Is the Bose brand considered high quality or low quality?

 

bose-logo-vectorAmong the masses, Bose is one of the most respected, trusted and beloved brands when it comes to audio speakers and headphones.  That’s what their core target market would say. But to serious Audiophiles, with a discerning ear, Bose is total crap, with inferior technology, shabby production standards and resulting poor value. This might be the equivalent about asking a Foodie what they think of Morton’s Steakhouse or Ruth’s Chris.

Bose has a great word of mouth reputation. I remember when I first heard of Bose, it was a guy at work, who seemed to know more than I did say definitively “Bose are the best speakers you can buy”. I immediately believed this to be true and have felt that way ever since. I proudly own Bose headphones, a Bose docking station and Bose speakers in my car. I am a highly satisfied Bose fan.

I wanted Bose Speakers for my TV, having drooled over the idea for years. So I went into a Bose store, listened to a few different options and they all sounded amazing. So I looked on the Bose box, and there was no mention of Watts at all or really anything. My first thought was “wow, Bose is just such a great brand, they don’t really need to get into those tiny details like watts”. But I wanted to compare brands just to ensure I was spending good money. So I went on-line and here’s the Bose specs: still nothing.

 

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That brings us to The Bose philosophy: Unlike other audio product manufacturers, Bose does not publish specifications relating to the measured electrical and objective acoustic performance of its products. This reluctance to publish information links back to the classic Amar Bose paper presented in 1968 “On the Design, Measurement and Evaluation of Loudspeakers”. In the paper, Bose rejects these measurements in favor of “more meaningful measurement and evaluation procedures”, and considers the human experience the best measure of performance.

For Bose, sound is an experience, not a statistic. Bose spends all their effort and dollars on perfecting the in-store sound demo so they can show off Bose’s great sound quality and let consumers be the judge of their sound.  And yet it’s arguably tough for the average ear to distinguish. Bose invests a lot of money into their own retail stores as well as the store-in-store concepts. That way, it can control the experience the consumer gets with its products–ensuring the consumers hear Bose at it’s best.

Bose has figured out how to make their brand work to their advantage–the proof is in the sound you hear in the store. There’s a certain magic that happens in store when listening to the Bose stereo system. Despite what Audiophiles say, consumer feedback from the masses is definitively in favour of Bose with very high scores. And in a most recent poll, Bose is the #3 trusted brand in Consumer Electronics, so they must be doing something right. It’s tough for consumers to separate Product from Brand, even a brand like Apple has had success in this confusion where consumers think Apple has “great products”. To the masses, Bose is a great brand and has great products.

Is Bose a beloved or hated brand? You be the judge.  

 

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, we promise that we will make your brand stronger and your brand leaders smarter. We can help you come up with your brand’s Brand Positioning, Big Idea and Brand Concept. We also can help create Brand Plans that everyone in your organization can follow and helps to focus your Marketing Execution. We provide a new way to look at Brand Management, that uses a provocative approach to align your brand to the sound fundamentals of brand management.

We will make your team of Brand Leaders smarter so they can produce exceptional work that drives stronger brand results. We offer brand training on every subject in marketing, related to strategic thinking, analytics, brand planning, positioning, creative briefs, customer marketing and marketing execution.

To contact us, email us at graham@beloved-brands.com or call us at 416-885-3911. You can also find us on Twitter @belovedbrands.

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A Truly Beloved Brand: G Adventures

REPRINTED FROM PROFIT MAGAZINE

Ask a communications expert about the wisdom of changing the name of a successful company, and you’ll get succinct advice: don’t. “Unless it’s completely irrelevant or legally necessary, or the name has become totally stagnant, I wouldn’t change your name because it’s such a massive undertaking,” says Mia Wedgbury, president of High Road Communications in Toronto.

