There is no single approach to brand extension, but what are the factors that drive success? Let’s start with a short story.
In 1881, Rowntree launched Fruit Pastilles, and 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. In 1931, George Harris was appointed marketing manager for chocolate products. Mining his knowledge of marketing and consumer research gained in America, he then launched Rowntree’s Chocolate Crisp. It was later renamed KitKat (Figure 1), and today there are over 200 KitKat brand extensions.
He also transformed Rowntree’s Chocolate Beans into Smarties. Brand extensions available today include large size Smarties, Fruity Smarties, and ice cream Smarties (including McFlurry versions).
While initially launched as ‘fruit confectionery brand’ extensions, KitKat and Smarties, evolved into discrete, and highly successful new ‘chocolate’ brands. As a result of these successes, Harris became Rowntree’s company Chairman in 1941. Today he is also recognised as a father of modern marketing (Figure 2).
Let’s decode the benefits of brand extensions to better define ‘success’. In summary brand extensions are a source of growth, or reputation, or both.
Growth by increasing market penetration or share, for example by increasing usage, attracting new customers, or entering new customer segments or markets.
Also reputation, by boosting awareness, rational or emotional perceptions.
These fit nicely with the brand managers’ role to maximise profits and brand equity. Of course, none of these aims are mutually exclusive. What seems apparent however, is that the further a brand extends, the greater the dissonance from the core. While this implies greater opportunity, and potential for a ‘new’ brand, it also implies greater risk. (Figure 3). Of course, it is not always the brand manager that drives innovation, but often the R&D department. The question then, as George Harris understood, is whether a brand extension or new brand strategy, will inspire greater success.
So is it better to extend a brand, or launch a new brand? Here’s a summary of the pros and cons of each option (Figure 4). Net 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, builds new equity, though at higher cost.
There are two principal ways; either brand extension by evolving from the brand core or to realise a vision.
Boots No7, launched in 1935, initially as a retailer own brand. Originally as a skin care line, though cosmetics followed and then took off in the post war years (3). Over the years the brand has had several make-overs: both changes in livery (blue, terracotta, brown, grey, black etc), and also many brand extensions. In 1971, the decision was made to build an independent brand, repositioning it as a fashion brand, though exclusive to Boots. Product innovations also added to the ‘skin care’ equity, with (Special Collection) Positive Action Cream (1980) (designed to compete with upscale skin care brands). In 2007, No7 went a step further by launching Protect & Perfect Serum. A BBC Horizon documentary declared it the only product on the market to have proven anti-ageing effects. It caused a storm in Boots’ aisles with stock selling out in just two weeks. Today ‘Protect and Perfect’ is a sub-brand extension in its own right; and sold well beyond Boots’ stores (Figure 5).
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.
Olay (or Oil of Ulay, Olaz, or Ulan) as it was originally known, launched in South Africa in 1952 (4). A pink beauty lotion, it was promoted as ‘the secret of younger looking skin’, becoming 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. Today brand extensions include Complete, Total Effects, ProX, Regenerist, Regenerist Luminous, Classics, Fresh Effects, Body (North America) and White Radiance (Asia). They include a host 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. Then over time he set up stores to reach elite customers. Clothing followed in 1964, as did the iconic double GG logo on belt buckles. As the company established a reputation for classic Italian style and luxury, it prospered through the 1970s. While ups and downs followed, the hiring of a strong creative, Tom Ford, in 1990 to design a ready-to-wear collection, took the company to new heights. Most recently the brand extended into homeware and decoration (Figure 6) and the trend to social sharing via digital media has inspired continued growth.
Caterpillar Inc. (sometimes shortened to Cat) is the world’s biggest manufacturer of construction equipment. The name dates from the merger of two companies in 1925; one of whom Holt, whose tractors were used to haul 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. Since the 1950s the company grew through a series of acquisitions; all 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 selected range of merchandise. Originally and most famously boots. The footwear sector has boomed since, and remains the most successful consumer product licensing segment to date. In the late 90s, Caterpillar also 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. In 1935, he went on to create the first full length, animation, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 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. 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 and extend through both evolution (from a core brand feature or promise) or revolution, sometimes through R&D to create new-to-world products, and achieve a brand vision. Ultimately, reinforcing clear customer perceptions, and thus an ability to answer the question – “what does the brand stand for”? (Figure 8)
2. Great brands, and thus brand extensions, tend to have high awareness (at least in their niche). And also both strong, and distinctive rational and emotional benefits. Pay particular attention to boosting the latter, as it means people pay more.
