Brand Starts and Ends at the Core

Gord Hotchkiss in MediaPost in an article on Brand Promises Vs. Brand Religions:

One thing that both these natures of brand have in common: ultimately they depend on the values, integrity and effectiveness of the organization that creates the brand. If the brand is a promise of a level of quality, you can’t break the promise with immunity, especially in a digitally amplified world of blogs, forums and buzz. Each of the “promise” brands I used as examples, GM, United and Microsoft, stand in danger of their promises losing all meaning with customers. A promise is only as good as the level of trust you’ve built with the recipient.

But if the brand is a religion, the culture of the organization becomes even more important. Irrational decision factors run amok: the perceived culture of the organization, how the brand label connects with who we are, the social circles it places us it, or the circles we wish it would place us in, the values the company stands for, the exclusivity of the brand. The brand relationship becomes a complex stew of beliefs and emotions. We only make this investment for brands that hold a unique position in our mindscape. We feel we have to get as much from the brand as we’re willing to give it in terms of our emotional loyalty. And if a brand doesn’t reciprocate, it is quickly downscaled from a religion to a passing fancy.

Brands in Time of Crisis

When Summer Mills visited her local CVS drugstore recently, to save a few dollars she bought the store-brand facial scrub rather than the Olay version she normally uses.

“I thought I’d be able to tell the difference, but I couldn’t — I looked at the ingredients and they seemed almost the same,” says 30-year-old Ms. Mills, a stay-at-home mother of two in Ardmore, Okla. On her next shopping trip, “I’m going to buy the store-brand moisturizer and cleanser — it’s less money.”

Many Americans are changing their everyday purchases and abandoning brand loyalty, prompted by the persistent financial pressure of rising food, gasoline and electricity prices. 

Retailers are also sensing more shopper experimentation. This fall, supermarkets Safeway Inc. and Kroger Co. noted that sales of their store brands are on the rise. “In this economy, customers are much more willing to try a private-label item, and we’re seeing signs that this is happening more and more as the year progresses,” Kroger CEO David Dillon said on a conference call.

To be sure, overall sales of name-brand goods are still higher than those of store brands. Still, about 40% of primary household shoppers said they started buying store-brand paper products because “they are cheaper than national brands,” according to a September report by market-research company Mintel International, which interviewed 3,000 consumers. Nearly 25% of respondents reported that it is “really hard to tell the difference” between national brands and store brands of paper products. Store brands on average cost 46% less than name-brand versions, Mintel found.

The above paragraphs are extracted from todays WSJ’s article At the Supermarket Checkout, Frugality Trumps Brand Loyalty .

Crisis provides brands a challenge and an oportunity. Is the time that most of the brands will be put to test by tougher buying conditions or pricing beyond brand as a final buying argument.

It’s the time new brands can made their way up into the consumers minds and benefit later from surviving these harder times.

Five Management Traits For Global Brands

Via Brandchannel & Interbrand, an interesting list of five management traits that are employed by leading global brands.

Seek out insights:

Outstanding brands identify customer insights. When these insights are shared across cultures they assist in a brand’s adoption globally.

Integrate local intelligence:

Brand guidelines are tremendous tools for ensuring consistency. However, they have been known to impede innovation and diminish relevance. Brands are dynamic, never static, so the management of them must integrate new thought. In the case of global brands, to assume that one message can appeal uniformly to all audiences with equal relevance is unrealistic. Well-managed global brands cull local markets for intelligence related to the ‘next big thing’ to ensure local relevance and to counter competitor’s moves.
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FutureLab Top 100 Online Brands

Based on the BusinessWeek/Interbrand Top Most Valuable Brands in the world, FutureLab ranks the online relevance of those brands.

The purpose: to highlight to senior executives the importance of paying close attention to their brand’s performance in the online arena.

The method: ranking is based on the number of times the brand’s name appears in leading search engines like Google, Baidu and Technorati, the number of links to the brands website, its reach and Page-rank relevance, and the number of times people express their “love” or “hate” for the brand.

The Top 10 (Interbrand/BusinessWeek position in brackets):

  1. Google (38)
  2. eBay (55)
  3. Apple (41)
  4. (68)
  5. Disney (7)
  6. Yahoo! (58)
  7. Microsoft (2)
  8. Canon (35)
  9. Nokia (6)
  10. Sony (28)

A Brand Comeback

There is an interesting article on Influx pointing out six key learning points behind the Lacoste brand comeback.

