Product recognition is a marketing fundamental. But what really is the difference between products vs brands? The early brands used marks like the red triangle of BASS beer. This was actually a symbol of strength similar to Castlemaine XXXX or Wadworth 6X (Figure 1). Others from Ford to Kellogg to Boots used the simple signature of the owner. These were the first product differentiators.
Products that are named and recognisable in design and packaging can then be recalled by their qualities, properties, and attributes and benefits. This is all very logical so far ….
Yet brands also convey ‘values’ – the importance, worth, utility or usefulness of something (1). They build an image or perceptions in the customer’s eyes. In turn they also build a relationship based on emotions of trust and care, responsibility, and respect. We call this brand positioning.
Simply, adding more products under the umbrella of the brand has many attractions. In particular, in today’s fragmented and targeted media environment. It gives weight to messaging, and scale to business. We call this brand extension.
So take care that brand values are well aligned to product performance. Especially in both technical and service sectors. A single poor experience in a restaurant will lower the brand reputation across a chain.
This is a problem that befell Boeing. When their much-vaulted new plane, the Boeing 737 Max, fell out of the sky it took two years to sort out. The planes are now undergoing final stages of airworthy certification. And Ryanair have now ordered over 200. But they are now named the Boeing 737-8200. No Max (Figure 2).
So to summarise the difference between products vs brands. Brands are a value-added subset of products and services. All brands are either products or services. However, not all products and services are brands. Not all products and services have a good awareness, a distinctive image nor a strong emotional connection with consumers. Nor the massive share price over earnings multipliers of the strongest brands.
So be clear about the difference between products vs brands. And manage the risks and invest accordingly.
(1). Oxford English Dictionary. While the word ‘values’ is useful to a point, it is also a somewhat vague term. And thus we prefer the more specific concepts of benefits, personality traits, beliefs and behaviours to understand and describe brands. They are more powerful to develop brand strategies.
We often get asked to help businesses get closer to customers and to develop new business, marketing and brand strategies. Yet businesses plan, organise and manage in different ways. Virtually all also have their own lexicons. Thus sometimes a challenge to address the latter really requires the former and vice versa.
However, a marketing mindset is powerful to address either, and indeed all of these challenges. Marketers are also increasingly empowered to lead business strategy, and many of the world’s most successful businesses are led by CEOs who previously held marketing functional skills.
However, marketing has not always been viewed as a strategic planning and management discipline. It only emerged formally as such in the 1950s (1). Marketing functions evolved from sales, and brand functions, from communications. However, customers and brands are the only constant in a fast-moving digital world.
So here is a simplified strategic planning process that is adaptable for all (2) (Figure 1 – Infographic).
By understanding where a business or brand is now and where a business wants to be in the future allows route-map development.
So first understand where the business or brand is now. Ask what are current business, marketing and brand strengths and weaknesses and business drivers?
The marketing discipline uniquely looks through the lens of customers and customer segments to assess issues, size market opportunities and demand influences. It also looks at competitive relativities. So the answer these questions looking through these lens.
Work with colleagues and allow human imagination to generate and build ideas (2). Then create clear, challenging, and inspiring goals. While some organisations prefer an analytical approach to business strategy development, others prefer a more creative approach. However, there is merit in dual ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ thinking. Left brain thinking involves assessing the pros and cons of each idea or opportunity. Right brain thinking requires stepping away from the detail, and taking inspiration from the world around, to imagine new opportunities and destinations. In our experience no-one has a monopoly on good ideas, and employing different brains fuels progress.
Planning from the customer, market and brand point of view requires considering how to establish or meet customer needs or change customer perceptions. As distinct from setting financial goals, say increasing sales by 5% or realising £Xm. The limitation with the latter is that it is not initially market and customer based. Though financials will need overlaying at a later date.
By clarifying where you are now and want to be, will allow you to quantify and qualify the size of the gap that needs bridging. In so doing, potential roadblocks or key issues to address should also become clear. So then the challenge is to design strategies – ‘how to’ solutions, to address the key issues. If this is not possible, then new goals need setting.
Engaging colleagues is important to gain buy-in to a way forward.
The best solution is seldom the one that is 100% technically correct if only 20% of stakeholders agree with it. However, a better solution is one that is 90% technically correct where most stakeholders agree with it.
Thus engage a broad church to fact-find, understand hopes and fears, and generate ideas. Then work together to turn your ideas into concrete strategies and solutions.
Through working together, and judicious market research, the best ideas should naturally surface to the top. And with agreement every step of the way, comes a mandate for, as well as desire and commitment to change.
Change, and the journey to success will not happen overnight. Especially if the journey involves shifting customer hearts and minds. So be pragmatic about what’s achievable, at what cost, and by when. Also understand the risks and barriers to change and factor these into your plans.