3. Successful brand development springs from many sources; clear insight, a strong creative leader, visionaries, a great R&D department, or a strong brand belief system. All combine to give a clear, almost obsessive, sense of direction.
4. Don’t think narrowly i.e. within a market segment, to extend a brand. However, do think logically and laterally, to understand customers, and their brand perceptions: to uncover an insight or thread to connect the brand parts, and give long-term brand direction. And even if a finding is untrue, it could still be revelatory, unlock extra growth, and easily become true.
5. You are more likely to reveal extraordinary brand extension ideas, through a culture of innovation. It’s also possible to do this by hiring folk, who are not hidebound by their previous experience. Virgin Atlantic, for example, was established by a team with no airline experience.
6. Don’t cannibalise your own sales unless you are making more money i.e. gaining higher margins.
7. Slapping your brand name on any product risks eroding rather than enhancing your brand. So beware of a stretch too far, and consider using a new brand when dissonance and upside potential is great.
What do you think works best?
2. Sébastien Jaulent, Katia Luxin, and Yna Sacko, Dissertation on ‘Advantages and Disadvantages of Brand Extension Strategy for Companies’
3. No7 Beauty
5. Gucci : https://Gucci.com
6. Caterpillar : https://Caterpillar.com and https://shopcaterpillar.com
7. Capodagli Bill, Jackson Lynn, The Disney Way – Harnessing the Management Secrets of Disney in Your Company (1988)
We’re marketing folk, rather than politicians, so think in a particular way. We also have roots across the country, and don’t live in the London bubble. So reflecting on marketing politics over the last 5 weeks, and Government, since the Referendum, this is to share our thoughts on where we are today and why? And from which all marketers (and even politicians) should learn.
It is Friday 13th December and all of the results from the first winter-time general election since 1923 are in. Of 650 seats, the Conservative Party have 365, a clear majority of 80. That’s an increase of 47 more seats, while Labour Party lost 59 seats. The reflects a 44% and 32% share of the vote respectively. The SNP also gained seats with a 45% share of the Scottish vote. The Lib Dems lost one seat overall, most notably that of leader, Jo Swinson. Their vote share was just 11%.
The Conservative seat gains are largely in the North, Midlands and Wales. These are also amongst the highest Brexit supporting areas. And also areas of traditional working class labour support. Though Labour also lost share of vote in strong remain areas (1).
According to numerous polls in the run up to the election, the key issue facing the country was firstly, though not universally, Brexit. Second, health (i.e. the NHS). And third of approximatly equal importance, crime, immigration and the economy (2).
Of course, the Brexit issue masks different needs, either to leave or remain in the EU. Nevertheless, the 2016 Referendum result stands, and ‘leave’ was endorsed in the 2019 local European elections. Further, Parliament’s inability to get the job done has compounded public frustration.
The Conservative message focused primarily on ‘Get Brexit Done’ and also ‘Unleash Britain’s Potential’. Secondarily that enabled investment in the NHS (20 new hospitals, 30-50k new nurses etc.) and 20k more police. Thus cleverly linking the voter’s #2 and #3 concerns to the first. Whereas Labour focused primarily on the NHS (the concern most relevant to their supporters) yet offered a protracted and no obvious solution on Brexit.
Yet interestingly, despite the Conservative’s focus on Brexit messaging, a recent survey suggested that still only some 57% associate the party with this cause. Thus while many of us may be bored with the message, it failed to reach 43%.
At the same time as promoting ‘Get Brexit Done’ the Conservatives also ‘dissed’ the ambiguity and incredibility of Labour’s position in calling for another referendum, and being unclear what they would support.
Conversely the Labour Party attempted to stoke fear that the NHS would be sold by the Conservatives to Donald Trump). This message was strongly challenged, unsupported by documents provided. Procuring drugs from US companies at the right price appears an entirely different and less relevant point.
While historically voting allegiances split along age, wealth and geographic lines, the Brexit issue has complicated this pattern (3). There now appear to be more different types of people with differing underlying concerns. In London, folk are younger, more white collar, work for big, multi-national business and are remain concerned. Whereas in the Midlands, North, and Wales, as well as parts of the South, there are also larger numbers of blue collar, small business, and leave concerned. As the Conservatives have won them over, reading between the lines, it appears that Labour has failed to understand and meet their hopes.
