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THE OLD RULES OF MARKETING ARE DEAD6 New Rules to Reinvent Your Brand & Reignite Your Business
By TIMOTHY R. PEARSON
McGraw-HillCopyright © 2011 Timothy R. Pearson
All right reserved.
Chapter OneRULE ONE THE CORE IS EVERYTHING
THE CORE of a brand is its essence—what it is at its heart. It is the unique differentiator and distinctiveness that attracts buyers and consumers time and time again, building brand preference and customer loyalty. A brand's core is an intangible, and it's an emotional connection to the consumer or customer based on preferences and experience.
Critically, by moving away from this core, companies and enterprises can over time harm and damage their brands and the relationship with their targeted audiences—in doing so limiting their potential and sacrificing revenue growth and market opportunities. However, that doesn't mean that brands shouldn't evolve. In fact, a brand must evolve in order to survive and thrive in a constantly changing environment.
A product or service must be constantly reinvented to optimize growth and market penetration—all the while remaining true to its core.
A Brand's Essence Says It All
Reinvention begins with understanding just what a product or service is—and what it is not.
More and more, from a wellness and physical fitness perspective, doctors, therapists, and personal trainers focus first on the core—the muscles that provide strength, balance, and stability to the body—as they work to rehabilitate and strengthen the body. They've got good reason to do so, as core development strengthens the back while improving balance, coordination, and cardiac and circulatory function. This analogy can be easily transferred to marketing and the absolute necessity of knowing and understanding the core essence of a brand—and the resulting benefits derived by the company or enterprise.
Before they can create a marketing strategy, messaging, and tactics, before they can introduce a product or service to the marketplace, before they can do anything, marketers must know what their product or service stands for—its core essence—and how to position or present the brand to the target audience. Reinvention begins with a brand's core essence. A brand's essence "captures compelling points of difference; guides brand strategy; may be aspirational; and, communicates direction to internal stakeholders."
Reinvention starts with the core of the brand. What exactly is that brand? Is it, like Levis, the all-American, classic jean epitomizing effortless cool? Or is it like Avis—number 2, but trying harder? Is it the new Holiday Inn, which offers everything a business traveler could want at a low price point—including a comfortable bed, free Wi-Fi, and free breakfast? Is it Starbucks, the popularizer of designer coffee at a designer price? Or is it Dunkin Donuts, simply good coffee at a good price? If as a leader or marketer, you can't sum up what the core essence of the brand is, or if you have to commission a study to uncover it, the brand is probably in trouble. And if internal stakeholders can't define the brand, the product or service is most likely in even bigger danger.
Often, as products or services extend their reach, the core essence of the brand gets diffused and muddied or, even worse, lost. However, the core essence is what makes the brand unique, so as it gets further away from its core, the brand is at risk of losing its differentiation and its distinctiveness. That loss makes a brand a commodity—something consumers or customers buy on price point, not desire. The brand goes from a "have to have" to a "don't need," especially in an economy where customers and consumers' shopping habits are focused on sales, not simply buying. When that happens, the brand has lost its uniqueness and individuality and is ripe for reinvention.
The Criteria a Core Essence Must Meet
When determining the core essence of a product or service, recognize that it is often intangible. The best core essences are also:
* Single-minded: You and your internal stakeholders should be able to describe your brand essence in a few words—it must be that well thought out and true.
* Emotional: An essence is based on how the consumer feels about the product.
* Unique: The essence of a brand is how it is different from competitors in the same category.
* Experiential: The essence describes how consumers or buyers experience the brand.
* Believable: The essence must be credible.
* Unchanging: The core essence must be sustainable over time.
* Meaningful: The essence should be important to your target market.
* Scalable: You will need to grow your brand, so your essence must be able to encompass the brand as it attracts a broader and larger base.
The Core of a Service
Often, marketers that are in the business of taking services to the public—from consulting to financial to professional services and others too numerous to describe—don't think they have to worry about core essence. This is another mistake, one that many marketers make. Everything that is sold—be it a product or a service—has a core essence. It has to in order to have points of differentiation from the competition.
