Finding your love in the art of being different.

I found this year’s Super Bowl ads were “pretty good”.While the Farmers ad stood out as amazing, the Budweiser ad was nice. But the rest of it while well executed feels like something we see on CNN all the time. Nothing was different.

Given the current economy, shouldn’t we be taking more risks to stand out rather than playing it safe right down the middle of the road? Let’s hope someone has the strength to do something different.

The classic launch formula: do the basic product concept testing, hope for a moderate pass. Then meet with sales and explain how this is almost identical to the launch we did last year, and builds on the same thing we just saw our competitor do. Re-enforce that the buyer hinted that if we did this, we’d get on the shelves pretty easily. Go to your ad agency, with a long list of mandatories and an equally long list of benefits they can put in the ad. Tell the agency you’re excited. They’ll tell you they’re excited as well. Ask for lots of options, as a pre-caution because time is tight and we’re not sure what we want. Just hope the agency clearly understood the 7-page brief. Test all the ads, even a few different endings, and then let the research decide who wins. That way, no one can blame you. Do up a safe media plan with mostly TV, some small but safe irrelevant secondary media choice. Throw in a web site to explain the 19 reasons why we launched. Maybe even a game on the website.

Ah, we have our launch. 

This is a guaranteed formula for success, because it follows last year’s launch to a tee and will be done hundreds of brands this year. Convince yourself, you had to play it safe because sales are down, margins are tight and you will do something riskier next year once this launch is done. What looks like a guaranteed success will likely get off to a pretty good start and then flat-line until it will be discontinued three brand managers from now.

At some point, to break through in a cluttered market, you’ve got to do something different to stand out:  now, more than ever. It might feel like a risky move, but it’s almost riskier not to take that chance.

Push yourself to be different. The most beloved brands are different, better or cheaper. Or not around for very long.  

There are four types of launches:

good-vs-different

Good but not different (our launch above) 

These do very well in tests mainly because consumers have seen it before and check the right boxes in research. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start—since it still seems so familiar. However, once challenged in the market by a competitor, it falters because people start to realize it is no different at all. So they go back to their usual brand and your launch starts to go flat. This option offers limited potential.

Good but different:

These don’t always test well: consumers don’t really know what to make of it. Even after launched, it takes time to gain momentum, having to explain the story with potential investment and effort to really make the difference come to life. But once consumers start to see the differences and how it meets their needs, they equate different with “good”. It begins to gain share and generates profits for the brand. This option offers long-term sustainability.

Not good and not different:

These are the safest of safe. Go back into the R&D lab and pick the best one you have–even if it’s not very good. The tallest of midgets. They do pretty well in test because of the familiarity. In market, it gets off to a pretty good start, because it looks the same as what’s already in the market. But pretty soon, consumers realize that it’s the same but even worse, so it fails dramatically. What appears safe is actually highly risky. You should have followed your instincts and not launched. This option is a boring failure.

Different but not that good

Sometimes we get focused on the product first: it offers superior technology, but not really meeting an unmet need. So we launch what is different for the sake of being different. It does poorly in testing. Everyone along the way wonders why we are launching. But in the end, consumers don’t really care about your point of difference. And it fails. The better mousetrap that no one cares about.

It will be up to you to figure out how to separate good from bad. One caution is letting market research over-ride your own instincts. As Steve Jobs said: “it’s hard for consumers to tell you what they want when they’ve never seen anything remotely like it. Yet now that people see it, they say OH MY GOD THAT’S GREAT”

We always tracked many numbers (awareness, brand link, persuasion etc), but the one I always wanted to know was “made the brand seem different”. Whether it is new products, a new advertising campaign or media options push yourself to do something that stands out. Don’t just settle for ok. Always push for great. If you don’t love the work, how do you expect your consumer to love your brand? The opposite of different, is indifferent and who wants to be indifferent.      

In case you need any added incentive: Albino fruit flies mate at twice the rate of normal fruit flies. Just because they are different! And the place where most ground hogs are run over is right in the middle of the road.  

Push yourself to find your difference

 

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

 

For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, follow:

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  1. How to Write a Creative Brief. The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan. To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan: The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about. However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise. Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan: How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits: The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer. There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience. The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability. To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits
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The more beloved the brand, the more profitable and valuable the brand is.

Consumers have relationships with their brands, some simple and shallow while others are tremendously deep and personal. There is almost a LOVE CURVE the consumer goes on,  moving from INDIFFERENT to LIKING to LOVING and then on to a BRAND FOR LIFE.   At a given point, consumers stop thinking and start feeling.   It can take years or just minutes.   For Brand owners, what’s important is to know where your brand is on the curve and how to move it along to the next stage.