Social media which allows targeting by multiple demographic and psychographic variables seems to have played a significant role.
Of course, it remains to be seen whether Labour voters’ switch of allegiance is temporary or evidence of a fundamental shift in attitudes.
The Conservatives elected Boris Johnson leader partly on the premise that he would give them a bounce in the polls. He has also consistently led Jeremy Corbyn on leadership ratings (strong, decisive) (4). While there are many personality issues on both sides, it appears there is considerable anecdotal evidence on doorsteps that JC was a liability. The Conservatives knew this and it was central to their communication strategy – ‘we’re not Jeremy Corbyn’ (rated dislikeable, weak, untrustworthy) (4).
Sensing decline under Mrs. May in the Summer, the Conservatives, quickly replaced her with a fresh face. While much has been made of his personal life little appears to have harmed. Again this is interesting, and by comparison, we should remember that a ‘colourful’ personal life appears essential to get top jobs in countries such as France and Italy. Looking to the future, it remains to see what type of Prime Minister Boris Johnson will be. He has the opportunity to choose and learn from others – perhaps Winston Churchill or Ronald Reagan.
Today’s announcement that JC will not stand at the next election in order to oversee a change of leadership and not go quickly seems to prolong Labour’s difficulty. Though perhaps in time, the Labour Party will thank the Conservatives for hastening his end.
There are many myths and misconceptions about marketing and it’s role in business. Some perceive marketers as highly creative and others as ‘fluffy’. Others see marketers as champions of customers, yet expect them to make decisions based on judgement alone. And others perceive marketers as growth drivers and some as lacking commercial nous. A glance at the back pages of many newspapers or online marketing posts also reveals a variety of different titles for the job of marketing director. Including customer, experience, digital, direct, brand, communications, commercial and so on. So no wonder there are differing and sometimes contradictory perceptions. All underlines that a successful marketing director requires a combination of skills and expertise.
So based on research and experience writing The Marketing Director’s Handbook, we contend there are seven essentials to being a successful marketing director (Figure 2.1).
First though, if you’ve read this far, it suggests a desire to learn. This is a good foundation for being a successful marketing director.
It never seems to surprise how few really understand marketing. Thus to win trust and influence your colleagues, you should not underestimate the need to explain what marketing is. Also how it works, and how it adds value.
Beyond this you’ll also need to manage the day-to-day, and look to the future, at the same time. To get done what needs to be done, and steer your colleagues, and business, to a more successful place.
Success will also follow not just from what you do, but how you do it. By setting the tempo for the business, and articulating a bright and motivating future. Also by engaging and collaborating with your colleagues, you’ll more likely win friends, and influence.
As Jack Welch once wrote in a letter to shareholders: “In the old culture, managers got their power from secret knowledge: profit margins, market share, and all that… In the new culture, the role of the leader is to express a vision, get buy-in, and implement it. That calls for open, caring relations with every employee, and face-to-face communication. People who can’t convincingly articulate a vision won’t be successful. But those who can will become even more open – because success breeds self-confidence.”
Again no matter how sophisticated organisations might seem on the outside, it’s amazing how many hire and expect marketers to make decisions based on their own ‘gut-feel’. However, history suggests that the most successful organisations are those that best understand their customers. This is therefore not something just to pay lip-service to but to do. Especially in a world with more and more data, yet that is sadly lacking in insight (i.e. true customer understanding).
You’ll make better decisions by obtaining facts on who customers are, their needs, attitudes and behaviour.
Accurate and comprehensive customer understanding and on customer needs is vital to optimise products or service. As is also accurate and comprehensive understanding on customer attitudes and perceptions to devise effective communications. Specifically this means understanding the why’s behind that what’s?
This also means investing in processes and people to do this. You should also get out and do this yourself, and encourage colleagues to do likewise.
The nature of customers, markets, and technology, means new opportunities and threats are emerging all of the time. Yet history is littered with organisations that failed to adapt or change to new threats. Thus they died an untimely death.
It is also easy to become ‘blinkered’ by corporate cultures, and trapped by a ‘flimsy’ job specification. Someone in the organisation needs to look outwards, and challenge and reinvent the ‘wheel’ when threats rear their ugly heads.
Marketers can and should play a key role in being the eyes, ears and ‘early warning radar’ of the organisation. This fits perfectly with helping the organisation understand and focus on customers. However, you don’t have to do this on your own, nor should it be thought of as a power grab. Moreover an exercise to sensitise and empower the organisations’ eyes and ears to provide continuous feedback to the organisation’s brain.