But this fall, Toronto-based tour operator Gap Adventures was forced to do just that when a legal ruling in a trademark infringement lawsuit brought by Gap Inc. gave it three months to devise a new identity in the U.S. market. The apparel chain claimed the Canadian company was intentionally confusing consumers to boost its business. Bruce Poon Tip, the travel company’s founder, initially waved off the attack. “I didn’t see how people might think they were buying pants when they were buying adventure travel.” He had picked the name (which stands for Great Adventure People) in 1990 only after deciding the original moniker, Pathfinder, might produce confusion with the car brand.

But after a four-year legal battle that cost more than $5 million to fight, Poon Tip was tired of the distraction. Initially, he considered only changing the name in the U.S., which represents 14% of the company’s business. However, several factors argued for a global revamp. First, in Europe and Australia, a “gap year” denotes a year off between school and work, creating the suggestion the company catered to students. According to Branding 101, a global company must have a consistent image. Finally, Poon Tip thought Gap’s highly loyal customers would take a name change in stride. “I’ve never believed that the name matters,” he says. “It’s what you do that breathes life into your name.”

At it turned out, customers disagreed. When Toronto branding firm Level5 Strategic Advisors polled consumers, the results were stunning. A question asking for alternate name suggestions produced such aggressive opposition to a name change that Level5 took the question out mid-survey. The agency’s president David Kincaid compares consumers’ attachment to Gap to the intense passion fans feel for their favourite rock band. Adventure travel is a “highly emotionally driven category,” he says, and his research found a striking uniformity in how employees, customers and partners viewed the brand. That was the good news; the downside, warned Kincaid, was that a renaming would erode that brand equity.

It was a scary finding, Poon Tip says, but he pushed on. Over eight weeks, Gap’s marketing team and Level5 ran strategy workshops and “name-storming” sessions, with employees invited to contribute suggestions. Poon Tip had two favourites: G Adventures, which would be relatively low-hassle and allow the company to keep its G logo; and Yolo, an internal brand that’s an acronym for “you only live once.” Staff liked the idea of creating their own word, like Google or Geiko. Kincaid’s team, however, resisted Yolo, saying it would require too much explanation in the marketplace. Meanwhile, G Adventures didn’t make it past an early poll of company executives.

Level5 narrowed the options down to two: Planeterra, the already trademarked name of Gap’s non-profit foundation, and Go, an active word inherently linked to travel. Poon Tip realized that Go could also stand for “great ocean,” which is the English translation of the Dalai Lama, a significant figure for Poon Tip who inspired him to stick with the business during an early crisis. While both Go and Planeterra scored strongly, Go skyrocketed when consumers heard the story behind the name.

Go was a go. The company even bought the domain, at considerable cost. But Poon Tip started having second thoughts. It bothered him that some survey respondents found the name boring. “When they thought of it in relation to us, they thought it was unexciting,” he says. There were also lots of companies already using that name. Even the fact it was so specific to travel started to strike Poon Tip as too safe, and potentially limiting. He looked at other name changes, such as Overstock.com changing to O.co, and that took him back to G.

Not long after, he held a conference call with 18 global executives. He stated the case for Go and for G, then asked for opinions. His team leaned slightly toward Go. Though he went into the meeting split 50/50, it proved to be like the coin toss test: his reaction to the outcome showed him which way he really leaned. He especially liked that the word “go” is still present in the logo’s circle around the G but, likethe Fedex arrow hidden within its wordmark, it’s speaking only to those who know it’s there.

While the change is relatively small—the company is just dropping two letters, and keeping the Great Adventure People tagline—the logistical challenge is significant, says Wedgbury. “The name is how people find your brand,” she says, and there’s a risk of confusing the marketplace and losing clients, and, of course, the cost of changing everything from signage to the website to merchandise. The company’s dispersed operations complicate the picture. “If I’ve booked a trip with Gap and I suddenly I see a new company name when I arrive, that doesn’t instill confidence,” says Wedgbury. And since it’s a court-mandated change, an oversight, at least within the U.S., can have financial implications.