Lacoste has coming roaring back from obscurity to become one of the hottest sports/apparel brands around. The company’s US sales grew in the US of 1000% in 5 years. Not bad for a brand that was once languishing under General Mills’s ownership.

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Top Growing Web Brands

Nielsen//NetRatings, a global leader in Internet media and market research, announced last week that user-generated content sites, platforms for photo sharing, video sharing and blogging, comprised five out of the top 10 fastest growing Web brands in July 2006.

Image hosting site ImageShack ranked No. 4 among July’s fastest growing Web brands, increasing 233 percent, from a unique audience of 2.3 million to 7.7 million (see Table 1)., a video sharing site, took the No. 5 spot, increasing 213 percent, from 965,000 to 3.0 million unique visitors. Photo sharing site Flickr followed at No. 6, growing 201 percent from 2.1 million to 6.3 million unique visitors. Other user-generated content sites that made it into the top 10 fastest growing Web brands were MySpace, with a 183 percent year-over-year increase, and Wikipedia, with a 181 percent year- over-year increase.

“User-generated content sites have seen significant growth over the past year, owing in large part to their reliance on viral marketing. They also benefit from their cost-effectiveness — the content is practically free.”

said Jon Gibs, director of media analytics, Nielsen//NetRatings.

Brand % Growth
HSBC                   394%
Sonic Solutions     241%
Associated Press   234%
ImageShack          233%
——————————————————————–            213%
Flickr                    201%
ARTIST Direct       185%
——————————————————————–     184%
MySpace                183%
Wikipedia               181%

BBC on Brands and Slogans

Brand identity is something all companies worry about. One way companies are trying to attract and retain our attention is through memorable corporate slogans.

These catchphrases are designed to sum up the essence of a business in a way that will stick in the mind and trip off the tongue.

Marketing professionals say a corporate slogan must be concise and distinctive, encapsulating a basic “promise” to a company’s users.

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Most Popular Brands With Teens Worldwide

Teens are mostly influenced by the culture of brands. Once dominant, U.S. labels now account for just half of the 10 brands that are favorites among teens globally, based on a new study entitled “GenWorld,” conducted by Energy/BBDO and obtained exclusively by WWD. That’s down from the eight U.S. brands that made teens’ top 10 in 1995, when Chip Walker, executive vice president at Energy/BBDO, last did comparable research on teens, for the former agency D’Arcy Masius Benton & Bowles.

Branding experts differ on the chief causes of the apparent loyalty shift. They cite factors that range from deft, low-key marketing and product innovation by firms to a political pushback by young consumers. Smart brands win teen market share by allowing teens to be part of a brand “story,” experts say. Mr. Walker names the global teen “passion points” as music, media, sports, and communication.

Still, not all experts see country of origin as an issue with teens. Some doubt whether many US teens could name Adidas’s home base.

“For today’s teens, online buzz is king, and peers hold the most sway. What applies to young people is ‘Did it break? And did my friends say it was cool?’ [It’s an] opinion process that goes on through IMs and text-messaging, and it applies to everything from movies to cargo pants.”

says Jim Taylor, vice chairman of the Harrison Group who has worked with the trend-watcher firm Intellisponse on its annual surveys of what (primarily US) teens want.

10 Most Popular Brands With Teens Worldwide

Favorite Brand 2005
Favorite Brand 1995

If you want to read full Energy BBDO release on the study here is the PDF file (85 kB).

Brands vs. Tomorrow’s Major Consumers: Teenagers

GenWorld Teen Study just released by Energy BBDO has interesting information for marketers, giving them some suggestions on how to reach tomorrow’s major consumers: teenagers. Conducted in 13 countries, the study found a worldwide generation is being guided by one ethical code: authenticity.

[..] unlike the Gen-Xers that preceded them, this new generation believes there are causes worth supporting, with 70% agreeing with the statement, “I would fight for a cause I believe in.”

So what does this means for brands? In a statement, Walker said, “The days of a Nike-style mega brand that dominates an entire generation may be over, but so is the enclave-ization of the teen world into stereotypical Skaters, Goths, Geeks and Cool Kids. Welcome to a world with as many different definitions of cool as there are individuals.”

The PDF copy of the report can be seen HERE (PDF, 2.6 MB)