Brand Strategy 101

brand marketingbrand marketingunique selling propositionWhat do Apple, Coke, HP, Oreo, McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, P&G, Starbucks, and Nike having common? They’re all iconic brands. These great brands stand out from competitors and are household words across much of the planet.

What do you need to build a great brand strategy?

But, how did they become great brands?

Will they always be great brands?

Building a great brand strategy

Building a great brand strategy has little or nothing to do with logo design, despite the contentions of thousands of “branding” agencies whose main product is logo design — or brand names. Great brands take careful and consistent marketing strategy, with logo design comprising only 1 small part of that strategy. Relying on your logo to propel your brand is very expensive.

David Aaker has this to say about iconic brands:

Brands are an accepted part of our daily lives. But some brands seem to transcend their product or service categories to become part of the popular culture. What distinguishes these iconic brands from the rest of the pack, and what can marketers learn from them?

How does a company go about building a great brand strategy to be like these iconic ones?

Great brand strategies all share 3 things:

1. High quality

It goes without saying that all great brands provide great quality, not just from the perspective of performance, but in terms of solving consumer problems. While simply providing high quality isn’t enough to make a great brand, no company creates a great brand without providing consistent high quality products (or services). In marketing, we call is a necessary, but not sufficient condition for being a great brand. Deliver high quality as part of your brand strategy.

2. Unique product offering

Brand strategy requires careful consideration and follow-through on delivering a unique product offering.

You don’t have to think very hard about the iconic brands listed above to detect their unique product offering (in marketing we often call this the brand’s unique selling proposition – USP or value proposition – VP). Sometimes, the USP has little or nothing to do with the brand’s core product.

Starbucks is a great example of a company offering a USP having little to do with its core product — coffee. Instead, Starbucks’ USP is its cozy store environment and corporate culture that provide a welcoming “third place” — home, work, Starbucks — for folks to linger over a cup of coffee, work or meet friends, of simply waste a few minutes between appointments. They have comfy chairs, clean bathrooms that are never locked, a table to work on, a roaring fire in the winter, and friendly employees. Starbucks also offers affordable luxury — selling overpriced coffee which allows us to feel like elite celebrities.

Forbes attributes the prominence of iconic brands like Apple and Nike with their USP designed to celebrate the user, not the brand.

The importance of creating a USP is highlighted in a Huffington Post article predicting the demise of once-iconic brands including Red Lobster, Blackberry, and Zynga.  In each case, the brand’s fall from grace followed a prolonged period when either competitors matched or exceeded the USP provided by the brand or consumers’ taste changed, devaluing their USP. These brands developed a brand strategy, then ignored it as the world changed around them.

Thus, great brand strategy not only create a USP, it constantly checks the pulse of competitors and consumers to ensure the USP evolves to exceed in consumer solutions.

3. Myth or storytelling

Douglas Holt, now CEO of Cultural Branding and former professor at Harvard Business School and Oxford, argues it is myth-making and storytelling, not USP or product quality, that propel a brand to the rarefied heights of iconic brands. He contends this occurs because brand strategy focused on developing these myths:

People have always needed myths. Simple stories with compelling characters and resonant plots, myths help us make sense of the world. They provide ideals to live by, and they work to resolve life’s most vexing questions. Icons are encapsulated myths. They are powerful because they deliver myths to us in a tangible form, thereby making them more accessible.

The best cultural myths not only resonate with consumers because they’re embedded in deeply shared cultural awareness, but position the consumer, herself, as the hero of the myth.

The Marlboro Man is a great example of such cultural myth that resolves tensions in our every-day lives. As part of their brand strategy, Philip Morris created the myth of The Marlboro Man, portrayed as a ruggedly handsome cowboy, represents independence, strength, power, and control over his environment that feeds into tensions consumers feel in modern living where they lack these desirable qualities. The cowboy myth, indeed a myth spread through hundreds of western movies featuring the likes of “Big” John Wayne, belies the reality that most cowboys were mainly illiterate, mostly minorities (a full 1/4 were black) who followed large herds of cattle as they made their arduous journey to markets.

It’s particularly appropriate to discuss this particular myth in an article about branding, since it’s the early open range that necessitated brands to distinguish 1 owner’s cattle from another’s. Of course, Holt goes on to write:

When a brand creates a myth, most often through advertisements, consumers come to perceive the myth as embodied in the product. So they buy the product to consume the myth and to forge a relationship with the author: the brand. Anthropologists call this “ritual action.” When Nike’s core customers laced up their Air Jordans in the early 1990s, they tapped into Nike’s myth of individual achievement through perseverance. As Apple’s customers typed away on their keyboards in the late 1990s, they communed with the company’s myth of rebellious, creative, libertarian values at work in a new economy.

