We’ve heard less is more, and more is more. Personally, I’m on board with Paul Rand’s take, which is “just right is more.”
Well, sometimes MORE is JUST RIGHT.
On a corner three blocks from our office there’s a storefront of a new business owner who did an especially great job decorating with garland. More pine bounty per square foot than I’ve ever seen. I pass this storefront twice a day, unlit in the morning and lit up in the evening—the store, not me. And, it gets me each and every time I pass by. It gets me in the spirit of the holidays.
Deck the exterior walls!
Categories: Outside the Square
With the holidays upon us it’s officially open season on carbohydrates. But instead of bemoaning inevitable holiday weight gain, let’s take a moment and see what our sugary friends in the snack isle can teach us about brand relationship strategies.
Most businesses manage a family of offerings, and the perceived relationship between those “sub” brands and the parent or “master” brand matters. From financial firms with multiple fund lineups to non-profit arts organizations in the performing, presenting, education, and retail businesses, a strategy for managing the relationships between parent and product brands—so that credit and equity accrue in the right places—is a must.
It just so happens carbo-companies Mars, Nabisco, Pepperidge Farms, and Entenmann’s provide clear, memorable examples to help frame your thinking around brand relationships, which exist on a continuum from product-focused to master brand-focused,
So grab a glass of milk and dig in!
Skittles, Snickers, and Twix are all made by Mars, but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the packaging. This is called product branding. Each offering has its own identity and (yes!) value proposition, and the master brand is relegated to small type on the back. (I, for one, have affinity for the Twix value proposition!)
With product branding, all the equity is at the product level, and the success or failure of one offering is insulated from the success or failure of others in the family. Microsoft, for instance, entered the gaming (Xbox), search (Bing), and MP3 player (Zune) markets using a product branded strategy—while not readily apparent, Microsoft is indeed behind all three.
This is a great market share strategy, and as Microsoft has shown, a sound strategy for breaking into new markets. But the downside for many—particularly non-profits—is that unless people read the fine print they don’t know who’s behind the offering.
Next, look at Nabisco products like Oreos and Ginger Snaps. Each has its own visual identity, but the ubiquitous Nabisco triangle now provides a consistent endorsing agent. We call this endorsed branding. As above, the relationship is still largely at the product level as it’s unlikely you’d ever go into a supermarket for “Nabisco product cookies.” But the Nabisco imprimatur might persuade you to purchase Oreos over Stop & Shop brand sandwich cookies.
The strategy works for gaming companies like Electronic Arts (EA) as well. As a gamer, your relationship is at the game level, but you may choose one hockey game over another because of value you associate with EA through recommendations and past experience.
Now, let’s look at Pepperidge Farm. For the first time there’s a uniform visual/verbal brand system at work, and the source brand (Pepperidge Farm) and the product brand (Milano, for instance) share almost equal billing.
Source branding is a great strategy for cross-selling as one’s affinity is shared across both brands. Whereas you’d never go into a store for “Nabisco product cookies,” you might go into a store for “Pepperidge Farm cookies,” and if they were out of Milanos you’d be fine grabbing Brussels. Similarly, if you’ve had a good experience with an Adobe product, or a particular type of Samuel Adams beer, you’re likely willing to try another in the family. By pairing the source and product brands within a common visual and verbal brand system you have an opportunity to build equity at two levels at once.
Finally, let’s look at Entenmann’s, the last stop on the continuum. Here all the energy is put into building the master brand as the products are afforded no unique identity and are instead given generic names like strudel, cake, and danish. Google officially switched to this kind of master branding strategy for many of its core products back in May.
For organizations looking to extend a single value proposition across a number of like products, master branding makes a lot of sense. And for small to mid-sized businesses and non-profits, master branding is a great way to make the most of limited resources as you’re only managing one brand instead of several. And should you introduce a new product, for example, you don’t need to have 17 meetings and hire a consultant to figure out how it should be presented visually.
Food coma? Well, before you nod off, think about your goals, opportunities, and resources, and how your family of brands is positioned. Is your master brand earning appropriate credit? Do you have offerings positioned at the product end of the spectrum that should be migrated towards master branding? Do you have products—with resources behind them—that might benefit in the marketplace from a bit more autonomy?
And, because there’s no one-size-fits-all solution and organizations must often employ a mix a strategies, do you have a visual and verbal brand system in place that’s robust and flexible enough to support it all?
In this age of social media, having the right strategies in place can help you keep your online outposts appropriately tethered, too—and make the most of your resources. We’ll pick that up next time.
Until then, happy holidays!
Ever seen this?
It’s a probability curve. A bell curve. A “normal distribution” curve. And it explains why most of us don’t stand out.
We all fall into that curve somewhere. But most of us—indeed, 95% of us—fall into that big, gray chunk in the middle.
Every now and then, though, someone or something different comes along. Someone or something that’s hanging out there in the tails. The outliers. They come along and do something, or make something, great.
And what does everyone do? Copy it.
They add bulk to the middle of that curve…and ensure they won’t be the next outlier. But you don’t stand out by blending in. You don’t.
Who stands out? The fringe. The ones doing something different. Something better. Something new.
So stop copying. Copies lose resolution.
Do what you do well.
Image source: http://content.answers.com/main/content/img/oxford/ Oxford_Statistics/0199541454.normal-distribution.8.jpg
A recent graduate contacted me seeking advice about her difficulty in securing a job as a designer in the down economy. She wasn’t sure whether she should find other, possibly unrelated work in the meantime or sit tight until her dream job became available. Although tough to swallow, my advice was to work now in some capacity and here’s why.