Recently, the consulting firm I led took on the project of helping a major insurer embed its essence across its federated companies. The insurer first surveyed key stakeholders to determine what customers and others thought about its brand in comparison to its competitors. As a result of this in-depth study, the company was able to discover key points of parity and points of differentiation for its brand. For marketers, these are essential tools. Points of parity refer to where the field is level—basically, areas where all the brands in the market are considered equal. Points of differentiation are imperative—they are the ways that your brand, be it a product or service, is unlike the competition.
These points of differentiation helped define what customers viewed as the core essence of the brand and led to the creation of a brand positioning, used, in this instance, primarily for internal purposes. That positioning was based on the points of parity (trust, choice, and leader), as well as on the key point of differentiation (advisor) that the company's research had uncovered. As insurers enter into a world of ever-greater government regulation, this proprietary positioning will help the company differentiate itself in the marketplace. In an industry like insurance, where companies more often than not seem interchangeable to the public, this positioning will set the company apart.
Brand Essence Versus Brand Promise
A brand's essence is intangible: it's an emotional connection to the consumer or customer based on preferences and experience. It's very different from a brand promise, which is the contract you make with your customers, often delivered in an advertising tagline.
According to McKinsey & Company, "As companies lose the ability to differentiate their brands based on functional attributes, they must focus on process and relationship benefits, such as ease of ordering or responsiveness to customer requests. Thus, frontline employees must understand and deliver the right brand promise to the customer."
Take, for example, FedEx. At its core, the company is perhaps the best logistical operation in the world. However, its brand promise is summed up in its original advertising campaign slogan: "Absolutely, positively overnight." All of its employees were expected to keep this promise, and it became the differentiator between FedEx and its then only global competitor, the United States Postal Service. (Interestingly, in September 2010 UPS introduced a new company-wide campaign, "We Love Logistics.") Since FedEx executed on its original brand promise and enjoyed first-mover advantage as well, it too has entered the lexicon as a means for sending a package overnight—the public will often say "FedEx" even if they mean UPS or one of its other competitors. Similarly, Xerox to this day—as it undergoes a reinvention to a business process and document management services company—is still known as "the copier people." Unfortunately, it is burdened by the legacy disadvantage of being associated with paper duplication in a digital age.
The Core Creates Positioning
Once you know a brand's core, the brand positioning can be created. To construct this positioning, you need to understand exactly where you want this product or service to take your company or enterprise over time, and you must clearly define what success looks like.
Twice a year, fashion designers gather in New York, London, and Paris to present their haute couture lines—which in many cases are loss leaders. In fact, it is not the Fashion Week presentations that actually make money for designers; it's the accessories—shoes, handbags, and jewelry—the line extensions that represent their brand at a more "affordable" price than the couture lines.
Not all designers are willing or able to create these affordable brand extensions. Take, for example, Christian Lacroix, a designer beloved by fashion editors, including the one perceived as the most powerful, Vogue's Anna Wintour. Lacroix's fashion house never made money in its 32-year history, and it went bankrupt in 2009. However, while profitability may have been a goal of the company that owned the Lacroix fashion house, it was not necessarily the core of his business. For him, and other talented and creative designers like him, the motivation is the act of creating beautiful, opulent clothing that drives or changes an industry. While Lacroix's couture fashions were not affordable by any measure, his creations directly impacted what women wore—he was widely viewed as being the creator of the "pouf" style of gown that graces red carpets and formal events to this day.
Knowing your core essence is the starting point for a brand's potential success. While many people would judge Lacroix a business failure, he remains an extremely successful designer and is judged so by his peers. This essence—the heart of your brand—will help you create your positioning, but it will not guarantee a successful business in and of itself.
Knowing your vision—where you want to go—is another aspect of creating a positioning. The venture and at-risk capital businesses that invested in Lacroix should have taken to heart his statement of his vision: "I want to get back to the position where the couture becomes a kind of laboratory of ideas, the way it was with Schiaparelli 40 years ago." Lacroix knows who he is at his core—and it's not a businessman.
The vision is not where you want your brand to be in a year; rather, it is where or what you want it to be in 5 or 10 years or longer. Once you have defined what success looks like and what your vision is, you can begin creating your brand positioning. This will define your marketing strategy.
It's Not Easy
Kevin Keller, a recognized brand expert and the E. B. Osborn Professor of Marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth, puts it best when he talks about the difficulty of brand positioning: "Competitive brand positioning is hard work. Many brands falter sooner than they should; some don't even make it out of the gate."