Apple’s myth likely traces back to the “1984” commercial inspired by George Orwell’s novel featuring a dystopic future where thoughts, ideas, and even history were controlled — as an aside, the commercial only aired publicly once — during the Super Bowl, before George Orwell’s estate successfully enjoined further broadcasts. Despite this, the commercial was hugely successful in aligning Apple with this myth ethos resulting in a huge sales bump for the then fledgling Mac. According to Forbes, the Apple 1984 commercial became the standard against which all future commercials were measured.

Recent commercials depicting Apple as the young, stylish actor while PC is the slightly portly and less appealing actor successfully continued building the brand and supporting the existing myth to modern audiences.

Building the myth is only part of the job. The myth must resonate with consumers by empowering them to overcome tension in their world. This means the myth must reflect a consistent image that belies reality — like The Marlboro Man depicts the cowboy myth — where the consumer is the hero of the story.

To an extent, using celebrities as a spokesperson for your brand serves a similar role — it identifies the brand with the brand of the actor. Of course, that danger with this alignment is when the celebrity commits acts not consistent with the brand, most recently Tiger Woods and his numerous affairs.

Need Help?

Whether you need a complete content marketing strategy or a complete metrics-driven social media strategy, we can fill your digital marketing funnel. We can help you do your own social media marketing better or do it for you with our community managers, strategists, and account executives. You can request a FREE introductory meeting or sign up for my email newsletter to learn more about social media marketing.

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Use Social Media to Support Your Local Business

social media support your local business
Let Social Media bring more customers to your local business

Local businesses often feel like social media just isn’t for them.  But blogging is still a good way to make money, even if you never want to make money from your blog.  Small local businesses can see a huge increase in sales through blogging and other social media tactics driving customers to your physical store.

Let’s say you have a retail store selling children’s shoes.

How will customers find you online?

Either they’ll search for children’s shoes or they’ll listen to what their friends are saying on Facebook and search for your store.  Of course, you can do traditional advertising, too.

Searching online requires your store show up on the first page in Google (or some other search engine) because consumers rarely look beyond the first page for options and being on top of the results page has a tremendous impact on sales in your store.  Strategies to get you there are called SEO (Search Engine Optimization).  Generating a buzz about your store on Facebook, or other social network, requires consumers willing to talk about your brand or share your messages with their networks.  We call this SMO (Social Media Optimization).

Lately, these two aspects of getting your store noticed have blended because Google changed its search algorithm so it’s using social media buzz as part of what determines where your business shows up in an organic search (ie. When you search for children’s shoes, rather than XYZ shoe store).

How you can make money blogging using SEO principles

No one knows exactly what’s in Google’s algorithm but SEO experts play around with different tactics (actually experimenting and carefully monitoring results) to find out some things that have a big impact on where you show up on the results page.   Here are just a few things we know help you show up higher in search:

  • Fresh content on your website
  • Having more people visit your website
  • Keywords match search terms
  • Engaging consumers in social media

How you can make money blogging using SMO principles

Here are some things you can do in social media that encourage consumers to create buzz about your store:

  • Share interesting facts about your products
  • Talk about consumers
  • Have consumers help create new products or services

How a blog helps you make money

While some of the things that get you first in search results can be done without a blog, some can’t and ALL of them can be done with a blog.  Here are some examples of things you can do with a blog to make money in your retail store:

  • Blog about material in your shoes, where your shoes come from, or fun facts about shoes such as how they impact development or foot health.  This increases the keyword density on your site and likely brings traffic from folks who don’t need shoes right now, but will remember you when they do.
  • Take pictures of customers who come in for shoes or collect pictures of them wearing your shoes in interesting places and post them to your blog.  You can even have contests to encourage more submissions.  Maybe they have to hold a picture of your store or a sign about it to enter the contest.  This encourages consumers to share the pictures with their friends meaning they’re also spreading the word about your store.
  • Ask customers to suggest new products or services and get their friends to vote for their ideas.  Again, you’re spread the word about your store through your blog.
  • Create a cause for your local business.  Maybe you’ll donate shoes like Toms or talk about sustainable practices in your store or some other cause marketing efforts.  For instance, McDonald’s supports the Ronald McDonald house that has nothing to do with their business, but is appealing to their target market — families with kids.
  • Of course, even if you decide not to blog on your blog, you can turn it into an ecommerce site with less expense and effort than if you had created a static website.  All you need is a plugin and there are several available at low cost or free.  It will also be more dynamic – meaning you can change products or layouts much more easily than in a static website.

