The daily press is full of branding news. Amazon debuted a TV ad campaign to position itself as a fashion destination; Macy’s launched two brands for juniors, Marilyn Monroe and Teen Vogue; Wendy’s redesigned its logo; Louis Vuitton will use fewer logos on its products; and Target opened its first stores in Canada, introducing itself as the friendly new neighbor.
Branding decisions are more complex than ever as markets become increasingly global, product assortments are growing and consumers interact with brands through social media.
In response to these market dynamics, brands must be customer focused and global. This is a key message of the new book, Global Brand Power: Leveraging Branding for Long-Term Growth, by Barbara Kahn, the Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor and director of the Baker Retailing Center. Drawing from her extensive research in consumer behavior and consulting, the book provides a wealth of insight on positioning, measuring and managing brands.
Here are some highlights:
• Customer focus means that brand managers must consider the total customer experience, including customers’ psychological responses like brand perceptions, mental associations and emotional attitudes. A classic example is the failed launch of New Coke, designed to replace Classic Coke to better compete with Pepsi. Pepsi had come out ahead in blind taste tests, but what the taste tests ignored was that the brand—emotional attachment, cherished memories and other associations—matters greatly to consumers’ perceptions and choices. Brands are much more than just product features.
• Clear positioning is the key to successful branding, and that starts with understanding the whole shopping process—from customer needs to information search to purchase, use and repurchase. Campbell’s comprehensive study of soup shoppers throughout the shopping process, including outside of the store, is a showcase of thorough customer research.
• The best-positioned brands differentiate themselves (e.g., 7UP is the “un-cola”) and have a sustainable competitive advantage. They segment the market and focus on target segments. Good examples are Chanel, positioned for slim, wealthy fashionistas, and Apple, positioned for creative, innovative, design-minded users. Even if a broader population ultimately uses these brands, the positioning remains.
• Authenticity, trustworthiness and brand personality foster brand positioning, while emotional elements and engaging marketing activities attach customers to the brand. Gamification is a good way to engage customers, such as when Green Giant gave Farm Cash to FarmVille players for stickers on its items.
In the end, brands need to create a coherent experience across all touch points. Starbucks is a good example with its cafe experience, barista interaction, grocery store products, and social media. The retailer Origins is another. Their store design (e.g., wood, earth tones, decorative product ingredients such as vanilla and coffee beans), do-it-yourself sampling, product presentation by skin need, clever product names (e.g., Checks and Balances), package recycling and social media all convey Origins’ focus on natural skin care and customer needs.
The complexity of today’s brand management requires constantly keeping track of consumers’ brand perceptions, attitudes and mental maps, as well as brands’ values and underlying drivers. The book provides different techniques for both qualitative and quantitative measurement.