Etikettarkiv: product

Use sociology to boost your brand

Gästinlägg av Richard Seger Johansson

I talked about brand drivers and statements of relevant differentiation in school last week. And yes there are a lot of good, smart, creative brands out there taking a relevant and different approach, finding themselves a proper position on the market.

But what is the leap to become a great super brand, something more than just a shelf share competitor?

First I think we have to leave the general thinking of just products and specific categories. As Colin Drummond, Head of Planning at Ogilvy West, claims:

Instead of just thinking about how our brands can differentiate on the basis of product or service attribute, we must think about how our brands can differentiate within culture.

Traditionally, marketers place brands in different categories and divide them into segments. But this limits the product’s meaning as whole, because great brands are never only in the product category. I think they also contribute to culture at large.

Great brands have strong beliefs. Great brands don’t have to give any reasons for why consumers actually should buy them. Great brands can exclude any product benefits from their adverts. In fact, at the risk of sounding nonchalant, I would say that your products oftentimes actually don’t need any technical innovations or even benefits at all.

There are no rational reasons (beside the free SMS/text service) or extra benefits that motivates youths to choose the Swedish mobile operator Halebop. Interesting reactions nonetheless.

Apple may not have the best of all smart-phones, the most technical nor the most innovative phones. Yet, the iPhone’s 4% market share volume-wise ends up to 50% of the total industry profit. Talk about a high margin product! And well-executed branding.

Starbucks may not have the very best macchiato. But who cares? A lot of us go to Starbucks to get our macchiato anyway, if not for the coffee so for the place to meet. However, Starbucks nowadays seems to have forgotten the main reason it was founded, which leads it to fail because too much focus is on its own product and category. (Read more about the danger of being blinded by your own product.)

The list continues: Domino’s pizza is probably far from being the best pizza you can get and ABSOLUT is definitely not the very best vodka.

Well, I think you get the picture: A great brand makes it easier to sell your product with higher margins without actually having the best product within its category.

The simple reason for this is that great brands are almost always much more than just a product or a category. Consequently, the recipe for success in many industries is to change your brand thinking from merely products and categories to include thinking in terms of culture. But also about to not become hung up about what kind of needs consumers might have or not have. One year ago I didn’t need an iPhone and, at this very moment, I don’t need an iPad. I do have an iPhone now, and I probably will have an iPad within a year or two

In short, it’s all about creating demand through understanding your consumers’ lifestyles and the context of the brand’s sociological role. And when you have a brand that people want to interact with, that people want to buy because the brand tells a story about them, then you are getting closer to creating a great super brand.

The Problem: I have not been in the business for long, but I have already come across brand managers rigorously protecting their brands instead of creating what could be part of something more than just another product category. But it shouldn’t be the brand managers who act as brand advocates – it should be the consumers.

The Solution: Extending the brand’s philosophical attributes instead of the physical ones.

What is it then with culture as a brand driver versus benefits on a product level? Here are some brands that, instead of dramatizing product features, focus on culture as well as on a more philosophical differentiation.

So much more than just a spirituous beverage – “Doing things differently leads to something exceptional”:

Celebrating the real supporter and football culture. No shoes, no products – just a wider perspective of the meaning and life of the brand. This is a masterstroke as Adidas, the number one competitor, is synonymous with this football culture:

No one humanizes technical products as Apple does. In everything they execute they try to have human and emotional touch-points, starting with the very simple logo in the form of an apple with no direct link to what they actually produce. Below is one of the classic Apple ads; there are no products exposed (as is often the case in Apple ads these days), and it’s not needed ether. Apple is a brand that customers immediately understand:

Burger King
Finally a really funny one from Burger King – “What if”. What would happen if there were no whoppers at Burger King anymore? Bear in mind that whopper is a part of the American culture:

Things to do (or at least try to):

  • Think: Which culture – or perhaps movement – could be relevant for your brand, instead of which category to expand into.
  • Invest: Put your money in brand (relationship) building advertising instead of product promotion.
  • Make: Always strive to make advertising based on the preferences of the consumer and her lifestyle, not your client’s.
  • Stop: Don’t measure gross rating point in the classic manner. Instead, try to measure how many who actually choose to look at your ad or really want/wanted to do so. (Read more here.)

And finally, challenge the status quo – all that seems to be “normal”. The most disliked and sometimes hated stars are at the same time quite often the most loved by their supporters. Why wouldn’t the same apply to company and product brands?

Think for instance about why Diego Maradona actually is that adored? He is also one of the most disliked football players ever. He as a brand stands for something beyond football itself, on very controversial standpoints sometimes, and for both good and bad, but this gives you a hint of what I’m aiming at.

If your brand has a philosophical vision beyond the product, and if it strives to claim a place in the culture instead of only on the shelves, then people who like it are going to do that even more and in a deeper sense than if your brand is the average “trying-to-be-liked-by-everyone brand”. People will talk about your brand, and instead of the conventional thinking of product and categories it will become an active part of the culture.

