Category: brand identity
The term essence is the abstraction that audiences take away after experiencing the brand. It describes the fundamental, timeless elements ascribed to a brand.
The essence is stated in a word or, a phrase. If you must use more than a brief phrase to describe the essence you have not identified it.
The brand essence you identify should be true of the brand as well as the sub brands. It elicits an emotional benefit.
For example, the essence of the Target stores’ brand might be described as “cheap chic”; the emotional benefit might be the ability to look stylish and trendy, even on a budget. The company reinforces the brand essence with trendy, iconic advertising, packaging, retail design, and stylish, but affordable, merchandise.
It’s also important that the brand essence has been consistently present since the beginning of the brand, otherwise, customers, employees and partners may be confused by what the brand is intended to represent, or feel that it is misleading or untrue. Authenticity, clarity and consistency help to reassure customers, employees and other stakeholders that they can trust the brand to deliver what it claims to deliver.
Identifying the Brand Essence
First, make sure that you understand the brand essence from the standpoint of the customer. Utilize a combination of techniques, from surveys to focus groups to interviews to help identify the essence. Avoid confusing customers with marketing lingo; instead ask them in ways that are understandable to laymen.
Explore the history of the brand; what was the early brand intended to communicate to stakeholders. Look at early advertising, communications, etc.
Consider the changes occurring in the industry; what are the characteristics of successful brands within your industry?
Criteria for Evaluating the Brand Essence
Ask these questions to ensure that you’ve identified an effective and authentic brand essence:
- Is it simply stated from the customer’s point of view? You should be able to describe the essence in a way that even a nonmarketer can understand.
- Is it one word, or at most, a short phrase? If it requires explanation, then you’ve got some work to do.
- Is it honest and authentic? It’s okay to be aspirational, but don’t try to make your brand into something that it’s not.
- Is it true of the brand as well as sub-brands? Brands and sub-brands are part of the same ‘family’; as such they share the same brand essence (DNA).
- Is it relevant across geography? Don’t assume that customers will react the same way in different parts of the country or different parts of the world.
- Does it enable growth? Think to the future – will the essence be as meaningful then as it is now?
- Is it potentially ownable? Does a competitor lay claim to the same essence? If so:
- Does it tap into a higher-order emotional benefit?
- Has it been present from the beginning of the franchise? Try to identify an essence that is true of the brand since its beginnings to leverage employee, partner and customer perceptions of the brand.
Three of Tiger Woods’ sponsors, Nike (NKE), Gatorade and Gillette, have expressed their support in the aftermath of his automobile accident and rumored affair. CNN 11/30/09
The founder and former president and CEO of Jones Soda has founded BoxB, a company that will create nonalcoholic private label beverages for distributors. Owning their own brand eliminates the risk associated with building non-owned brands and then losing the distribution when they become a hit. Brandweek 11/28/09
With Christmas less than five weeks away, Borders (BGP) and Barnes & Noble (BKS) are concerned that the weak economy will depress sales, despite best sellers from Dan Brown, Stephen King and Sarah Palin. wsj.com 11/25/09 May require subscription.
Dress Barn (DBRN) has completed its merger of Tween Brands, owner of the Justice brand that caters to children from the ages of 7 to 14. It will operate as a subsidiary of Dress Barn. Chainstoreage.com 11/25/09
AOL is adopting a new brand identity next month when it spins off from Time Warner (TWX). The triangle is gone, and the uppercase “AOL” is now upper & lower case, punctuated with a period: “Aol.” NYTimes.com 11/22/09 via Media Bistro
Tide has introduced “Stain Brain,” an iPhone app that offers simple solutions on the spot and allows people to share cleaning tips. The move coincided with the launch of Tide’s Stain Release in-wash booster, designed to be added into the regular laundry load to remove a host of stubborn stains. CMDGlobal.com
Xerox (XRX), known for selling printers, copiers, inks, toners and paper, is reinventing itself as a company that helps customers to use less of these products. The company hopes the approach will position them competitively and appeal to customers who are attracted to green solutions to reduce costs and their carbon footprints. Newsweek 11/21/08.
Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps recently signed an exclusive deal to promote Subway’s healthy fresh brand positioning. Brandweek 11/21/08.
Pentax is launching a new brand positioning “intended to appeal to “independent spirits who see the world through a different lens,” and to challenge and encourage the independent spirit of photographers who are considering Pentax cameras.” The new tagline: “Be interesting.” MediaPost 11/17/08, Businesswire 11/17/08
Brands "that represent good quality, no-nonsense and excellent value for money” such as
Campbell ’s (CPB) will prosper in 2009. Green brands, those based on corporate social responsibility, as well as status and luxury brands, will struggle says The Economist 11/19/08.
Say buh-bye to PC Magazine; after 27 years the monthly will be printed for the last time in January 2009, but will continue online. Adage 11/24/08.