Competitive advantage can be gained by those who know most, and also know what’s going on first. Some call it foresight.
Attracting customers and making money is usually a key business goal. This is where marketing makes its most important contribution. However, only marketing directly fuels growth. Other board functions fuel efficiency so combining both leads to more profit, and hopefully better stakeholder returns.
Only through measuring numbers is management possible. As you have growth objectives, and responsibility for marketing initiatives, it is natural that you measure and manage the numbers. Simply so that any deviation can be understood or addressed.
In managing numbers, also understand the relationship between customer and financial outcomes. This provides high-ground justification to invest in, or fine-tune, your marketing activities.
Investing in marketing should not be random chance, but borne of comprehensive understanding. So get the CFO on your side, and to help in this respect. The more heads on the case, the better the measurement solution. Ultimately, this will also benefit your Boardroom credibility.
A quick win is to work with your CFO to establish a marketing and financial dash-board of metrics (some call them KPIs, key performance indicators).
If your colleagues do not understand marketing, you can be sure they do not understand brands. So your challenge starts by helping them understand, and also to establish ‘why bother with your brand?‘
First, to simplify and drive customer choice and purchase. Secondly, to enhance value (brands command premiums) and shareholder value. Thirdly, and especially in service organisations, to align hearts and minds and deliver consistently over time.
The management function to optimise brand stand-out and appeal is marketing, but you’ll need help from other functions to deliver your brand.
For example, especially in service companies, the good work of an advert in raising expectations is sometimes undermined by a surly customer service representative, or poor system. It therefore requires effective management of the customer touch-points or underlying processes to deliver a great brand experience.
Influencing delivery via touch-points usually requires you to influence many parts of the organisation beyond your responsibility. So work collaboratively with your colleagues to identify issues, and deliver a more distinctive and appealing offer to your customers.
In highly competitive markets, both strategy and execution make a big difference to the results. Misplaced or poorly articulated words in a strategy can cause confusion or lead to mistakes in product development or marketing communication. From the customer stand-point, sub-optimal products, positioning or communication also risks missing the ‘target’ or ‘need’. And result in wasted marketing investment.
The devil is in the marketing implementation detail. Even a tiny improvement in response could deliver millions to revenue or your bottom line.
So set up processes, tools and techniques to make sure that both strategic and executional decisions are of the highest order. And test and test again from low to higher investment.
Through your great advertising and promotion work thus far you’ll have built a reputation for being creative. As a result, this is a great strength to use to benefit colleagues and the businesses as a whole. Futher, if the CEO’s role is to manage the big picture and the financial director’s is to manage the numbers, then the task of creating ideas lies with the marketing director.
So take the lead in engaging your colleagues to solve the problems that your business faces. Even if the problem lies outside of your functional area, the health of the business remains your primary responsibility.
To do this, bring colleagues together in problem solving workshops. With the right skills, resources and creative tools no problem is unsurmountable. And if bravery does not come naturally, remember that it is a just state of mind. So be confident and go for it! If needed, also bring in some external help. An even more objective approach will depoliticise issues and add value more quickly.
1. Whatever the job title, communicating AND also managing the effective delivery of the commercial strategy through the business is key to being a successful marketing director.
2. Delivering successful marketing is as much about your own personal skills and relationships as technical excellence.
3. Understand and put yourself in the customer’s shoes when making decisions.
4. If in doubt, sleep on it.
5. If still in doubt, ask round and about.
6. While it is more lonely at the top, remember you are not alone. You also don’t have to do everything yourself. Call for help.
The Marketing Director’s Handbook is the definitive guide to being a successful marketing director. It is unique in covering the marketing and management aspects of the role. Written by our team, it is also a ‘must-read’ book for all directors and a ‘must-keep by your side’ for all marketers. Read the FREE introductory chapter and reviews, and then order your copy on this website to get a FREE and up-to-date copy of Chapter 31 – Managing Digital Marketing.
Also available at Amazon, Foyles, The Book Depository and other good bookshops.
Productivity is an economic concept (Figure 1). It represents the ratio of economic output: input. Practically, productivity assesses the competitiveness of an economy, and the health or otherwise of constituent businesses. It also indicates a country’s ability to improve raise wages over costs as this depends largely on raising output per worker. Thus understanding UK productivity is key to determining how to improve the UK economy and businesses.