But it’s the soft costs that will be most complex, says Kincaid. “They need to make sure that every consumer touchpoint understands the reason behind the new name,” from employees at an Australian call centre to tour leaders in Peru. “This isn’t something you can dribble out. The most effective word in marketing is ‘new,’ but you only get one chance to say it.”

Since Gap isn’t required to rebrand outside the U.S., Poon Tip plans to roll out the name change over six to 12 months. The company has generally eschewed traditional advertising in favour of viral marketing and referrals, but this change, says acting global VP of marketing Cindy Zesk, “will present a new set of challenges.” Travel agents, who represent 70% of Gap’s bookings, will be the biggest one, she says. “So we’ll take it to a real personal level, with speaking engagements, personalized emails and phone call explaining why we’re doing this.” With consumers, she says, the company’s value proposition “is a way of life. It’s not something we can put in an advertising tagline.”

G Adventures, Poon Tip admits, tends to leave people cold until he explains his vision for spinoff brands such as GLodge (a property being built in the jungle of Peru) and GNation (a social networking platform). Like Apple’s ‘i’, the G offers limitless extendibility. Having to change your name after 21 years in business is “not an ideal situation,” he admits, “but we’re taking it as an opportunity.”

Nevertheless, he remains bitter about the legal fight. He still owns the gap.ca domain name. “I might sell it to a porn company.” He insists he’s not kidding.

Swagger Wagon: Toyota’s Attempt to Make Mini-Vans Beloved

These spots by Toyota celebrate this new stage of life by allowing parents to laugh at themselves.   And that’s a great device for connecting on an emotional level.   Toyota is selling more than just the van, they’re selling parenting.   Toyota has had a tough go of it, since the recalls of 2009.   But they’ve sustained their relative strong sales, even during the tough economic times—and things like Swagger Wagon are a great example of how maintaining the love of your most loyalty consumers.

What’s the Most Beloved Brand In Education?

It depends what kind of love you're looking for from higher education.

It depends on your criteria.  If it’s a non-stop party action without getting kicked out, University of Georgia is consistently ranked in the top 10 of parties schools.   And technically, that might make it the most beloved.   Georgia actually has tough admission standards, but that might just be the same way that a hot bar also attracts a crowd.

But the strongest most respected brands in higher education are Harvard at the top followed by schools such as Princeton, Oxford or Cambridge.  Maybe Stanford, as the cooler, hipper, west coast answer to Harvard.   Maybe MIT or Cal Tech for the more mathematically inclined.  Criticize them all you want, snub your nose back at them or rationalize why you chose somewhere else.  To many people, it sounds like you got help from Daddy.   But these brands do help to separate a student from the pack upon graduation and sits on their resume for the rest of their lives.

http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/world-university-rankings/2010-2011/top-200.html

Harvard makes $150 Million a year from selling t-shirts.

When students choose a school, in a way, they are borrowing  a piece of the equity from that school in how they want to portray themselves.  Harvard has a lot of equity from which Students can borrow.   Place in History:  With 375 years, there’s a long list of noble alumni–including 8 U.S. Presidents, 50 Nobel Prize Winners, dozens of Pulitzer Prize Winners and Supreme Court Justices plus a very long list of CEO’s.  Harvard even has a long list of Harvard drop outs including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or even Matt Damon.  Harvard Schools: Whether it’s Law, Medicine, Business or Political Science, each school on it’s own, finishes at or near the top of their disciplines.  Graduates are sought after, commanding strong salaries and a robust Harvard Alumni network, notorious for helping out at all stages of their careers.  The Harvard Cache:  There’s something romantic about Harvard, as it’s portrayed in movies such as Love Story, Paper Chase or The Firm.

Harvard’s beloved brand status translates into Brand Wealth.   Harvard’s endowment is estimated at $28 Billion, double it’s closest rivals and dwarfing the University of Georgia party school ($572 Million) or Canadian schools like University of Western Ontario ($318 Million) or Queen’s ($527 Million)   Harvard’s revenue per year is $9.3 Billion which would be about the same size as Starbucks or Southwest Airlines.   Harvard has many sources of revenue, including investment gains, student tuition and donations.  Harvard even generates a whopping $150 Million in T-shirt sales, people just wanting the smallest slice of the Harvard brand.  Now that’s brand wealth.