Part of what makes a successful designer is accumulating professional and life experiences that contribute to your ability to devise creative solutions. What a designer knows about people (cultures, emotions, communication), about places (natural and built landscapes, architecture, history), about business (relationships, budgets, planning) comes into play often, if not always. Education strengthens the fundamentals through learning and practice, but without life experience we’d be designing in a vacuum.
A colleague passed along this relevant musing by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs: “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask a creative person how they did something, they may feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after awhile. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or have thought more about their experiences than other people have. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. They don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions, without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better designs we will have.”
A designer is not inherently an expert on the topics we design for. Yet, we each have collective experiences and backgrounds that contribute to our design solutions or help us understand how to approach challenges.
Despite a self-declared phobia of anything mechanical and disguised by an impressive collection of fashionable shirts, my colleague Will has an associates degree from the Detroit Engineering Institute and worked as a draftsman at a truck body design and manufacturing company before earning a BFA in graphic design. The early training and mathematical background helps him devise and manipulate grids, determine materials specifications and solve other creative engineering challenges for projects such as Conway Park for the city of Somerville, Massachusetts.
In addition to a decidedly European perspective on life and work, my colleague Joerg dabbled in architecture and magazine publishing early on and has a flourishing second career as a fine artist. The unusual combination of exacting skills required for architectural design and the mechanics of hand-set type and layout, along with the interpretive and emotional spirit required for painting, translates into a multi-faceted approach to design that allows for well-rounded relationships with clients across the spectrum such as Harvard Medical School and Fuller Craft Museum.
Going back to my advice to the new graduate: taking a non-design job needn’t mean compromising her dream of becoming a designer (also assuming she’ll do lots of great freelance work while biding her time). Since she already has the benefit of knowing she wants to design (many of us didn’t recognize that from the start), the key is making choices now that will contribute to her success in the future. Down the road, a lucky client is going to benefit from a designer who has many, many dots and the ability to connect them.
What’s really going on here?
As I was inhaling my branded breakfast of Tropicana Pure Premium (Lots of Pulp), and Kellogg’s Raisin Bran Crunch topped with Dole bananas and Yoplait (Original, Cherry Pomegranate), with my Apple iPhone scrolling emails to my right, my cooling beaker of Twinings English Breakfast tea (softened with Hood 2%) top center, and The New York Times to my right, I was in a brand un-curious frame of mind when I turned to page A25 of the Times and banged into Time Warner Cable asking me to make a “hard choice”—“ROLL OVER” or “GET TOUGH.”
The problem, they said, is that:
“No one likes paying more. You don’t. We don’t. Yet, every time our contracts with TV program providers come up for renewal, that’s what we face. Price increases. Big ones. Up to 300% more. Sometimes we can avoid passing them on to you. Sometimes we can’t. Sometimes, a network will threaten to take your shows away if we don’t roll over. Whenever that’s happened in the past, we’d make the best deal we could and hope that would be the end of it. But it never was. So no more. The networks shouldn’t be in the driver’s seat on what you watch and how much you pay. You’re our customers, so help us decide what to do.”
I was then directed to www.RollOverOrGetTough.com (remember my iDevice was right there) where the same challenge was reformatted to fit my screen and I was given the chance to let my index finger tell the nice folks at TWC what I wanted them to do. They closed: “We’re just one company, but there are millions of you. Together, we just might be able to make a difference in what America pays for its favorite entertainment.”
But I couldn’t help but wonder what was really up. Were they really trying to crowdsource a decision instead of flipping a coin in the corner office? Did they think they’d have increased leverage with content providers (among them, their recently ex-corporate colleague, Time Warner) by walking into negotiations with a lot of “hang tough” votes (from people like me who are Comcast customers)? Were they letting their customers know, sotto voce, that another rate hike was imminent, but hey, not their fault? Were they positioning themselves as a populist corporation—the kind Ms. Palin might favor? Were they trying to show they were hip to social-like media and had learned from Mr. Obama?
And if all we NYT readers urged “hang tough” and their content providers responded with an equally short pair of words, then what? “Roll over,” but we tried?
And what does “The Power of You” mean to us? Do we have any?
So, media-savvy, colleagues and friends, whazzup? What’s the real message—and brand meaning—being communicated on this expensive full-page ad?
This is easier than you think.
Last week I wrote that the first step in figuring out how to get started in social media was to “Define the Question.” It’s a big thing for me–I’ve written here before on the importance of understanding why you’re doing what you’re doing.
But it’s apparently a big thing for you, too. I’ve had a lot of folks tell me that defining the question is the hardest part.
Well, sure it is…if you’re trying to define the last question you’ll ever ask.
That’s not the task, though. “Defining the question” means “defining the question you want to test.” That means defining a question, not the perfect end-all-be-all question.
With a question in mind, you start gathering information and doing things with direction, towards a purpose. Knowing, for example, whether you’re trying to answer “Why am I doing this?” versus “Is this particular approach the best way to accomplish X?” means you’ll investigate, and thus pursue and achieve, very different things.
The issue, of course, is that most of us just start in on observing, investigating, and doing without ever thinking about why, which means we start to feel aimless–that all of our doing is futile.
But you know what you want to discover. You do.
What’s holding you back is worrying about whether or not how you’re getting there is the best, most perfect, way.
Excellence and perfection are not the same. Perfection is a wish. Excellence is a process–one that starts with a question.
So what’s your question? Now let’s get to it.
Categories: Strategy and Management