Don’t forget other social media platforms

While your blog is your home base online, other social media tactics help bring traffic to your site.  Here are just a few options local businesses should use to bring more traffic (and money) into their business:

  • Google Places – claim your physical location and link it to your Google+ page and your website.  Google returns websites located nearby since searchers often want local businesses.
  • Yelp and other rating sites are great to ensure folks find your local business.  Encourage patrons to rate your products and services and share their ratings with their Facebook and Twitter networks.
  • Facebook and Twitter are, of course, nearly mandatory given the huge number of users of these social media platforms.
  • Develop relationships with other local businesses and link your sites together.  For instance, other retailers in your mall or shopping center might create an online shopping venue supporting all the local businesses.  At a minimum, these local businesses should cross-link their digital properties.

Hausman and Associates

Hausman and Associates publishes Hausman Marketing Letter and the monthly email newsletter of the same name.  We also provide cost-effective marketing and social media through our virtual agency concept.  We welcome new clients and would happily provide a proposal to show you how we can make your marketing SIZZLE.


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5 Ways to Make Sure Your Marketing Is LOVEABLE

Visual: How Marketing Evolved Into Something People Actually LoveInteresting graphic today from HubSpot on how marketing is loveable.  I’m not sure when marketing became a 4 letter word, but I agree marketing spruced up its image with the rise of social media.

Of course, understand that only a small fraction of most company’s marketing spend is for social media — and much of that is done really BADLY — ie. not loveable marketing that is still disruptive and me-oriented.

Loveable marketing

solves problems

Marketing should have never been a 4 letter word if marketers understood marketing (or maybe it’s more a function of CEO’s understanding marketing).

When Marketing is Loveable it SOLVES PROBLEMS

And, when marketing solves consumer problems, everyone benefits — the firm and its stakeholders benefit from increased sales, consumers benefit from having their problems solved, government benefits from increased taxes.

But, somewhere along the road to modernity, marketers forgot their primary directive was to solve problems and instead, focused on selling product — no matter WHAT it took.  The relationship marketing concept supposedly embraced by firms sought to change the notion of selling to one of building relationships with consumers built on trust, product quality, and superior service.

Instead, it was easier (and cheaper) for firms to trick consumers into buying mediocre products from indifferent service providers and pay lip service to relationship building.  Social media marketing quickly uncovers the fraud of this approach; finally forcing firms to CARE about consumers.

So, the question is:

How do I make sure my marketing is loveable?

1. Superior customer service

Sometimes folks forget that marketing is SO much more than advertising.  And customer service is a good example of how non-advertising aspects of marketing deeply affect sales.

I mean, think about it.  How often have you left a restaurant or store swearing you’d never return because the service provider was rude, slow, poorly trained …?

I walked out of Wendy’s last week after being ignored by a half-dozen employees who were too busy laughing at their own jokes and a counter clerk on a personal call to wait on the customers at the counter.  I walked next door to their competition and I’ll never go back.  Face it, consumers have LOTS of choices and you’re just not that special.  Mess up and I’ll just give your competition my money.  When you multiply this by the number of customers getting bad service and you see the monumental impact of poor service on profits.

2. Understand what customers want

How can you solve consumer problems and give them what they want if you DON’T UNDERSTAND them? Obviously, you can’t.  But, when was the last time you spent significant effort trying to understand your target market?  Not, tracking the effect of your advertising on customer attitudes — really getting to know your target market?

My guess is it’s been a long time (or never) since you really tried to understand your target market.  People point fingers at Apple products because they’re too expensive and not as good as other brands.  All true, yet Apple sales soar while Microsoft posted its first quarterly loss earlier this month.  Why do people buy expensive, inferior Apple products, such as iPhone, rather than less expensive, better performing alternatives, like Android phones? Because Apple understands its target market and gives them exactly what they want.

3. Innovate, innovate, innovate

Customer problems, technology, and the environment change over time.  If you’re still offering the same great products, you’re loosing ground.  Intel, for instance, states that most of its income comes from products that didn’t even exist at the beginning of the year.