The Most Beloved Coffee Brand: What’s your Call?

Starbucks or Tim’s?   If you’re in Canada, it’s clearly Tim Horton’s.   if you’re a Starbucks fan, you’re likely pissed right now and hopefully ready to engage.  But I imagine there are not a slew of Coffee Time loyalists ready to pounce.

What Tim’s has done so well, is they have  turned a lonely little donut shop into a brand envy.  Back in 1980, there were no signs of greatness, evidenced by this TV Ad: Functional.  Just another donut shop.

Brands travel along a pathway from indifferent to like it to love it, most brands getting stuck.  At the INDIFFERENT stage, it is basic needs and “it will do”.   You never see a line up at Coffee Time.   Tim’s has reached LOVE IT.  It’s possessive, outspoken and unrelenting–willing to add 15 minutes to their morning drive.

Yes Tim’s has very good coffee and good quality in everything they do.  But it’s more than that.  Tim’s layers in deeply emotional connections to the community, into the lives of families and into the Canadian mystique.

Kids play in Tim Bits hockey, at lunch people go on a “Timmies Run”.  The TV ad from last year featuring Sidney Crosby showing him as a Tim Bit player all the way up to current gave you goose bumps as a Canadian watching it.   Wow.  

Media buy is a gentle mix of new product ads with deeply emotional.    Goosebumps, tears, exciting, all comes back to building that emotional connection.   The spot in the Olympics made me proud to be Canadian. 

They’ve continued expansion plans, across Canada and now into NYC.  For you, is it the coffee, is it comfort or the Canadiana or is a bit of all three that keep you coming back?   Getting to the Love It stage drives real brand value.  The stock price has nearly doubled the past 5 years going up from $26 up to $48.

http://moneycentral.msn.com/investor/charts/chartdl.aspx?symbol=THI&CP=0&PT=10

Most Beloved Hockey Team Brand: The Toronto Maple Leafs

The Leafs are clearly the most Beloved Brand in Hockey.   While there are lots of great fans of great teams, the Leafs stand alone with insane fans about a bad hockey team.   The Leafs have not made the playoffs since 2004 and have not won a Stanley Cup since 1967, yet it has a following like no other hockey team.  Most of the other Beloved sports Teams, whether it’s the Yankees or Man U or the Montreal Canadiens all reward their fans constantly with victories.   It’s not very hard to be a fan of a team that has won 25 championships.   But with a few teams like the Leafs or the Chicago Cubs, it’s not easy being a fan.   Constant let down and heart break.   The connection to the Leafs is not a rational one, but rather an irrational choice–or as Hotspex would say “e” rational that talks to the EMOTIONAL connection.

It's a 40 year wait for Leaf seasons tickets. These end up in people's wills.

Let’s look at how the Leafs business model works.  1.  Getting tickets to a game is nearly impossible for the average fan.   They have strong luxury box sales and a strong base of seasons tickets.   Season Tickets are passed down to family members in wills.  At Pfizer, we put our name on the waiting list and they said it could be up to 40 years to get tickets.  If you do have tickets, you can easily scalp them for twice the value on game night.  2.  Every game is on TV, with strong ratings–a usual top 20 in the ratings for CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights.  In fact, if CBC every lost HNIC, it’s possibly the end of the network.   The Leafs receive added earned media with 2 sports TV stations, 3 radio stations and 3 major Newspapers constantly covering every move the team makes.   3.  The team’s sponsorship drive is incredible–carrying an astounding 52 sponsors on it’s roster–including separating out the banking category into Core Banking, Wealth Banking, Credit Card banking, which allows them to get money from three separate banks.   4.  Merchandise sales are very strong.   The Leafs have just announced it was changing its third jersey to be a replica of the 1967 jersey.   Which means all those fans have to go out and drop another $129 on a new jersey.  This past year, the Leafs have added a sports bar to the ACC, just outside the arena that has hundreds of TVs and seating for two thousand people.   5.  Control of Costs works for the Leafs.  In the 90s, as the Canadian dollar slid, players started to demand being paid in US dollars.  Since that decision, the dollar has gone from 63 cents to parity and the Leafs bottom line has benefitted.   In terms of Brand as a Business System, the Leafs get it.   They derive all their value from their brand.