Since 2008, UK productivity failed to follow the previous 10 years plus trend line (Figure 2). Overall output fell by 6% yet employment by just 2%. As a result, productivity fell by 4%. Exactly why UK productivity failed to grow is hotly debated by economists (1). The decline is similar to other major OECD countries (with exceptions such as the USA and Ireland (2)).
Marketing a product to an individual consumer rather than to a business is often a very different proposition. Or is it? The growth of digital media means that there is an increasing number of channels and methods from which to chose. So how should marketers approach the task of engaging and winning customers? It’s a bit like learning a dance.
The B2C marketing challenge is to build product awareness and convert browsers into buyers. As it’s usually a ‘low involvement’ purchase, say to buy a confectionery bar, thus marketing campaigns must capture the consumer’s interest immediately. Typically mass promotion activities like tv and press advertising are employed. In addition, special offers such as discounts or vouchers ‘activate’ the purchase. The challenge is therefore to establish an effective one-step routine.
In the online world, an email or search marketing campaign encourages consumers to click and buy. The email or advertisement encourages consumers to a website landing page designed to sell the product. The purchasing process must be simple and easy, for example, by integrating the shopping basket and checkout page. Requiring more than a couple of clicks risks the customer shopping elsewhere.
The goal of B2B marketing is also to convert prospects into customers but the purchase is usually more considered. More decision makers are usually involved and the challenge is also to engage and educate the target audience and build relationships. To succeed a B2B company must generate and nurture leads over a longer time period. A careless or quick step could mean a lost partner (or customer). The challenge is to therefore also to establish an effective multi-step relationship building routine.
In the online world, an email campaign or online advertising campaign again typically drives prospects to a website. However it is less likely to achieve an immediate sale. A more realistic goal is to secure a meeting with a sales representative in order to discuss the customer’s business requirements in more detail and also influence him, her or them to buy (i.e. complete a sale). By providing information about the products and services, benefits, features, possibly pricing, and also contact information, reassures customers and wins trust. Conceiving marketing activity as one of several steps in a longer, integrated, multi-step campaign is more likely to persuade. Consider awareness and relationship building via direct mail, newsletters, video promotion, webinars, virtual exhibitions, conferences or live events and also social media such as Twitter or Linked In .
While there are differences in B2B vs. B2C marketing, the principles about engaging and building customer relationships remain the same. At the outset understand the customer journey from the customer’s point of view. Also understand the sources of information and the selection criteria that the customer uses, and the triggers and barriers to building awareness and relationships, through to the sale. At each step along the journey, consider how the experience that your brand delivers is different to or better than your competitors. And if it is no different,then work out what improvements to make.
If you are a B2B marketer learn how to dance the marketing 2 or 3 step. If you are a B2C marketer while you may have mastered a 1 step routine, a 2 or 3 step routine may help you to build stronger customer relationships. Determine the appropriate messages, media and timing to attract and engage customers at each step on the journey. In so doing you will thus be better able to invest your resources where they really make a difference.
1. How B2B customers search for tech solutions, Tenfold.com
Even Apple, one of the world’s most successful companies, visionary, secretive, allegedly antipathetic to research, fails occasionally. Witness poor iphone battery performance, speedily reversed software changes and easy-break charging cables. While following the ‘gut’ sometimes leads to product development success, success is far from guaranteed.
Equally, following ‘sacred’ product development ‘gate’ processes sometimes fails to guarantee success. This is because gate processes are just that – processes. And processes are ‘a series of actions or steps’ to help management manage risks. Also to prioritise opportunities and avoid wheel reinvention. Thus processes tend to be rigid, inflexible, and less suited to some circumstances, such as rapidly changing markets.
In the 1990s Reader’s Digest was a multi-billion dollar business. Its’ mailings were legendary. Their magazines and books sold in the millions, and if the sales data were published, most products would appear in the best-seller lists. The products and promotions were based on extensive testing, and response rates commonly in double digits. Then in the UK, along came the National Lottery. Almost at a stroke response rates fell, as the attraction of Tom Champagne’s £50,000 Free Prize Draw declined in comparison with the opportunity to win millions on Lotto.
The fact that a substantial proportion of products and services fail rather than succeed suggests there is more to do (1). While failures are set-backs, there is also lots to learn from failure. It helps improve the odds of innovation success.
How to anticipate and overcome failure? It is easier to observe and comment with the benefit of hindsight.