After all, that is the best statement of relevant differentiation your brand can ever get.

Here’s a recipe that will help you start. And here’s another.

Go for it!

Richard Seger Johansson studerar Brand Management vid School of Communication IED i Milano. Han har en examen i marknadsföring och har även studerat sociologi vid Stockholms universitet. Richard har ett stort intresse för det mesta, men framförallt för samhällen och kulturer kopplat till konsumtion, köpbeteenden, varumärken, marknadsföring och reklam. Så snart han är klar med allt vad han har för sig för tillfället, hoppas han ta steget in i en roll som junior account planner på byrå.



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The picture at the top is Grayson Perry’s The Walthamstow Tapestry. The textile can be read left to right, starting with a bloody scene of childbirth then continuing with depictions of the seven ages of man, through childhood, adulthood and eventually to death. Around these large human figures teem hundreds of smaller images and words. The words are brand names, detached from their products but leaving behind them, Grayson Perry says, the aroma of the particular values they convey.

Blinded by your own product

Gästinlägg av Simon Sinek

Starbucks was founded with a clear sense of Why – that purpose, cause or belief that goes beyond the products we make or the services we offer. At its founding, it was all about the ”third space”, that space between work and home. When Americans chose to hang-out outside of home or work, Starbucks wanted to be that place where they hang-out.

And for many years, they were.

But, like so many companies that make it big, Starbucks forgot the reason it was founded and started to think it was their product that made them successful. Put simply, Starbucks has lost its Why.

This is significant, because it is the Why that is the source of great innovation in a company. It is that founding purpose that gives a company a filter – clarity about the things they should do and the things they shouldn’t do. If the filter gets fuzzy, then the ability to see clearly goes away. And if the ability to see clearly goes away, then how will a company know if they are traveling in the right direction?

Without a clear sense of direction, there is increased focus on product tactics and product strategy and the blinding effect takes hold. Unable to see beyond product will cause the results to falter. As the results falter, the focus on the product becomes more intense. And so the vicious cycle begins.

Starbucks was founded around the experience and the environment of their stores. Starbucks was about a space with comfortable chairs, lots of power outlets, tables and desks at which we could work and the option to spend as much time in their stores as we wanted without any pressure to buy. The coffee was incidental.

With that clear filter, it’s easy to see the things Starbucks should and shouldn’t do. It’s easy to see opportunities to enhance the experience that have nothing to do with coffee. With a clear sense of Why, it makes perfect sense that Starbucks should offer free WiFi to their “guests”. But the haze over Starbuck’s filter has created product blindness and, these days, Starbucks misses the obvious; they didn’t offer their guests free WiFi.

McDonald’s did.

In January of 2010 McDonald’s, just one of the many companies that has capitalized on Starbucks fuzzy Why, started offering free WiFi in all their stores. Feeling the pressure, Starbucks was forced to follow suit six months later.

That a burger joint credited with pioneering the fast-food industry – an industry focused on getting customers in and out as quickly as possible – forced Starbucks to adjust their store experience is a big deal. Just as Apple doesn’t compete with any other computer companies or Harley-Davidson isn’t just another motorcycle, Starbucks shouldn’t be lumped in with everyone that sells coffee. But these days they are, and they have themselves to blame for it.

Starbucks has forgotten about the third space. It has become obsessed with coffee and brushed aside why they were selling coffee in the first place. Blinded by their own product and distracted from their founding purpose, it was Starbucks who invited lots of other players to the table and reduced their own value in the lives of Americans.

We can get coffee anywhere, but not everywhere makes a good third space. If Starbucks wants to make it about the product and not the experience, then they open themselves up to even more competition and even more attacks.

At the end of the day, coffee isn’t worth $4 – but an experience and a comfortable environment is.

Product blindness and missing the obvious is just one symptom of a fuzzy Why. Another is when a company gets distracted by the actions of the competition. Though I haven’t talked to anyone from Starbucks about this, I’ll bet good money that they have become increasingly interested in what McDonald’s or Dunkin’ Donuts is doing these days.

Obsessing about what everyone else is doing over what you are doing is like driving down the highway watching the drivers to the left and right of you. Sure you’ll be able to see how fast they are driving and in what direction, the problem is you won’t see where you’re going.

Companies with a clear sense of Why set the tone and direction in their respective industries. They lead and others look to follow them.

Suffering severe product blindness, however, these days Starbucks is looking for others to follow.

Simon Sinek undervisar företagsledare i konsten att inspirera människor. Han konsulterar, skriver och håller tal runt om i världen om kraften i ett tydligt Varför – om syftet, meningen, tron på något som en stark drivkraft hos oss alla. Simons lika enkla som geniala idé, The Golden Circle, är baserad på biologin bakom människans beslutsprocess.

Simon bor i New York, där han undervisar i strategisk kommunikation på Columbia University.
Hans första bok, Start With Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action, kom ut i oktober 2009.



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This post is also published on Re:Focus.