Tuesday, January 25, 2011

"Meaningfully Different Experience" builds brand value e.g. Apple - Nigel Hollis Milward Brown

If you think you have lost the plot, you are not the only one

Last week, Jonathan Salem Baskin posted a review on his blog, Dim Bulb, of Heineken’s new “The Entrance” video. Time will tell if Jonathan’s assessment of this specific ad is correct, but I totally agree with a quote at the end of the post.
Ever since social media came along, marketers have become so tactic-focused that they seem to regularly be missing the plot. We sometimes forget that for a brand to mean something, it has to mean something.
Hear, hear! Today there appears to be a truly amazing focus in the world of marketing on execution, and a total failure on the need for meaningful differentiation. In other words, there has been a complete abdication of responsibility for sweating the tough stuff in favor of doing something, anything. Is it any wonder that the C-suite wonder why they invest so much on marketing?
Marketing’s job is to add value to a brand. Ideally the value is tangible: Innovation that either revolutionizes or enhances the brand’s purpose. In cases like these, marketing’s job is to enhance perceptions of the functional benefits of the brand. Failing that, then marketing has to work harder, either framing how it feels to use the brand or creating a more intangible appeal.
In either case it requires taking what the brand stands for, framing it to best advantage and making it salient. Ideally the idea is so compelling it becomes a form of social currency and goes viral.
The problem is, you have to know what the brand stands for before you can frame it. Lacking that understanding, all you can do is to seek to make the brand salient. Not a bad thing in itself, but a very weak force in the absence of any meaningful differentiation. That’s why we end up with so many attempts at viral communication that do nothing for the brand. They start with the need to go viral, not what the brand really stands for.
Gordon Pincott, chairman, Global Solutions, Millward Brown, and I have been working on a model that summarizes how brands create value. Given my prior comments, it will come as no surprise that “a meaningfully different experience” sits at the heart of the model.
Experience, because brands are more than a product. They are the accumulation of ideas, memories and feelings created by exposure to the brand in person through word-of-mouth and media channels.
Different, because only brands that are considered different (in a good way), can sustain a price premium. It is the marketer’s job to figure out what aspect of the brand will best differentiate it from the competition.
Meaningful, because difference for difference’s sake is hollow and transient. It may attract passing interest, but unless it is meaningful to the target audience it will never hold their attention or cause them to pay a premium for the brand.
I am sure you have heard all the old excuses. Product innovation does not create a sustainable advantage any longer. You can’t be different today, you can only seek to be distinctive. Consumers don’t think about brands much so all you can do is maximize salience.
Well if you buy into those excuses, you have pretty much created a self-fulfilling prophecy. Your brand will be undifferentiated and it will only prosper when it is salient. But that will only last until a competitor lures your customers away with a new and more compelling offer.
Where is my evidence? Much as I hate to cite Apple, it is the archetype for a brand that has created a meaningfully different experience.
The exception that proves the rule? OK, how about Method, Innocent, Google, Wii, Red Bull, Toyota Prius, Pampers, Ikea, Nespresso, Zappos…
Come on people, it is time to find the plot again. Get back to basics and figure out what your brand really stands for. Stop working for a stalemate and start figuring out how to win!

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