While there is much good in health-care, there are also many stories of unfortunate casualties and accidents. In the UK alone, there are nearly 1m reported patient incidents (fatal and non-fatal). In the US, preventable medical error in hospitals is the 3rd biggest killer. Problems occur mostly when clinicians work diligently and with good intentions. Problems include complexity (WHO lists 12.4k diseases and disorders each requiring different medical protocols), stretched resources and decision making pressures. There are also other reasons, for example, cultural, where communication, assessment and reporting is less than open and honest. Errors occur where practitioners are so focused on a task at hand that true perspective is lost. Thus compounding issues. Early remedy is sometimes frustrated through fear to speak-out or failure to accept reality – evidenced in a blame or a cover-up mentality (2). So called cognitive dissonance.
Conversely, where the mindset to is to ‘fess up’, document and investigate the reasons for failure, heath-care outcomes rise.
The air industry has the lowest fatality rates of all forms of transport. How is this? Through systematic recording of the reasons for failure and then learning from them. As a result, installation of black-box flight recorders in aircraft is a globally agreed practice. This allows full investigation of the reasons behind any air accident. In turn, black box flight recorders, have inspired protocols covering landing, takeoff, cockpit safety and more.
A conventional approach to product development is to identify a pain point, or unfulfilled customer need, and then design a better product or service or fill a gap. When faced with nozzles that ‘clogged’ and halted the washing powder manufacturing process, Unilever put their top mathematicians and fluid experts on the case. After a long study period they came up with a new design. However, the powder produced still blocked the nozzles. Almost in desperation, a team of biologists, with no knowledge of fluid dynamics, were then tasked with solving the problem. They took a very different approach. First to manufacture and then test ten different variants of the nozzle. The winning nozzle was then copied and revised ten times and each retested. Through 45 generations and nearly 450 failures, an outstanding nozzle emerged. In other words, through rapid evolution, scientists learned how to make a better nozzle (2).
What about the online world? Take the ubiquitous and multibillion behemoth, Google. Google tests and releases hundreds of millions of lines of code daily. Billions of builds prompt millions of automated tests to run across hundreds of thousands of browser instances daily. Testing is Google’s ‘secret sauce’ and it takes pride in both its development speed and failing on a daily basis.
Google’s approach may have shortcomings, but they are willing to publish it and open it to the scrutiny of the international testing community so that it continues to evolve. Everyone who writes code at Google is a tester and responsible for quality. The mantra is “you built it and you break it” i.e. code a little and then test the build. Then code more and test more. However, while product development and testing go hand in hand, different responsibilities lie with different groups. Beyond development or coding, Google has created roles for engineers (Engineering Productivity) to make other engineers more productive and more quality-minded. Their mission is to avoid re-work and redundant code due to sloppy development.
A development aim is to build a core product and release it once deemed useful to as large a crowd as feasible. And then seek feedback and iterate, rather than ship a large number of features at once. Gmail is a good example; remaining in beta mode for four years to signal that the product was still under-development.
Instead of distinguishing between code, integration, and system testing, Google runs small, medium, and large tests emphasising scope over form. If a problem doesn’t require human cleverness and intuition, and suits automated testing, then it is. Again during early Google Mail development, 40 user groups of 2.5% experienced different colour shades. Tracking determined the best shade to optimise engagement.
(1) According to the Product Development and Management Association (www.pdma.org), 2004, 42% of new products failed between 1990 and 2004.
(2) Syed. Matthew, Black Box Thinking – Marginal Gains and the Secrets of High Performance, 2015
(3) Whittaker. James. A, Arbon. Jason, Carolla. Jeff, How Google Tests Software, 2012
Storytelling predates writing; the earliest forms were spoken, combined with gestures and expressions. They include fairy tales, myths, legends and many of religious origin. There is much to learn from stories and 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. A soldier in the Roman army, he later became venerated as a Christian martyr and adopted as patron saint of many countries, cities and organisations. The story about George and the Dragon returned from the Crusades (11th Century). In the 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. 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, and increasingly through mini movies – as some television advertising has become. Not only do great stories engage, but they merit retelling and sharing. In this rich digital media world (1), we are all writers, photographers, producer/directors and editors. Only the best stories grab attention, are ‘liked’ and shared.
It is the same for brands. Only the best impress journalists, trade buyers and of course, consumers. Some brands have become great by telling great stories. Some 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 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)). In the last act, the dénouement, the story reaches a final climax, and the story resolved.