Figure 2 shows a typical journey from basic product to power brand led business. At each stage on the product-brand continuum you’ll realise additional customer and business benefits (3).
If you are a product, service or sales-led organisation, there are benefits in simply understanding and meeting the needs of customers. So put the customer and his or her needs first and centre using market research.
For organisations in markets where brands are emerging as a differentiator, you also need to understand your competitors. And use these insights to better position your brand.
For digital and service organisations delivering through people, and for larger product brands, understand and influencing perceptions through all brand encounters. This needs structures, skills and processes to focus and align people activities and behaviour to deliver consistent brand experiences.
Finally, the very largest organisations and those contemplating expansion into new countries and categories require more sophisticated relationship building strategies. So build brand personality, structures, skills and processes to extend your brand.
What brand extension strategy best suits your brand? And when is it better to extend your brand or launch a new brand? First, here are some factors to consider.
In 1881, Rowntree launched Fruit Pastilles, and then in 1893, Fruit Gums. Their success allowed them to launch new chocolate products, including chocolate beans. However, through the early 1900s, Rowntree struggled to make milk chocolate to match the quality of market leader, Cadbury’s Dairy Milk. Then in 1931, George Harris became marketing manager for chocolate products. So mining his knowledge of marketing and consumer research gained in the USA, he launched Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp, later renamed KitKat (Figure 1). Fast-forward to today and there are over 200 KitKat brand extensions.
He also transformed Rowntree’s Chocolate Beans into Smarties. So today you can now find large Smarties, Fruity Smarties, and ice cream Smarties, amongst many other brand extensions.
While launched as ‘fruit confectionery’ brand extensions, this gave KitKat and Smarties the focus to grow into discrete, and successful new ‘chocolate’ brands. Harris was lauded for this success, and as a result, he became Rowntree’s company Chairman in 1941. Today he is also viewed as a father of modern marketing (Figure 2).
So what you wish to achieve with your brand? There are two principal brand extension strategic aims. Either or both to:
However, the further a brand extends, the greater the potential dissonance from the core. While this may imply greater opportunity, and potential for a ‘new’ brand, it also implies greater risk. (Figure 3). The second question then, as George Harris understood, is whether a brand extension or launching a new brand will inspire greatest success?
Extending a brand allows it to benefit from its existing brand awareness and equity, thus potentially reducing launch promotion costs. Conversely, launching a new brand, requires building new equity. Thus at higher cost (See Figure 4). This form of brand extension strategy is likely to be most suited to launching a ‘new to world’ product or variant which requires a more differentiated positioning.
There are two principal brand extension strategies; either by evolving from the brand core or to realise a brand vision.
Brand extension from the core requires understanding on the nature of the brand equity, its strengths and weaknesses, and then building on those strengths, or eliminating weaknesses.
In 1935 Boots launched a retail own brand called Boots No7. Originally, it was just a skin care line, though cosmetics followed and subsequently took off after the war (3). Over the years the brand had many make-overs: both changes in livery (blue, terracotta, brown, grey, black etc). Also many brand extensions. Though growth was impeded through a close association with Boots. So in 1971 the decision was made to build an independent fashion brand, exclusive to Boots.
New product innovations also added to the ‘skin care’ equity, with (No7 Special Collection) Positive Action Cream (1980) (designed to compete with upscale skin care brands). Then in 2007 No7 Protect & Perfect Serum. A BBC Horizon documentary declared it the only product on the market to have proven anti-ageing effects. As a result it caused a storm in Boots’ aisles with stock selling out in two weeks. Today ‘Protect and Perfect’ is a sub-brand extension in its own right. It also sells outside of Boots’ stores (Figure 5).
Olay is a pink beauty lotion (or Oil of Ulay, Olaz, or Ulan as it was originally known) launched in South Africa in 1952 (4). Promoted as ‘the secret of younger looking skin’, it eventually became global category leader. While largely a single product brand, it was clearly perceived as ‘for younger looking skin’. In 1985, Procter & Gamble therefore acquired the brand, and invested significantly in R&D, to create a raft of brand extensions to better deliver the said promise. As a result, brand extensions now include Complete, Total Effects, ProX, Regenerist, Regenerist Luminous, Classics, Fresh Effects, Body (North America) and White Radiance (Asia). They also include lots of ingredients to deliver the younger looking promise: including a broad spectrum sunscreen, retinyl propionate (a vitamin A derivative), glycerin, niacinamide (vitamin B3), and amino peptides.
Gucci started out making saddles for wealthy horsemen in Tuscany in 1921 (5). Impressed by some of the luggage he saw guests with at luxury hotels, he then employed fine leather craftsmen, and the latest machinery, to make luggage. He also set up stores to reach elite customers. Clothing then followed in 1964, as did the iconic double GG logo on belt buckles. Through the 1970s, the company established a reputation for classic Italian style and luxury, and prospered. While ups and downs followed, the hiring of the highly creative Tom Ford to design a ready-to-wear collection in 1990 took the company to new heights. Most recently the brand stretched into homeware and decoration (Figure 6). It also encouraged social sharing via digital media. This has inspired further growth.