According to Keller, there are five pitfalls to watch out for while positioning a brand:
1. Know your essence. "Companies sometimes try to build brand awareness before establishing a clear brand position. You have to know who you are before you can convince anyone of it," Keller says.
2. Sell customers what they want to buy. According to Keller, "Companies often promote attributes that consumers don't care about."
3. Find unique points of differentiation and focus your marketing on those that others can't easily copy. "Positioning needs to keep competitors out, not draw them in. A brand that claims to be the cheapest or the hippest is likely to be leapfrogged."
4. Never underestimate the power of your essence. Stick to it, no matter what the competition does. Keller cites the following: "General Mills used the insight that consumers viewed honey as more nutritious than sugar to successfully introduce the Honey Nut Cheerios product-line extension. A key competitor, Post, decided to respond by repositioning its Sugar Crisp brand, changing the name to Golden Crisp and dropping the Sugar Bear character as spokesman. But the repositioned brand didn't attract enough new customers, and its market share was severely diminished."
5. Remember that brand positioning is a tough task. "Once you've found one that works, you may need to find a modern way to convey the position, but think hard before you alter it."
Positioning: What Appeals to Consumers or Customers
While architecture is the structure of the "brand house," positioning can be seen (to carry the analogy forward) as those elements that attract the buyer to come in and see the house. It's the memory that is evoked when the buyer thinks about the house, or brand, later. Consumers or prospects need reasons, both functional and emotional, to buy a product or service. The positioning of a product or service provides these reasons.
When I was appointed by KPMG as the firm's first externally recruited chief marketing officer, the firm had not had a unified global brand positioning since its founding by William Peat (the P in KPMG) in 1870. At the time I joined the firm in 1998, accounting firms were known for their sameness and opaqueness. Their primary products, the audit attestation and certification they provided for large companies, were largely not understood by anyone other than accounting and financial experts.
With insights gleaned from extensive and exhaustive global quantitative research, we crafted and implemented a clear, simple positioning and undertook a first-ever brand advertising campaign (launched as "It's Time for Clarity") to reinforce that positioning. Most important, the positioning required a simpler, more direct means of communicating with our various constituencies.
Elements of a Brand
As the strategy is created, it helps to keep in mind the primary elements of a brand, all of which should be accounted for in the strategic marketing plan. These elements are:
* Core essence: The "nucleus" of the brand: Who are you?
* Architecture: Specific benefits the brand delivers: What do people buy?
* Positioning and value proposition: Understanding what motivates consumers or customers within a defined competitive space: Why do people buy your brand?
* Reputation: The brand's perceived ability to deliver its value proposition: What do people say about your brand?
Core Essence: An Example
Let's look at how one well-known brand answers these questions.
* Core essence
* The necessities of life, and more, at a discount
* Range of brands
* Size of stores; more space, more products
* Generic drugs at affordable prices
* Customer service
* Special in-store savings
* Positioning and value proposition
* Save money, live better
* Good, cost-effective products, especially in a recession
* Issues with sweatshops and unions have not affected sales.
This brand is, of course, Sam Walton's Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart understands its essence, and, with minor exceptions, has stuck to it and not strayed over the years. That's a lesson all marketers must learn and bear in mind when the temptation to wander beckons. Once marketers can answer all these questions, then and only then can a marketing strategy be created.
The Customer Really Does Know Best
Innovation is overused by marketers and often fails. Your products and services must return to their core essence to reinvent these brands to grow revenue profitably.
In 1994, the McKinsey Quarterly stated the following: "The past decade has not been kind to marketing. Leading packaged goods companies—long viewed as the best marketers—have been unable to count on their marketing departments for innovation and growth. As a result, their CEOs have had to look instead to operations and finance to increase profitability by cutting costs, eliminating marginal products, and 'reengineering' the supply chain. In their view, the blame for marketing's failure lies squarely at the feet of the brand management system—a system that may have helped companies like P&G achieve spectacular earnings growth during the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, but that has long since shown itself unable to cope with today's complex marketing landscape."
Excerpted from THE OLD RULES OF MARKETING ARE DEAD by TIMOTHY R. PEARSON Copyright © 2011 by Timothy R. Pearson. Excerpted by permission of McGraw-Hill. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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