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 highlight 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). Including 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) and 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 but instead 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 adversaries, fellow competitors. In a typical 3 act story, we see the athlete competing against another, wearing Nike clothing or using Nike equipment, suffering set-backs yet eventually winning, and winning applause.
The Nike advert (below) features a tennis playing protagonist vilified for being a pretty face. Here 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. Feel how the rising tension strengthens the brand story.
Now work through these simple brand storytelling steps to finesse and execute your brand strategy.
1. Understand your brand truth, archetype and positioning
Great brands like great stories are based on great truths. Great truths include customer and brand truths. Look inside and outside your business to find them. Consider what do customers’ really think, believe or need? Is there anything meaningful and true but unknown or disbelieved about your brand? What is your brand founder’s tale? What’s special about where or how it was invented? Perhaps a ‘secret’ production or delivery process or ‘magical’ ingredient? And what’s special about the brand look, livery or the people who make or deliver the brand.
2. Create/shape/select stories to engage and dramatise the brand benefits.
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.
3. Express the story idea through multiple media.
While great stories and great brands touch people in different ways, they express a consistent message. Consider how the story could unfold or be presented through different media. Involve media experts in early brand storytelling. Choose media to 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.
On June 23rd 2016 the UK decided to leave the EU. So what does this mean for UK businesses and marketers? The consensus is to expect a period of uncertainty as everyone digests the facts, and devises strategies to manage the risks of Brexit and plan a way forward.
The trade barriers erected around the EU protect EU businesses from global competitive pressures. As a result they cause ‘flabby’ rather than ‘fit’ competitors. The UK has a proud history as a free trading nation and being ‘open for business’. Thus UK business should be materially ‘fit’ to compete in unfettered markets. Also to attract inward investment.
In 2015 the world economy was worth $73.2 billion with the EU accounting for $16.2bn (22%) (Figure 1). Thus the rest of the world accounts for the larger proportion (78%), with the USA, China and Japan, being the largest markets.
Moreover, emerging markets are forecast to grow faster than the developed markets, and China and India will both reach the top 3 by 2030 (Figure 2). There are many opportunities to grasp.
As marketers we know that the most successful businesses are those that understand and meet the needs of their customers. As global citizens, speaking the world’s languages, investing in research and marketing to continue to understand and meet current and future customers’ needs, and build relationships and commercial value makes sense.
1. To address short-term economic turbulence from Brexit, businesses should take every opportunity to strengthen relationships with overseas suppliers and customers. Make clear that you are open for business as usual, and value your relationships. There is reassurance and value in relationships.
2. Keep searching for win-win opportunities to sell, invest and buy. Also acquire knowledge to gain competitive advantage. Use research to uncover new insights and opportunities.
3. Have no fear. The fittest or most able will be the most successful. So stay true to good business and marketing principles; understand customer needs, and demonstrate and deliver value in meeting needs.
4. For any sector of the economy or business that considers themselves unfit, start working out how to get fit now. So use time wisely to maximise the value of your offer.
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. 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 prevalent 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 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. 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 self-esteem (2).
Brand personality also enriches differences and helps attract and cement relationships. There are three main strategic applications or benefits of a brand personality (Figure 1) (3). To:
Applying archetypes to brands helps further distil and define a brand’s personality. Archetypes came to popular consciousness through the work of Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, Carl Jung – the founder of modern psychology. An archetype is a collectively inherited unconscious idea, a pattern of thought, behaviour, image. It is universally present in myths, legends, literature and art. Archetypes are neither good nor bad, they simply exist. Although 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, and 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. These archetypal images 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.
Though it is likely that few were deliberately designed with archetypes in mind! Figure 2 shows the twelve main archetypes mapped on two axes, together with examples of well-known brands that fit each archetype. Some will be readily understood and others may trigger subliminal thoughts. Virgin is a familiar Outlaw brand. Think 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 useful to position pioneering brands and those taking on the establishment.
Archetypes also add meaning and convey messages that verbal and written information cannot. They help bring brands alive. They are powerful in revealing new ideas to help brands challenge category conventions, stand-out and reconnect with consumers. Understanding the archetypal nature and power of a brand is the first step to realising the strategic benefits outlined in Figure 1. Archetypes can also help explain brand successes and failures; brand marketing activity that correlates most strongly with archetypes tends to be more successful and value enhancing (and vice versa) (6). Once you name your archetype and understand how it works, the more you can express it, use it and avoid career-limiting mistakes!