Caterpillar Inc. (sometimes shortened to Cat) is the world’s biggest manufacturer of construction equipment. The name results from the merger of two companies in 1925; one of whom Holt, whose tractors hauled guns in World War 1. During World War 2 their trucks also found fame with the US Navy who used them to build military bases. Then through the 1950s, the company made a series of acquisitions, bringing new products to market under the Caterpillar name.
By the late 20th century, Caterpillar was synonymous with reliability, durability and technology, and a distinctive yellow livery. In 1994, therefore, via a carefully controlled licensing programme, Caterpillar extended the brand to a other merchandise. Firstly, and most famously, boots. The footwear sector has since boomed, and it remains the most successful consumer product licensing segment to date. In the late 90s Caterpillar then issued its first watch license, to Catwatches.com (Cat calls them rugged timepieces), and in 2016, to mobile phones. According to Kenny Beaupre, Caterpillar Brand Licensing Manager, “This builds positive brand awareness which helps in many ways. It also connects new and existing audiences to Caterpillar’s products and services. We’re fortunate people like being associated with our brand, and Cat licensed products are a great way to show this connection.“
Walt Disney, a shy yet visionary man, famously created his first sound cartoon, Steamboat Willie in 1928 (4). It featured what was to become the world’s best known mouse. Later in 1935, he went on to create the first full length, animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Then in 1955, he opened the world’s first amusement park, Disneyland (in Anaheim, Los Angeles). To fund this he also diversified into TV programmes, including the Mickey Mouse Club, and live action movies. As a result, by the mid 1960s, when Walt Disney died, he’d set high standards, instilled strong beliefs in, and established a clear vision for the company, “to make the world happy”.
This vision has since guided Disney’s “imagineering”.
1. Brands grow through evolution (from a brand promise), or revolution through innovation to realise a brand vision. So build clear brand values. And also answer the question – “what does the brand stand for”? (Figure 8)
2. Great brands tend to have high awareness (at least in their niche). And also distinctive rational and emotional benefits. So pay attention to boosting the both via your brand extension strategies as people pay more.
3. Successful brand development springs from clear insight, a strong creative leader, visionaries, a great R&D department, or a strong brand belief system.
4. Don’t think too linearly i.e. just within a market segment, to stretch your brand. Try and think laterally. So understand customers, and their views on your brand. Also seek a new insight or thread to connect the brand parts, and inspire a clear direction. Further even if a finding is untrue, it could still inspire growth.
5. You are more likely to reveal extraordinary brand extension ideas, through a culture of innovation. So hire bold and creative thinkers.
6. Don’t cannibalise your own sales unless you are making more money i.e. higher margins.
7. Slapping your brand name on any product risks eroding rather than boosting your brand. So avoid a stretch too far – only launch a new brand when clearly different and the upside potential is great.
Need some help? Our brand strategy services are always tailored to your needs.
2. Sébastien Jaulent, Katia Luxin, and Yna Sacko, Dissertation on ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Brand Extension Strategy for Companies’
3. No7 Beauty
7. Capodagli Bill, Jackson Lynn, The Disney Way – Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company (1988)
Storytelling predates writing; the earliest forms were spoken, combined with gestures and expressions. They also include fairy tales, myths, legends and many of religious origin. There is much to learn from stories. Thus with brand storytelling it is possible to transform a brand from a frog to a prince, prolong brand life and even slay a competitor or two in the process.
Saint George (AD 280 to 23 April 303), for example, is immortalised in the myth of Saint George and the Dragon. Initially, a soldier in the Roman army, he became venerated as a Christian martyr. Also adopted as patron saint of many countries, cities and organisations.
The story about George and the Dragon returned from the Crusades in the 11th Century. In what is now a legend, the dragon lives at a water hole and requires a gift of a sheep or maiden to allow the locals to reach the water. When it is a maiden, they draw lots. However, one day a princess is chosen. She begs for her life but to no avail. Then George comes along, slays the dragon and saves the day.
Great stories touch and move us. Particularly when seen in a cinema, or through mini movies – as some television advertising has become. Not only do great stories engage, but they merit retelling and sharing. Only the best stories grab attention, are ‘liked’ and shared. In this rich digital media world (1), we are therefore all writers, photographers, producer/directors and editors.
It is the same for brands. Only the best impress journalists, trade buyers and of course, consumers. Some brands became great through brand storytelling. Some stories are born of reality, many of accident or serendipity and some invention.