Leafs value continues to climb: In 2011, it's now up to $527Million.

If we look at the hockey results, the Leafs haven’t made the playoffs since 2004.   So let’s use 2004 and 2010 as the basis for comparison on numbers.   In those six years of hockey despair, overall revenue has gone up from $117million to $187million.  In the last year, with the world facing a global recession, following up on a 29th place finish in the standings, the Leafs revenue went up ELEVEN PERCENT!!!  And because of the player strike a few years ago, player costs have gone down from $69 million to $57million.   That’s a P&L the people of Price Waterhouse dream about.      The resulting brand value has seen the Leafs value go from $280million in 2004 up to $505 million in 2010–making it the #1 valued team in hockey.   Seven years of missing the playoffs and the value of the team has nearly doubled.

Compare the Leafs to the Red Wings, who use the slogan “HOCKEY TOWN”.   The Red Wings are clearly the best hockey team in the past decade, best win percentage, most playoff appearances, most Stanley Cups.   Let’s use 2004 and 2010 again.  In those six years, Detroit’s revenue has gone up from $97million to $117million, a gain of 20% while the Leafs revenue were up 60% over the same period.  Ticket sales are actually down at Joe Louis arena by about 10%.   While the Red Wings made back to back Stanley Cup finals, you could have actually gotten a ticket at face value the day before one of the games.     The value of Red Wings team has gone from $248million up to $315million, a solid gain of 27% in value but dwarfed in comparision to the Leafs 80% gain in value over the same period.

It's not easy being a Leaf Fan. Yet no one really stops being a Leaf fan.

Now, we must come to the question of why?   Are Leaf fans crazy?   I do remember a few years ago, on Trade Deadline day in late February, there was a quote from a fan who said “I can’t believe I took the day off from work to watch the Trade Deadline and my Leafs didn’t do anything”.   That’s borderline crazy.   The Leafs are the eternal underdog, where the pursuit of victory is greater than the victory itself.  But we might not ever find out.   I’ve resigned myself to the fact that the Leafs WILL NOT win a Stanley Cup in my lifetime.   And yet, I remain a fan.   If they ever do win the cup, I’m not sure if the team’s value will go up or even down from there.   Debate all you want, we may never find out.

Toronto likes to think of itself as the centre of the hockey universe.   Not even close.   Name me great hockey heroes from Toronto and the list is much shorter than that of Montreal.   In fact, on a per capita basis, Saskatchewan is the true centre of the hockey universe.  Most hockey superstars are from the remote locations like Perry Sound, Brantford or Flin Flon Manitoba.   Maybe Stamkos will be the one that breaks through the top 50 all time.   In the past 30 years, it sure hasn’t been the great players on the team.  The Leafs have only had two players, Gilmour and Sundin, that you could call superstars, and a handful of good players like Curtis Joseph, Borje Salming, Wendell Clarke or Rick Vaive.  But Toronto fans have made the most of average and have created mythical figures in Felix Potvin, Bryan McCabe or Mike Palmateer.  Not sure where Reimer will be on this list, but if you talk with a Leaf fan, they think of him in the same breath as Patrick Roy.

As we are on the cusp of a new season, Leaf fans are optimistic.   And ready for another Cup run.  There’s only one thing I know for certain and would actually bet on it.   The value of the Leafs will go up this year.   YEAH!!!

The Beloved Burger: BURGER’S PRIEST.