The right brand positioning, personality and archetype depends on the market in which you compete, your customer segments and their needs. Also the brand positioning spaces occupied by competitors, as well as your own strengths and weaknesses.
Now read how brand storytelling helps too.
Photo credit: Warner Bros. Batman vs. Superman 2016.
Digitalisation and 24/7 global connectivity increases customer power and supply-side reach. As a result, markets become increasingly competitive over time and not less. Search and algorithms also reduce brands to keywords. These therefore all create pressure for change. And dealing with change requires foresight, new business and brand management skills and processes.
We often get asked to help businesses get closer to customers and to develop new marketing or brand strategies. Yet businesses plan, organise and manage in different ways. Further, marketing has not always been viewed as a management discipline. It only emerged formally as such in the 1950s (1). Marketing functions evolved from sales, and brand functions, from communications. Digital functions evolved from the need to master new information and communication technologies. Yet customers and brands are the only constant in a fast-moving digital world.
So at the outset recognise that marketing and branding are often misunderstood concepts. Customer marketing and consumer marketing are different to brand marketing. Some businesses have dedicated ‘marketing’ and ‘branding’ teams and some do not. Even when dedicated teams are in place, the functions and skill-sets tend to be very different. Marketers are rarely empowered to think strategically. While some businesses employ rigorous strategic planning processes others encourage entrepreneurship. The pattern of evolution tends to follow from the past, with the pace of change, depending on the knowledge and perceptions of senior management. While, there is no ‘one-size’ solution for all there is a useful strategic planning process to work out the right solution (2) (Figure 1 – Infographic).
Only by understanding where a business or brand is now and where a business wants to be in the future allows route-map development.
So understand current business, marketing and brand strengths and weaknesses, business drivers, and create clear, challenging, and inspiring goals.
The marketing discipline uniquely looks through the lens of customers and customer segments to assess issues, size market opportunities and influence demand.
By clarifying where you are now and want to be, the size of the gap, potential route-maps or strategies to bridge gaps will become clear. Potential roadblocks or issues should also become clear. So opportunities and solutions can then be developed to address key issues. If this is not possible, then new goals need setting.
Work with colleagues and have confidence in human imagination to generate and build ideas (2). While some organisations may prefer an analytical approach to strategy development, and others a more creative approach, there is merit in dual ‘left brain’ and ‘right brain’ thinking. Left brain thinking involves assessing the pros and cons of each opportunity. Right brain thinking requires stepping away from the detail, and taking inspiration from the world around, to imagine new opportunities and strategies. In our experience no-one has a monopoly on good ideas, and employing different brains hastens progress.
Planning from the customer, market and brand point of view can inspire those more familiar with technology-push, creative-push or financially targeted methods.
Engaging colleagues is important to fact-find, ensure understanding and reassure. It will help reveal hopes and fears and add colour to issues and opportunities. It will also help clarify what’s understood or misunderstood, and agreed or disagreed. This helps focus attention on what’s required.
By agreeing goals and collaborating, the best ideas should naturally surface to the top, and win support. Though the best solution is not necessarily the one that is 100% technically correct, especially if only 20% of stakeholders agree with it. A better solution is one that is 90% technically correct where most stakeholders agree with it. Only then will there be a mandate for change.
The journey to create truly customer-focused businesses and powerful brands is a long one. Therefore be pragmatic about what benefits are achievable, at what cost, and by when. Also understand the barriers to change to devise more effective strategies and plans and mitigate any risks. Figure 2 shows a product-brand continuum with benefits delivered at each stage (3).
For product, service or sales-led organisations, there are benefits in simply understanding and meeting the needs of customers. This needs structures, skills and processes to put the customer and his or her needs at the centre of thinking.
For organisations in markets where brands are emerging as a differentiator, there are benefits in understanding customer awareness and perceptions. Also using these insights to influence choice and increase purchasing. This requires structures, skills, planning and management processes to design, promote and manage brand(s), and drive demand and sales.
For digital and service organisations delivering through people, and for larger product brands, there are benefits in understanding and influencing perceptions through all brand encounters. This needs structures, skills and processes to create distinctive communications, align people activities and behaviour. Also to ensure consistent delivery through those multiple encounters.
The very largest organisations and those contemplating expansion into multiple geographic markets and categories, require more developed relationship building strategies. In addition, brand personality, structures, skills and processes to invest and manage wisely across countries and markets.