But, just innovating isn’t enough.  You have to use your customer understanding to create innovative products to solve consumer problems.  New isn’t the goal.  Solving new problems or solving them better is.  Look at Zuckerberg (Facebook).  He wasn’t a freakin’ genius.  Facebook wasn’t a NEW idea.  What was new was the interface that made creating a profile and connecting with “friends” intuitive.  And this is what made Facebook a huge success and squashed MySpace like a bug.

4. Engage

Consumers are PEOPLE, not numbers on a spreadsheet.  Engage them in conversation.  Ask their opinion. Have them create content for you.  This is where HubSpot really got it right in their graphic.

5. Be a good corporate citizen

Gone are the days when consumers would accept corporations that polluted our environment, made their products in sweat shops (ie. Nike), and endangered consumers with bad products.  Marketing is loveable when corporations act responsibly.

For example, I go to McDonald’s most of the time when I want fast food.  Granted, their food is only mediocre and their service minimally acceptable, but they’re GREAT corporate citizens.  Not only does McDonald’s support the Ronald McDonald House, it donates to many local and national charities through corporate donations and in-kind donations of food.  Restaurant employees are encouraged to “Adopt” a road to clean trash thrown out by consumers because trash bearing your logo is bad business.  McDonald’s also voluntarily reduced the calories and increased the nutrition in their Happy Meal by reducing the size of the fries and adding sliced apples.

So, now you see how marketing is loveable.  I hope you try some of these tactics soon.  Let me know how it goes. Loveable marketing doesn’t happen overnight, but, over time you should see sales increase.

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Marketing Jobs: McDonalds, Gaylord Hotels, and the NY Post

marketing jobs I’m a little late getting the marketing jobs listing out this week, so I apologize.

Here’s the list of marketing jobs open this week. Numbers refer to marketing jobs listed at Howard University, however most employment opportunities are open to anyone.  If you’re a Howard student, please contact CPD for more details.  Others should contact the company directly for more information.

As part of Social Media Week DC, I attended a breakfast meeting yesterday where Peter Corbett, iStrategyLabs, quoted the statistic that DC is one of the fastest growing employment hubs for social media employees.  About 90% of the 200+ attendees said they have openings for folks with social media marketing skills.  So, keep that in mind as you prepare your resume and prep for interviews.


Internships & Part Time Jobs

New positions highlighted

Consumer Sales Co-Op

Johnson & Johnson

Deadline: 02/12/2012

Nacelink ID: 2133828

Social Media/Multimedia Intern

General Services Administration

Deadline: 02/29/2012

Nacelink ID: 2133990

Summer Marketing and Communications Internship


Deadline: 03/01/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135378

Marketing & Communications Internship


Deadline: 03/07/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135518

Marketing, PR, and Social Media Internship

Linden Resources

Deadline: 03/30/2012

See Attachment

Brand Ambassador

Crime Museum

Deadline: 04/30/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135318

Digital & Social Media Marketing Intern

Times Square Alliance

Deadline: 04/10/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135470

Kmart Retail Management Intern

Sears Holding Co.

Deadline: 05/05/2012

Nacleink ID: 2132911

Sears Retail Management Intern

Sears Holding Co.

Deadline: 05/05/2012

Nacelink ID: 213912

Summer 2012 Internship

Simon and Schuster

Deadline: 05/07/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135441

Public Relations Account Executive Intern

Strauss Radio Strategies, Inc.

Deadline: 05/11/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135520

Online Communications Intern

Worldwatch Institute

Deadline: 05/30/2012

Nacelink ID: 2132358

Population Media and Communications Intern

Worldwatch Institute

Deadline: 05/30/2012

Nacelink ID: 2132357

Climate & Energy Communications Intern

Worldwatch Institute

Deadline: 05/30/2012

Nacelink ID: 2132354

State of the World 2012 Media and Communications Intern

Worldwatch Institute

Deadline: 05/30/2012

Nacelink ID: 2132355

Vital Signs Online Media and Communications Intern

Worldwatch Institute

Deadline: 05/30/2012

Nacelink ID: 2132356

Marketing Intern

Pepco Energy Services

Deadline: 5/31/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135024




Full-Time Opportunities
New positions highlighted

Communications Position


Deadline: 02/24/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135203

National Sales Manager

Gaylord Hotels

Deadline: See attachment

Advertising Sales Account Coordinator

New York Post

Deadline: 03/02/2012

Nacelink ID: 2134093

Request for Proposal Team Summer Internship


Deadline: 03/07/2012

Nacelink ID: 2135519

Outsides Sales Representative

McDonald Group

Deadline: 03/31/2012

Nacelink ID: 2134036

Brand Marketing Associate

Capital One

Deadline: 03/31/2012

Nacelink ID: 2133612

Management Trainee

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Deadline: 05/30/2012

Nacelink ID: 2134120

Sales Representative

Aspire Consulting

Deadline: 07/31/2012

Nacelink ID: 2134177



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Marketing Strategy: Is Impersonal Influence Ethical

Last week, we discussed personal or social influence as a tool of marketing strategy.  Today, we are talking about impersonal influence as part of your marketing strategy.  You can get more information on both social influence and impersonal influence in Robert Cialdini’s book entitled, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.

