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At conferences and speaking events, one of the questions I’ve received most often – for 20 years now – is this:
Does branding matter in B2B?
The answer is an emphatic “YES.”
To fully answer the question, though, we need to first review what branding is and isn’t.
Continue reading “B2B Branding – It Matters, and Here Are 5 Reasons Why”
(Reading Time: 5 minutes)About five million dollars. That’s the cost for one of this year’s 30-second Super Bowl ads.
For most of us who lead challenger brands, that kind of outlay simply isn’t in the realm of possibility. As underdogs, we’re used to doing more with less.
The Super Bowl – and, in particular, the hype surrounding its ads – is perhaps the greatest example in business of flawed thinking on a grand scale. Though attention is heightened during the big game, viewers are primarily looking to be entertained. (This is how we get a Bud Light ad with “caucus” jokes. Oof, you are so ribald!)
Of course, ads that entertain don’t necessarily sell. And challenger brands know that it’s all about selling.
So let’s talk about what the rest of us can learn from this year’s Super Bowl ads. Continue reading “Super Bowl 50: 7 Lessons for Challenger Brands”
(Reading Time: 3 minutes)We’ve all seen them: The pipe dreams that are presented as “strategic plans.” Plans that seem to have no tether to reality. Plans that nobody believes in (but that somehow get approved).
There are many reasons such unrealistic plans survive. The organization may encourage activity, not results. Leadership may not be grounded in the planning process, and are thus unable to guide it. Politics may replace objectivity. And so on.
No matter the roots of the issue, I’ve found that one question is particularly useful in making a huge leap toward strategy that truly works.
That question is four short words: Continue reading “The Most Important Strategic Question You Can Ask”
(Reading Time: 3 minutes)It was the greatest upset in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) history.
Rousey entered Saturday night’s fight as the bantamweight champion. She was undefeated – 12-0 with 9 arm-bar submissions. Her prior three fights had lasted 34, 14 and 16 seconds. (Those aren’t typos.)
By the end of the night, the belt belonged to Holm, about a 10-to-1 underdog before the fight began. Holm knocked out Rousey less than a minute into the second round with a vicious kick to the head. But Rousey was losing the fight badly before that.
What can challenger brands learn from this shocking upset? Continue reading “What Challenger Brands Can Learn From Ronda Rousey’s Stunning Loss”
(Reading Time: 4 minutes)There’s a curious tendency these days to bemoan the “disloyalty” of consumers. But is consumer loyalty really in decline?
Some like to point to studies like Deloitte’s annual “American Pantry” study, which this year reported Continue reading “What You Need to Know About Superior Consumer Loyalty”
(Reading Time: 4 minutes)Most brands are challenger brands. Probably yours.
It’s not just a matter of share. If you have fewer resources than your competitors, you’re a challenger brand. You might have a smaller budget. Lower awareness. A short-handed sales team. Or all of these, plus a few things I haven’t listed, you lucky devil.
I’ve been fortunate to work on challenger brands for my entire career, in both brand management and consulting. I say “fortunate” because victory is sweeter when you come from behind, or when you achieve more with less.
Around 20 years ago, I was the brand manager of Airheads candy. At the time, our two largest competitors, Skittles and Starburst, outspent us by about 20 to 1. Despite this, we tripled our sales in less than five years. And we launched what became the fastest-selling non-chocolate single in the country. (The Airheads 6-bar package can still be found near cash registers today.)
The lesson I learned early: Continue reading “Two Rules for Winning for Challenger Brands”
(Reading Time: 4 minutes)Budweiser debuted one of this year’s most-discussed Super Bowl ads. Called “Brewed the Hard Way,” it’s still running. I saw it twice on CBS yesterday.
In this spot, Bud declares, in screen-filling block text, that it’s “proudly a macro beer.”
“It’s not brewed to be fussed over,” the text announces, as a bearded, bespectacled hipster inhales deeply from a tulip glass filled with a stout-like brew. “It’s brewed for a crisp smooth finish.”
“It’s brewed for drinking, not dissecting,” it continues. We see more hipsters, this time sampling a beer flight.
“Let them sip their pumpkin peach ale,” it proclaims. “We’ll be brewing us some golden suds.”
Why the broadside against craft brews and those who drink them? Continue reading “Dove, Bud and the Quest for Real Brand Values”
(Reading Time: 3 minutes)Recently, marketing guru Al Ries published a piece in Advertising Age, with his thesis right there in the title:
“Having a Better Brand Is Better Than Having a Better Product”
Here are a few excerpts from Mr. Ries’ piece:
There are no facts. Everything in life is “perceptions.” There are no superior products. There are only superior perceptions in consumers’ minds.
What else do we know about perceptions? They are very difficult to change. Once a person holds a strong perception about a specific brand, it’s extremely difficult to change that perception. Continue reading ““Would You Rather Have a Better Brand or Better Product?”: A Response to Al Ries”
(Reading Time: 2 minutes)During the Discovery phase of a recent project, I was fortunate to spend some time chatting with the company’s founder. Though he’s no longer very active in the business, he clearly conveyed the values on which the company was founded three decades ago. The employees live these values to this day.
He’s a wise, charming fellow, full of character, and I could really see why his customers loved him. Among the dozens of kernels of wisdom that I gathered in that conversation, one really stuck with me. When I asked him about the history of the company, he wrapped up a story of impressive growth by saying simply:
“The experiment so far has been a success.”
The more I think about this statement, the more I like it, and it reflects an excellent attitude for business-builders to adopt. Let’s break it into pieces:
Continue reading ““The Experiment So Far Has Been a Success.””
(Reading Time: 2 minutes)Within your company, who really builds the brand? Which department is responsible for brand-building?
Trick question! The answer is “All of them.” Everyone plays a part in delivering on the brand positioning and bringing the brand to life.
Let’s use a hypothetical consumer packaged goods company as an example of “who does what” (the parallels to your own company should be easy to see):
Continue reading “Who Really Builds the Brand?”