers do.  Instead of shying away from that “non-premium user-generated stuff”, they encouraged it.   They are engaging their customers to participate in building the story of the brand, which is therefore building their brand authentically based on how customers use their products (rather than a set of proof points and details, like we might see in an ad campaign).

The content beast is here, and here to stay as one of the primary ways to authentically connect with your customers, cut through the noise and go beyond the “click”.  It’s up to you to decide if your brand is willing to feed the beast, even if it requires an approach to marketing that is a little scary, and a little uncomfortable. What can you do in 2013 to build the story of your brand through content that will engage your customer, rather than simply trying to persuade them through advertising?

Deirdre Davi, Sterling Strategy