Figure 1 shows a typical cinematic story structure. This is useful for brand storytelling. Act 1 involves setting the scene, introducing the characters, conflict and setting. It then concludes with a climax or set-back (turning point 1 (TP1)). Act 2 develops the story, with rising action and tension, and concluding with another climax or set-back (turning point 2 (TP2)). Finally, in the last act, the dénouement, the story reaches a climax, and resolves.
For example, that good always triumphs over evil. That every cloud has a silver lining – i.e. that you can derive some benefit from every bad thing that happens to you. Or that fortune favours the brave – that drive and determination is essential to success. Christopher Booker’s Jungian-influenced analysis of stories and their psychological meaning, espoused seven basic plots (2). Margaret Mark and Carol S. Pearson subsequently highlighted eighteen: eight guides or gifts and ten warnings (3). Figure 2 shows eight familiar stories mapped to Mark and Pearson’s need-states.
‘Transformations’ deal with significant change in attitude, behaviour or personal growth. ‘Overcoming the Monster’ stories are crime and adventure staples. They feature archetypal heroes (and villains) such as George and the Dragon. Also James Bond vs. Scaramanga (The Man with the Golden Gun). And Harry Potter, growing from boy to man, while battling Voldemort.
The typical story-line is baddie does bad thing (set-up), goodie fights baddie and loses (story development, set-back). Then goodie digs deeper, fights back and wins the day (dénouement). In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, he kills a young maiden and then goes after Harker, the hero’s fiancée. Harker and friends then hunt and eventually kill Dracula. Thus saving Harker’s fiancée (and allowing them to live happily ever after).
Brand archetypes can play different roles in narratives, and inspire brand storytelling. In a typical ‘overcoming the monster’ story-line, archetypal heroes, such as James Bond and Harry Potter are protagonists (leading players). Equally the brand could still be the hero, but not the protagonist. Alternatively a bit player – perhaps the protagonist’s assistant or ‘weapon’.
Consider a utilitarian hero archetype, cleaning brand Mr. Muscle. In a typical 3 act story, we see the housewife battling the dirt, getting tired and frustrated at her inability to clean the house etc. until along comes the hero, to clean away the dirt and save the day. The protagonist is the brand user or housewife, and the adversary, simply dirt.
Nike is a more inspiring, hero(ine) archetype (4). The protagonists in Nike advertisements are usually athletes or ordinary people, and the adversaries are fellow competitors. In a typical 3 act story, the athletes compete against each other. One wearing Nike clothing or using Nike equipment, suffering set-backs yet finally winning, and winning applause.
The Nike advert (below) features a tennis playing protagonist vilified for being a pretty face. However, the antagonist is not just a fellow competitor but public dismissal, or disdain. All questions confidence in the athlete’s skills. Will she, won’t she succumb to the pressure? Watch the advert to see the dénouement. Also feel how the rising tension strengthens the brand story.
Now work through these simple brand storytelling steps to finesse and execute your brand strategy.
Great brands like great stories are based on great truths. Great truths include customer and brand truths. So look inside and outside your business to find them.
Consider characters, the role of the brand, and how your brand could transform customers’ lives. How can you create rising tension, and a dénouement that fits the brand? Also involve disparate people in the creative process and allow time to nurture the ideas. Figure 3 shows a start-point brand storytelling concept.
While great stories and great brands touch people in different ways, they are based on a clear brand strategy and also express a consistent message. So for creative brand storytelling involve diverse experts in early brand development. Also consider how the story unfolds or presents through different media and choose media that enhance the message and enable sharing.
1. According to https://www.internetlivestats.com there are now over 1.1 billion websites including a burgeoning range of social media including Facebook, You Tube, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Snapchat and many more.
2. Booker, Christopher The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories.
3. Mark, Margaret and Pearson, Carol S. The Hero & the Outlaw. Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes.
4. Named after Nike, the Greek goddess of victory.
Standing out from the crowd is tough! It is common to find products, services and brands making the same claims. In other words, occupying the same brand positioning spaces. For example, almost every business service claims to improve business efficiency. Further, in consumer goods, almost every washing powder washes clean. Most food also tastes good, and nearly every feature film entertains. These are examples of ‘basic’ or ‘generic’ category benefits; they match the most basic or common consumer needs.
This is where the idea of brand personality has a role to play. Brand personality can transform your brand into a super brand. Through how the brand communicates not just via what is said.
Brand personality confers human characteristics on a brand; physical characteristics, beliefs and behaviours. These guide how the brand looks, speaks, what it thinks, believes and also how it behaves.
While there are usually few benefits to express, there are almost limitless ways to express the benefits. For example, with candour, authority or through humour.
A great deal of psychological literature suggests that people have a tendency to perceive those they like as more similar than those they dislike. People also have a tendency to perceive themselves in a positive light and seek congruence (1).