There are significant benefits to moving the brand along the Love Curve.   At stage 1, consumers are INDIFFERENT, your brand is basically replaceable and you only get used because “this will do”.   You’re not really anyone’s favourite.    As they move to stage 2, they LIKE it and make logical, solid functional choices.   But at stage 3, consumers  LOVE the brand, are outspoken, possessive, unrelenting, and it becomes very personal.  Along the way, people stop thinking and start feeling.   And consumers enter stage 4 where it’s their BRAND FOR LIFE, where the brand is almost an extension of the consumers themselves.  They would never use another brand because they’d almost feel like they are cheating.

Look at how we feel when we love a brand (Unrelenting, Possessive), compared to Indifferent (It will do, Basic Needs)

Apple is a great example of a modern day beloved brand.   They hate Microsoft as much as they love Mac.  Try telling a Loyal Mac user that “Windows 7 is really good” you’re certain to start a fight.   You might even lose a friend.    One of the most beloved brands is Ferrari which Italians from around the world see as a statement of their Italian culture and personal identity.  They wear the logo with pride, cheer for Ferrari each week in the F1 and yet they most likely have never driven a Ferrari.  They spend zero dollars on Advertising, relying on consumers wearing their brand, cheering for their brand or just dreaming of it.   What a place to be as a marketer where your consumers act as brand fans, and standing up for you.  Another great example to show the differences is Coffee, where Tim Horton’s is the Beloved Brand.

But what goes up, can also come down and brands can move backwards on the curve.  For instance Gap Clothing, Levis or even Olive Garden were all once loved and have slid back to indifferent.

The only true goal of brand building is profit and brand value.  Every choice you make that moves your brand along the LOVE CURVE towards being beloved helps you drive long term value into your brand.

THERE ARE SIGNIFICANT BUSINESS BENEFITS TO BEING A BELOVED BRAND:

  1. Brand is more than just positioning.  Brand serves to match up the brand’s external promise with the internal culture and operations that delivers that brand promise.   While most brands look for an external positioning, that’s the promise you make to the consumer.   It’s equally important to focus on delivering that promise with the Brand serving as a beacon for the culture and operations and helps to steer behaviour, thinking and decisions employees make to support the brand.  For many brands, the people and the culture are the “secret sauce” to that brand’s success.  It’s like an iceberg where the brand promise is the tip the consumer sees, but below is the culture that needs to be aligned to deliver that promise.
  2. It’s easier to run a branded business with a line up at the door.    Longer lines means fresher product, and that means a better customer experience.   A baquette in Paris tastes so much better, not because it’s in Paris, but because the pâtisserie in Paris  sells 300 baquettes by 10 am, all fresh out of the oven.  The poor baguette in the North American grocery store looks lonely, dry, crusty.  Also, people love to follow the crowds, figuring others have already made the decision for you.
  3. Strong Sales Growth helps The P&L Starts to Work Better:  Using Porter’s Model, strong steady sales also means you can control your variable and fixed costs.    a) More Buying Power over Suppliers: higher volume means you can go to suppliers with a big order and exert pressure on the costs  b) Power Over Customer Channels: you can begin exerting power over the sales channels to your advantage–trimming variable trade with retailers while demanding more in return including more control over pricing. c) Smarter More Efficient Management:  manage your inventories, meet customer expectations, control pricing and drive cheaper costs.  d) Growth means you start outgrowing any fixed costs.  This includes start up costs, sales force, product plants or R&D costs.  e)  Lower Cost of Capital:More certainty means lower risk and you can re-invest, knowing the ROI will be quicker and stronger.

    There are 4 profit drivers you can push through the brand: price, cost, share and market size.
  4. The Poor Competition has no chance.   Most categories play the zero sum game, where one brands’ gain is the other guys’ loss.   Leader brands that build an emotional connection back the competition into the rational zone–facing scrutiny, doubt and skepticism.   As a marketer, the more emotional heat you can generate leaves almost nothing left for your competitor.  You reach that tipping point, where your gain is their loss.  When it’s all about share gain, the beloved brand has a competitive advantage.
  5. Great Brands have a certain magic to them.  Gaining that deep Emotional connection is hard work, but also takes a certain flare or an art form.  Gather all the data, be ruthless in your decisions, always focus on ROI, and eliminate risk and you’ll be liked but never loved.  You need to use instincts, take chances, use a certain flare and believe that execution matters.  If you want your consumer to love your brand, you have to love the work you do.  Look at the love Apple projects to it’s consumers through the magic of design, branding and marketing.

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