Original Story, October 2011:  This saturday, I visited THE BURGER’S PRIEST in Toronto.

Great Mystique created around the whole Priest thing. Different makes them stand out.
Burger 9 out of 10, fries 6.5 out of 10.

Even before you try the burger, you hear the story first, and it’s quite crazy.   That’s the way a brand should be.  I have had quite a few people tell me that the Burgers Priest was clearly the best in Toronto.   But then they get into the story telling of what they know.   Part of the story is this idea of a secret menu, that you have to ask for.   Funny enough but if you google “Priest Secret Menu”, you’ll see about 15 stories come up from various Food Critic reviews.   Confirms that it’s a marketing ploy–and a great one for driving word of mouth.   The second part of the story is that the owner, who most describe as crazy, even though they never likely interact with him.   Apparently, one day he was looking for a really good burger and couldn’t find one.  So, he decided to just get in his car and drive until he could find one.  He ended up in his car for six months, travelling all through the US from New York to the South, through Texas and Out to California and back.   He was intent on learning about the secrets of the best hamburgers he could find.   He’s has photos, up at the Priest, of all the great burger places that inspired this burger.   Once back, he took all the great ideas and build his own burger.   He’s layered in the idea that this burger is a religious experience, with the priest idea.  And the mission is to  missio “redeem the burger one at a time”.  That’s the brand story anyway.

Now with a brand story, you need to create buzz.  Word of mouth on this is amazing.   When I got there, just before noon on Saturday, there were already 10 people in line about 10 minutes before the place was open.   I also saw the attached sign, asking people to line up to the left to avoid blocking the entrance to the Apartment.   I looked for the appartment, and it’s about a good 50 feet away.

Here's the sign they had in the window. Line ups are good for brand value

So clearly, all the story and mystique has created a word of mouth that is getting people to travel for this burger.   It’s 45 min from my house, and I ran into someone I knew who lives 45 minutes the other way.   Both of us just felt compelled to try it.  Keep in mind, the stories he’s created help drive word of mouth and in turn demand.   The line up makes things much more predictable for him, so the food is fresher/better tasting.   He can manage his inventories, staff accordingly and drive down his costs by driving up his volume.   Plus, I would have paid anything at this moment for the burger.   Lastly, I started to tell my friend in line that about the Five Guys burger I had which was amazing and a stranger jumped into our conversation to defend his priest, saying it’s not even close.   Already has brand advocates defending the brand.   He’s clearly working his branded business system.

As for the burger, it was ideal.   I’d say it’s a tie with Five Guys Burgers–which has a story unto itself–with celebrity endorsement like Obama and Shaquille O’Neil.   Both use the same technique of keeping the burger juicy, while ensuring it’s well done on the outside.  Very similar taste.   (More bacon on the Five Guys, and the Fries are better)  The fries at the Priest need improving to be great.    Poor Licks, a Toronto icon for many years, has been losing out the last few.  The only good thing about Licks now, is there’s never any wait and you can have a nice quiet meal (e.g. no one goes there)

For those of you looking for a great burger, I’d recommend it for sure.  For those of you looking for unique marketing and seeing how a small business is trying to drive a BELOVED BURGER, this is a great example.  Not sure if he spent six months figuring out the world’s best burger, or just six months becoming the world’s best marketer.   A great brand in the making.

Top 3 Burgers in Toronto (my view)

  1. Five Guys Burgers
  2. Burgers Priest
  3. Craft Burger (now the Big Smoke)

The Burger’s Priest

Nov 16th, 2011, Update to the Story:  Burger’s Priest opening a second location in North Toronto, on Yonge Street between York Mills and Lawrence.  Great location choice.   Talk of further expansion into the West end of Toronto, likely High Park or Bloor West Village.   Need a good income level to afford 9 dollar burgers.   It will be interesting to see how many they put into Toronto, and then into the rest of Canada.   One big fan of the Priest who I told was actually disappointed about the expansion plans..