Thus a brand personality helps attract and engage. So consider the criteria involved in selecting a mate. Other than physical attributes it mostly comes down to personality and the consequential benefits of a personality. Beyond the obvious, “And Mrs. Ecclestone, what attracted you to the multi-millionaire Bernie?” other potential benefits include reinforcing self-knowledge, self-consistency and also self-esteem (2).
Brand personality also enriches differences and helps attract and cement relationships. There are three main benefits of a brand personality (Figure 1) (3). To:
Applying archetypes to brands helps further distil and define a brand’s personality. An archetype is a collectively inherited unconscious idea, a pattern of thought, behaviour, image. They are also universally present in myths, legends, literature and art. Archetypes came to popular consciousness through the work of Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Carl Jung – the founder of modern psychology. However, archetypes are neither good nor bad, they simply exist. Further, while the number of archetypes is limitless, there are a few notable, recurring archetypes, “the chief among them being” (according to Jung) “the shadow, the wise old man, the child, the mother … and her counterpart, the maiden. Also, lastly the anima in men (the feminine side in a man’s psyche) and the animus in women (the masculine side in a woman’s psyche)” (5).
Humans automatically inherit archetypes and enrich them based on our own experiences. Archetypes also reflect basic human needs and motivations. Mark and Pearson (6) summarised these needs along two axes: belonging/enjoyment versus independence/fulfilment and stability/control versus risk/mastery (Figure 2).
Figure 2 shows the twelve main archetypes mapped on two axes, together with examples of well-known brands that fit each archetype. Some are easy to understand while others may trigger subliminal thoughts. For example, Virgin is a familiar Outlaw brand cf. Robin Hood. A challenger to authority, taking from the rich and ‘evil’ (as they have variously portrayed established national airlines, banks and railway companies) and giving to the ‘poor’. Think also Zorro and Rebel without a Cause. This is archetypes is particularly useful to position pioneering brands or those taking on the establishment.
Archetypes also add meaning and convey messages that verbal and written information cannot. Thus they help bring brands alive. They are also powerful in stimulating new ideas to help brands challenge category conventions, stand-out and reconnect with consumers. Thus understanding the archetypal nature and power of a brand is the first step to realising the strategic benefits outlined in Figure 1. Once you determine your archetype and understand how it works, the more easily you can express it, use it. Brand marketing activity that correlates most strongly with archetypes tends to be more successful and value enhancing (and vice versa) (6).
The right brand positioning, personality and archetype depends on the market in which you compete, your customer segments and their needs. It also depend on the brand positioning spaces occupied by competitors, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses.
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Batman vs. Superman 2016.
The Scottish electorate voted on the question ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ on Thursday 18th September 2015. The UK Government stated that if a simple majority of the votes cast were in favour of independence, then “Scotland would become an independent country after a process of negotiations”. If the majority voted against independence, then Scotland would continue within the United Kingdom (1). In addition, further powers would be devolved to the Scottish Parliament as a result of the Scotland Act 2012. This article looks at some of the drivers and barriers from a political branding and also marketing perspective.
Scottish residents over the age of 16 were eligible to vote, and according to the National Records for Scotland, 4.1m people registered to do so (2). Though of nearly half a million EU citizens living in Scotland just 94k registered. 16-17 year olds also voted for the first time. This is as a result of a political bargain or trade which suggests different benefits to the different political sides.
Influencing starts with awareness of an issue or opportunity. Appreciating or rejecting an idea, engaging (and potentially interacting with other influences or influencers) then follows to reinforce or change voting intention and behaviour. Research in political science has traditionally ignored non-rational considerations in theories of mass political behaviour though a growing literature suggests that affective states (i.e. emotions or feelings in contrast to cognition) are both beneficial and biasing (3). Further research (4) also found that anxiety and enthusiasm encourage more evaluation and consideration of political choices. In addition that events such as the outcome of football matches (5) and the weather (6) can stir emotions and affect voting decisions.
The ‘Yes’ camp framed the question as Scotland vs. Westminster and painted Westminster, and the likes of David Cameron, as the enemy. Meanwhile, the ‘Better Together’ team argued that the question is not about choosing between two states but about choosing between one or both. Though through the electorate’s eyes there is a greater spectrum of options from Scotland the brand, to both Scottish and British brands. However, exactly where perceptions lie is key to electoral success.
Establishing the benefits or disbenefits of Scottish independence is difficult as much is unknown. Financial management was centre-stage, with the ‘Yes’ campaign playing up the benefits of the oil reserves. Equally ‘Better Together’ stressed the ability of the UK to offer longer term financial stability. Both sides also espouse the benefits of their causes, and the negatives of the other. For example, while the ‘Yes’ campaign manifesto claims to have a costed and credible plan, ‘Better Together’ disagree.