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A soon-to-be-published study demonstrates that brand logos displayed by others - such as the Polo (RL) logo on a shirt, or the Dasani logo on a bottle of water - can impact consumer choices, even if worn by strangers and even if the consumer isn’t conscious of having seen it. Via The New York Times.
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Captive brands are actually in-store brands that differentiate themselves based on brand versus price positioning. Captive brands do promote their affiliation with the retailer, are frequently positioned head-to-head with national brands, and receive marketing promotion and support beyond that typically given to store brands. The focus on brand differentiation enables captive brands to have stronger margins versus traditional store or private label brands that sacrifice margins to achieve low price positioning.
Brandweek points to Walgreens (WAG) bioInfusion hair care products, and the CVS (CVS) Cristophe line, both of which compete with Procter & Gamble (PG) Pantene, as successful captive brands. Because these two captive brands receive greater marketing support than typical store brands, they position themselves as premium brands similar to the quality and pricing of consumer packaged goods brands from companies like P&G. This helps retailers to achieve a “richer margin” on captive brands versus national brands.
Usually captive brands are created by the retailer. But in some cases they are abandoned national brands that find new life as captive brands.
One example of a national brand reborn as a captive brand is ‘White Cloud,’ a toilet tissue trademark abandoned by Procter & Gamble. Wal-Mart (WMT) licensed White Cloud and relaunched it as a Wal-Mart in-store brand of toilet tissues. It is a captive, versus a store brand, because it leverages its significant equity as a former national brand to differentiate itself from other tissue brands, versus competing solely on price.
Nuprin, an abandoned brand of ibuprofen painkillers is another example. The Nuprin brand name was sold to CVS and relaunched as a store brand.
Because of their attractive margins, captive brands will increasingly put pressure on national brands. For example, Walgreens says their bioInfusion line, created just three years ago, is now “one of the top brands in the entire hair care category."
Retailers Rally Behind Their 'Captive Brands'
Can a Dead Brand Live Again?
store brand, private label
point of difference
frame of reference
reason to believe
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State Farm, “second-biggest ad spender among insurance marketers, no. 3 if Geico is included” is the ‘integrated’ sponsor of A&E’s new Thursday night reality series, “Jacked: Auto Theft Task Force” says AdAge. A State Farm agent will provide auto theft-prevention tips during “integrated” commercials that “seamlessly blend into the show.”
QSRWeb reports the release of the annual BusinessWeek and Interbrand list of Best Global Brands 2008. World-wide beverage giant, Coca-Cola, perches atop the list at number 1, Microsoft ranks at #3, and its nemesis, Google is at #10. Also in the top ten: McDonald’s (8) and Disney (9).
Folgers is unveiling a new roasting method the company calls “the biggest innovation since the launch of decaf,” says the New York Times. To tout the improved flavor and “cup-to-cup consistency,” the company will launch the most expensive ad campaign in the history of the brand to win customers among those who brew coffee at home.
Even a tough economy can’t keep a good truck down; according to the Free Press, Ford has announced that their industry leading (for 31 years) F-Series trucks will offer an optional SFE (superior fuel economy package "while still providing 7,500 pounds of towing capability.” Meanwhile, Chevrolet announced they would offer a similar package on their Silverado XFE truck last month, 7,000 pounds of towing capacity. Let the SFE truck wars begin.
The eighty-year old Springmaid brand has been rejuvenated with a new logo, brand positioning, designs and packaging. Parent and home furnishings supplier Springs Global US, Inc., says the relaunched brand delivers on the brand promise that “consumers will experience Surprise and Delight™ throughout their brand experience in impactful retail presentation, smart solutions that simplify her life and designs that enhance her desire to decorate.”
In October, Sears will launch the All American Army Brand’s First Infantry Division collection, inspired by the oldest and “most illustrious” division of the U.S. Army, the First Infantry Division. It is the first time the U.S. Army has officially licensed the use of its marks and insignias. The collection will be sold in Sears stores and at Sears.com. Source: Sears, Roebuck and Co.
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Some consumers are using Chock full o'Nuts coffee cans as burial urns for loved ones. Apparently they've been inspired by the recent Warner Bros. movie, "The Bucket List" about two terminally ill men, played by Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson who go on a road trip to do the things they've always wanted to do before they 'kick the bucket.' After their deaths, two Chock full o'Nuts coffee cans were used as burial urns.
Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA (MZB), manufacturer of Chock full o' Nuts coffee, reports that when an Ontario, Canada woman was unable to purchase Chock full o' Nuts coffee in her area, she asked the company for help. "My husband has terminal colon cancer,” she explained. “We went to see the movie 'The Bucket List'...my husband was deeply impacted by the end of the movie, so much that he said that's what I want at my funeral ...a Chock full o' Nuts coffee can for my ashes to be placed in."
Another woman wrote, "My Dad died of cancer a little more than two years ago and we thought it would be fitting to put him in a coffee can, too, as he was an avid coffee drinker... We have been shopping for a vintage looking Chock full o'Nuts coffee can in which to place my Dad's ashes since we saw the movie."