Product Cues

Semiotics – A major influence on consumer attitudes toward a product come for product cues.  Much of this influence centers on semiotics — which has to do with the meaning associated with signs and how these signs affect behavior.  Colors have an impact on how we interpret products – for instance gold implies expensive, exclusive, and high quality, while green implies natural and environmentally- friendly and black implies sophistication.  Colors, in fact all semiotics, are very culturally specific, so you need to be careful if you’re attempting to exert influence in several different cultures.

Price – Since its difficult to determine the quality of some products (and services), price sometimes is used as a surrogate for quality.  In an example from Cialdini’s book,  jewelry sold more quickly at TWICE the original price.

Pricing Influence

Marketing Strategy: Pricing

Economists will tell you that consumers prefer cheap products to more expensive products.  They contend that consumers are utility maximizers — meaning they want the most for the least amount of money.

In marketing strategy,  we know that consumers behave differently when different pricing strategies are employed.  Marketing strategies such as odd pricing (also called psychological pricing), bundle pricing, premium pricing, sales pricing all impact consumer behavior and influence purchase of products.  To see more about building a marketing strategy using pricing, see this article summarizing Kent Monroe’s The Pricing Strategy Audit.

Product Placement – Which retailers carry your product sends multiple messages.  It tells consumers about the quality of the product.  It also tells consumers about who the product is for.  For instance a product sold in a store with blaring rap music does not sell products for middle-aged consumers.

Brand – Brand is probably the strongest impersonal source of influence.  Not only does this provide a statement of quality, but provides a brand personality.  For more on using branding as an element of your marketing strategy, see a series of posts in my archives.

Other Impersonal Influences

Scarcity is another influence tool of marketing strategy.  People seem to always want what they can’t have. Scarcity appeals to this consumer need.  Research shows that consumers will buy more of a product if purchase is limited to, say 4, than if no limit is imposed.  Consumers will also buy more quickly if an offer expires at a particular time and are more likely to buy if the product will only be available in limited quantities or for a limited time.  McDonald’s uses this marketing strategy in only producing the McRib at certain times of the year.

Follow the Leader

If you see someone doing something, the tendency is to do the same thing. OK, maybe this is more of a personal strategy, but I forgot to mention it last week.  We talked about people emulating people they respect, but this even works when we don’t know the other person or have any reason to respect them.

Cialdini talks about how, seeing someone looking up causes nearly everyone around them to look up.  So, it you see a long line outside a restaurant, the interpretation is that the restaurant is good.  Now, that may not work in the short run — as you may not be willing to wait for a table — but you’ll see a short line in the future as an irresistible force driving you to the restaurant.  Clubs get a big boost in patrons when they have lines outside and they manufacture these lines by limiting access or other tools to create a line.

This works for other kinds of following, as well.

Is  Impersonal Influence Ethical?

Well, that’s a loaded question.  Some people would argue that many forms of influence are unethical and certainly some situations increase this ethical dilemma.  For instance, when advertising to children, care should be taken to limit the use of influence in marketing strategies.  The same goes for other groups that are overly susceptible to influence.

Some kinds of influence are helpful.  For instance, brand gives consumers a lot of valuable information in a short-cut format.

Some kinds of influence may be more questionable.  For instance, using celebrities who are paid for using particular products or endorse products by stating they use them when they don’t.  Some of these influence strategies are, in fact, illegal because of the potential for undo influence.

Another ethical issue is creating artificial scarcity.  Not only is this arguably unethical, it may backfire on you when consumers become aware that you’ve manufactured scarcity.

Finally, the issue of having a sale on products.  Again, the law becomes involved in your marketing strategy.  For instance, you can’t promote something as a “sale” if the product never sold for a higher price.  You can, however, list you product containing both a higher manufacturer’s suggested retail price and your own, lower price.

Are there other influence tools you’ve found valuable in your own marketing strategy?  Which influence tools have been most successful for your company?  Are these tools ethical?

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