At the most rational level, some studies suggest that voters vote for what they do not want to lose, as much as what they hope to gain (7). Which is why spreading fear, uncertainty and also doubt is a strategy employed by both sides to ‘diss’ the other.
Our experience is that emotional arguments are more likely to hold sway. These are more deep-rooted than price/value arguments. For example, that Scottish independence gives Scotland greater control. Thus the ’Yes’ campaign challenge is to make this a meaningful benefit and convince the electorate that they can be relied on if granted ‘more’ control.
A distinctive Scottish voice or personality is another feature of independent Scotland. Though the challenge is also to make this compelling. Historical evidence suggests ‘Scottishness’ is reasonably clear (Burns, bagpipes, whisky, golf, scenery etc.) though future ‘Scottishness’ is harder to comprehend. The Saltire, for example, is more ubiquitous in Scotland, than the flag of St. George in England. It is possible that a distinctive Scottish voice could raise Scotland’s profile and status on the world stage. It could also raise self esteem. All are particularly powerful emotional benefits. Thus this perhaps explains why a lot of effort has gone into defining Scotland the brand (8) and promoting Scottish iconography. Though one suspects the electorate are unaware of the underlying strategic nation branding effort.
Nevertheless, all things Scottish instill pride in being Scottish as much as the white rose, Yorkshire County Cricket Club, and Yorkshire Dales instill pride in Yorkshire folk. Pride is a powerful emotional benefit and is rooted in history as well as personal experiences.
Or the best of both. While the concept is ‘Britishness’ is harder to define, the Prime Minister recently attempted to do so (9), and the London 2012 opening ceremony illustrates some elements.
Post election update; as the ‘nayes’ won, we’re delighted to retain our Scottish cousins …. though there are maneoverings for #indyref2 – return of the big beasts.
Investing brand personality is an under-estimated way to set brands apart and engage customers. Kulula.com is an airline that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Its humorous brand personality is clear through all aspects of the brand experience. So how did this all begin? And also what lessons can we learn and apply to your brand?
Having identified a gap in the market for a low-cost airline to bring air travel to the South African masses, Kulula.com launched in July 2001. It operates on major domestic routes out of Tambo International Airport and Lanseria on the outskirts of Johannesburg. As building a business based on price alone risks vulnerability to attack from more established airlines, it has hewn a positioning based on ease, inspirational service and safety. This is summed up in its name which means ‘easy’ in Zulu. Though most distinctive is its brand personality. Being totally honest, straight-forward and helping people lighten-up.
Launching with a budget of just 3m rand (c. £200k) demands cut-through communication. The brand launched with a super heroes campaign. The jingle espouses “Now Everyone Can Fly” (and there isn’t a plane in sight).
Similarly to easyjet’s bright orange in the UK, Kulula has a distinctive lime green livery. The unconventional markings include ‘this way up’ and arrows pointing to parts of the plane, including rudder, nose cone, sun-roof. Also to where ‘the big cheese’ (‘captain, my captain’) sits.
When South Africa hosted the FIFA World Cup and Kulula.com in 2010 it ran a campaign describing itself as the “Unofficial National Carrier of the You-Know-What”. This took place “Not next year, not last year, but somewhere between”. Another advert announced “affordable flights [to] everybody except Sepp Blatter” (the FIFA president), who was offered a free seat “for the duration of that thing that is happening right now”. Obviously, oblique references to the World Cup which FIFA intervened to stop. Thus creating even more publicity for Kulula.
Kulula flight crew are encouraged to let their natural talent show through. Here are some examples heard of or reported from in-flight “safety lectures” and announcements :
“In the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure, masks descend from the ceiling and provide free oxygen. Stop screaming, grab the mask, and pull it over your face. If you have a small child travelling with you, secure your mask before assisting with theirs. If you are with more than one small child, pick your favourite.”
“There are 50 ways to leave your lover, but there are only 4 ways out of this airplane.”
“Your seat cushions float; and in the event of an emergency water landing, please paddle to shore and then take them with our compliments.”
“It is with pleasure that Kulula Airlines announces that we have some of the best flight attendants in the industry. Unfortunately, none of them are on this flight!”
“We’ve reached cruising altitude and will now turn down the cabin lights. This is for your comfort and to enhance your flight attendants’ appearance.”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Mother City. Please stay in your seats with your seat belts fastened while the Captain taxis what’s left of our airplane to the gate!”
The airline has a policy which requires the first officer to stand at the door while the passengers exit, smile, and say “thanks for flying our airline”. In light of a particularly bad landing, he had a hard time looking passengers in the eye, expecting a smart comment from someone. Finally a little old woman walking with a cane disembarked the aircraft saying;
“Sir, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Why, no Ma’am,” said the pilot. “What is it?”
“Did we land, or were we shot down?”
“We’d like to thank you folks for flying with us today. And, the next time you get the insane urge to blast through the skies in a pressurized metal tube, we hope you think of Kulula Airways.”