And a Florida father contacted MZB informing the company that he too had recently memorialized his son in a Chock full o' nuts coffee can and requested permission to use the Chock full o' Nuts coffee logo on a memorial patch that he planned to create in memory of his son.
Noting that “Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely of places,” the company has established http://www.chockfullonuts.com/stories/ where people can read and share stories of how they’ve memorialized their loved ones.” Besides, Chock full o’Nuts for years has been known as “The Heavenly Coffee.”
I’m sure that lots of people will read this story and think its just plain odd to use a coffee can as a burial urn. But if it comforts people to honor their loved one in a way that is meaningful to them---well, why not? Nice to see, too, that the company has embraced the family’s wishes instead of getting freaked out over whether this is appropriate for the brand. Any brand should be so lucky to be honored this way.
Source: Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA/PR Newswire
Image Credit: Massimo Zanetti Beverage USA /Newscom
- According to the Wall Street Journal Online, “makers of dishwasher detergent and fabric freshener are dressing up their packaging in the hopes that consumers will showcase the bottles when they're not using them. Instead of relying on bold colors and big logos to make these items jump off the store shelves, marketers are coming up with subtler packaging that they believe better meshes with shoppers' home decor.” Requires WSJ Subscription.
- The Travel Industry Association Survey says frustration with air travel has resulted in a $26.5 billion ‘hit’ to the U.S. economy as travelers avoided roughly 41 million trips over the past twelve months. And traveler attitudes are unlikely to change even as gas prices climb, representing continued lost opportunities for carriers. From MarketingCharts.
- Honda ups the ante with “the first ever live advert on British television” featuring 19 skydivers who will spell out the word Honda as part of the company advertising campaign, “Difficult is worth doing.” Here's the the first letter. For the full video click here.
The use of celebrity endorsers is a common---and tricky---brand building strategy. Consider these recent ‘incidents’ involving celebrity endorsers:
Christian Dior dropped celebrity spokesperson Sharon Stone from their advertising in China, after the actress suggested that recent earthquakes there were “karmic retribution for Beijing’s treatment of Tibet.”
Conservative bloggers protested a Dunkin Donuts ad that featured Rachel Ray wearing a scarf that they charged resembled keffiyeh, the patterned and fringed scarf that is the traditional headdress of Arab men---and associated by some Americans with terrorism.
A 2007 print ad for Deréon Girls, Beyoncé’s fashion line for young girls, resurfaced as the target of criticism by a new round of bloggers for oversexualizing and ‘tarting up’ young girls. The label is an offshoot of the Hip Hop fashion House of Deréon.
Celebrity endorsements have the potential to significantly raise sales and market share, and introduce the brand to a new target audience. For example, Forbes reports that Chanel’s endorsement deal with spokes icon Nicole Kidman increased business by nearly 16%, without any changes in fragrance or packaging, because “all of a sudden, younger women took notice of the brand.” (Reportedly Nicole Kidman is being replaced by "Amelie" star Audrey Tautou)
But endorsement deals can turn bad in an instant. Who can forget actor Ben Curtis’ famous utterance, “Dude, you’re getting a Dell”? The consumer campaign, was “hugely successful” for Dell Computer Corp. In 2002 Dell began to transition away from Curtis’ character and it’s just as well since the actor was arrested for attempting to buy marijuana on Manhattan’s lower east side.
As a result, the memorable line and character spawned a host of parodies and late night jokes, many of which were at the Dell brand’s expense. After Kobe Bryant’s rape arrest, Nutella and McDonald’s hastily dropped their agreements with the basketball star.
Celebrities are human after all; it’s impossible for marketers to remove every bit of risk from a deal. But here are three things every marketer must to enhance the potential for celebrity endorsement success:
Going Global? Make sure you understand cultural sensitivities. Blogger Daisy Kong asks why Dior would pick Sharon Stone to endorse their brand in China since her pro-Tibet stance is well known. Good question. Brands need to understand cultural sensitivities if they expect to succeed outside familiar turf.
Does the endorser/endorsee relationship make sense?
Seriously, when you think brand extensions for sexy, R&B star Beyoncé, do you immediately think children’s clothing line? Strategically smart celebrity/brand pairings enhance the core brand equities of each partner---and this doesn’t work for either.
Put fires out quickly. Despite a marketer's best efforts, sometimes stuff just happens. In the case of Rachel Ray’s scarf, most critics were also fans--- even the most vocal doubted she was trying to make a political statement. (Personally, the only reaction that I had to Ray’s scarf was that it was unattractive. The connection between it and a keffiyeh is a stretch.)
While it's absurd to suggest that Dunkin Donuts was promoting a terrorism symbol, the company was right not to provide fodder for those bloggers who live for controversy. The company simply pulled the ad and got back to making donuts.
Rachel Ray photo from AdAge
Dereon Girls Print ad from BrownSista
Dell Dude Screen Shot from YouTube