“As you exit the plane, please gather all of your belongings. If not, we’ll then distribute anything left evenly among the flight attendants. Please do not leave children or spouses.”
“Please be sure to take all of your belongings. If you’re going to leave anything, please make sure it’s something we’d like to have.”
“Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.”
Ring, ring. Ring, ring!
Music has long been associated with Christmas, and Christmas with music. The first specifically Christmas hymns (carols) for Christians appeared in the fourth century. Music is also a terrific gift; the size of the market increases in the run up to Christmas and record labels battle to win the coveted #1 single and album slots. Marketers are also catching on to the power of marketing Christmas with music.
For the last three years, John Lewis has been top of the pops in using music to market their business. The Gabrielle Aplin cover of ‘The Power of Love’ used in John Lewis’ 2012 Christmas campaign by Adam & Eve/DDB knocked Olly Murs off the top of the official UK singles chart on 10 December. You can watch it here.
John Lewis’s sales for the week ending Saturday 8 December rose 15% year on year to £142m. John Lewis is attributing this to the success of its “omnichannel strategy”. It says sales were driven by customers looking for that special Christmas gift, including gloves, cashmere, lingerie, handbags or jewellery. The strong performance of gloves as a gift coincides with the Christmas ad showing a snowman making a long journey to get a pair of gloves for his snowwoman.
In 2011, John Lewis used the Slow Moving Millie soundtrack, ‘Please, please, please’ to promote its Christmas offer. This has amassed nearly 5m You Tube views.
Ellie Goulding’s haunting cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ was used in its 2010 Christmas ad. But can you recall the ads pre 2009?
Since we founded our marketing consultancy in 2005, we’ve included lyrics from Christmas songs in our Christmas cards. Finding lyrics that convey the right sentiments is a tough task! Matching words and pictures is equally difficult. This year we’ve selected lyrics from a song written by Leigh Haggerwood called ‘My Favourite Time of Year’. Disappointed at the high-jacking of the Christmas charts by likes of X-Factor, Leigh wrote this song to reflect the true values of Christmas. Also funded without the backing of a record label, and promoted only by social media, it charted at just 40 in December 2010. You can watch it here. ‘There is goodwill in the air tonight’.
1. Music elicits powerful emotional responses and influences behaviour. It’s also powerful in rekindling memories. Thus if used correctly the sound of sleigh bells can have a powerful effect on tills.
2. Remember the narrative. While many John Lewis ads pre 2009 also used music, for example, Taken by the Trees version of ‘Sweet Child of Mine’ in 2009, Virginia Labuat’s version of ‘From me To You’ in 2008 and Prokoviev’s Romeo and Juliet in 2007, none are arguably as emotionally engaging and heart warming as the more recent ads.
3. Ensure consistency in marketing communications (through different channels and over time) to help get the message across, be understood and acted upon.
Over the years, we’ve devised brand strategies for companies, products, services, media and people. Many have a provenance. And now cities, regions and countries are in on the act. The reason is usually to increase market competitiveness, recognition and demand. This often goes hand in hand with stakeholders requiring a more advanced approach to manage their operations. This thought process inspired early Egyptians around 2000 BC to brand their cattle and inspired retailers to promote their names on their goods at the end of the 19th Century. With the growth of ’emerging’ markets, such as, China, India, Eastern European, South American and African countries, there are new and genuine threats to both developed and other emerging nations. Thus, it’s no wonder that so many are now embracing the concept of ‘nation branding’.
This is the first question nations must ask. According to Hy Mariampolski, “the goal of nation branding is to make positive elements more manifest and place the negative elements into latency” (1). Potential benefits include attracting more tourists, boosting inward investment and exports, attracting talent, enhancing currency stability, international credibility, influence and self-esteem (confidence, pride, ambition, resolve). While easily said, imagine the problems in motivating a few thousand people in a company to deliver a common and appealing audience take-out. Then with countries, magnify that challenge by millions. Thus, the reasons to bother with nation branding are more easily understood.
Even when applying brand thinking to packaged goods, there is a misconception that branding is just a logo or advertisement. Of course that is the tip of the iceberg. With organisations and countries there is much more beneath the surface. Thinking about countries as a culture is useful. Richard L Daft defines culture as “a series of values, standard interpretations, insights and ways of thinking that is shared by members and passed on to new members” (2). We prefer “as ‘glue’ that provides a common understanding to focus and motivate people to a common end.” The term ‘cultural branding’ also applies to the concept of nation branding as it better conveys the range of variables to manage:
All intertwine, influence and communicate to other nations, the media, including businesses and tourists.
The notion or image of a brand is defined by its audiences – what they think and feel about a nation. However, entrenched national stereotypes are difficult to change. So the start-point is to first understand their provenance – what’s good and strong and what’s weak and poor? Then to define what the brand should be in the future. To be credible and believable it must be truthful. It should also combine or re-express the good and design-out the poor. To change and embed a new, stronger and more vibrant image in audiences’ minds takes time. Ensuring consistent and appealing communication through media and people requires the consistent communication and behaviour by organisations and people alike. Like organisation culture change programmes, aligning national hearts and minds to a common goal, requires a multi-year effort.
Scotland was one of the first nations to embrace the concept of branding (3). However, direction and momentum behind the initiative has changed with changes of Government. Since devolution of power to the Scottish Government in 2004 the concept of nation branding gained in significance. Nevertheless much remains to embed understanding and align the various national stakeholders.
A nation brand is the sum of all of its parts; symbols, institutions, behaviours and beliefs. The terminology is relatively new but the underlying brand concepts are familiar.
Lessons that apply to successful brands in all walks of life apply to nation brands. They thrive through clear and distinctive communications and offerings that engage and exceed the expectations of their customers or audiences.
Building nation brands requires consistent, coordinated and concerted effort over time. This requires audience and stakeholder engagement to create a clear brand vision and strategy. Further by inspiring and uniting national organisations and individuals to create and implement plans to deliver the brand. This is where the difficulty lies.
Establish guidelines to make sure that the sum of the parts reinforces the whole. For example, a brand architecture that defines the role and message of the Tourist Board, Board of Trade and others. Also create a ‘brand book’ (or website) to define the symbols and images used online, in literature and exhibitions.
So what’s the next branding challenge: Perhaps Planet Earth? The Kryptonians had better look out!
(1) Hy Mariampolski, QualiData Research Inc. New York, ‘Selling Brand Brazil’, Coppead School of Business, University of Rio De Janiero, Rio De Janeiro, April 2010
(2) Richard L. Daft, ‘Essentials of Organization Theory and Design’, South Western College Pub, 2000
(3) Reproduced by courtesy of the Scottish Government
It is a downer returning home from your holidays. You know all good things come to an end. You also expect a tedious wait at the airport and a tiring journey home.
So it was with squeals of delight that we discovered the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company at our departure airport. “That’s the company founded by Forrest Gump” shouted the little one. It is a fabulous brand development story.
The neon sign first caught the eye. It shouts all American and come and look at me.
So what could a company that originated in shrimp fishing possibly have to offer? Lots more than we imagined. Firstly, merchandise. The little one tried on a snug- fitting t-shirt emblazoned with the company logo. In a trice she became a cool able seaman on Bubba’s boat. Then we found some shrimp plush toys. And lots of sporting goods including football jerseys, water bottles and also table tennis bats. All stuff connected to the Forrest Gump film. And also based on the novel of the same name by Winston Groom. As a result, the miscellany of stuff and colourful displays were irresistible.
So we had to discover more. The diner itself was like a shack. Wooden beams held up a corrugated iron roof. In addition, three different ‘rooms’ decorated with US car number plates and signs also outlined simple morals or beliefs:
“When all else fails, try doing what the captain suggested”
“A promise is a promise”
“If the customer wants vanilla, give him vanilla”
To get the waiters’ attention, we waved a “Stop Forrest Stop” sign. And when we were happy, we then displayed the sign “Run Forrest Run”. We ordered “Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Heaven”. The choice was essentially shrimp or shrimp. Either boiled, broiled, fried, baked, sauteed, steamed or barbecued. But hey that’s the difference. The coconut shrimp were divine as were the shrimp balls.
With the family engaged, we enjoyed a happy hour reliving and conversing about the film. As the little one remarked; “this would be a great place to go with a first date.”
Turn ideas in a winning brand by evolving a compelling brand story, and delivering a great experience
Every great business or brand starts with a great brand strategy or idea. The idea behind the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company are the characters and also the content of the film and novel. From the Forrest Gump story thus emerges a heart-warming and distinctive business and brand proposition.
Experiencing the Bubba Gump Shrimp Company is like peeling back the layers of an onion to reveal the magic of the brand within. Through attention-getting signage, to the fun physical environment and displays, to products and then the people.
Combining lots of little things adds up to a memorable experience – one that you want to tell your friends about. The staff were part of the fun – hence the reason they appear in our photographs!
Founded in 1996, The Bubba Gump Shrimp Co was proven in the US before expanding to Mexico, Asia and now the UK. At the time of writing there are 33 sites with sales per location of c. $5.5m per annum. Merchandise sales add value beyond expectations of a pure-play restaurant. As the company’s website says, the idea was inspired by Paramount Pictures, and turned into a concept by Rusty Pelican Restaurants. This then led to a ‘licensing agreement’ based on the motion picture property.
And as Forrest would say, “that’s all I have to say about that.”
All photographs © Guy Tomlinson 2010