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The Real Value In Brand Vision, Mission And Values

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The Real Value In Brand Vision, Mission And Values

A truth about strategy: it wasn’t what it is that counts, it’s what you do with it. So many companies fill out the paperwork without committing themselves to the implications, basically because they don’t want to be locked into anything that’s too “definite” in a world that they perceive as continuously changing.

The problem with that approach is that unless there is a context within which to assess how you operate and what you are working towards, the temptation is always to respond – meaning, often, that brands play by other people’s rules rather than driving and controlling their own market agenda.

Recently Andrew Marty took up this point about lack of specifics and application in an article on the value of mission, vision and values. The problem, he explains, is that 20 years of research into mission statements has shown they have a very weak relationship with profitability. Too many companies embark on feel-good exercises in this space that do little to change the competitive focus or ability of the brand. They don’t work because they lack proximity for the recipient and they are too conceptual and vague. They also don’t translate well into behaviors that people can use in their daily working lives.

He’s right – but I don’t think that it’s necessarily an inherent weakness in the framework itself so much as it is, too often, an unimaginative and unambitious way of completing the work. Too many companies don’t push the boundaries hard enough when it comes to laying out a clear grid for where they’re going, how they’re getting there and what they will value in the achievement of their competitive goals. They settle for statements that lack energy, because they are written by a committee and packed full of jingoism and buzzwords, instead of being meaningful and actionable ideas that set the course for how the brand’s culture will move forward meaningfully and effectively.

If you want your vision, mission and values to be more than brand paperwork, they need to be customer focused and they need to be hyper-aware competitively.

Vision Should Project

Depending on what drives your brand forward, this forward-looking element can be nuanced. Personally, I make three distinctions within this space. You may or may not choose to do the same:

  • Ambition – your greatest hope for the world
  • Purpose – the greatest hope you have for your company in terms of changing the world; in other words, what your people come to work to alter in the markets that you are present in.
  • Vision – how you as a brand intend to change the world for your customers.

You can condense these ideas of course, or even explore the tensions between them. The critical element is that your vision lays out your path ahead. Because of that the ideas should be such that you continue to measure against and report to them. Too often, brands set a “north star” but fail to focus their strategies, story and metrics on achieving that all-important goal. Instead, as Marty points put, they arrange at a very nice combination of words, that they display with gusto and otherwise ignore.

Mission Should Excite

This element often fails to fire because, as per earlier, it lacks pertinence for people. If it says anything at all, it focuses on how the company vaguely intends to meet its vision, rather than putting the onus on what is expected of people acting within teams and on their own. Making a mission personal forces it to become the daily mission of everyone who works for the brand.

I’m often left with the impression that while companies are clear about what they don’t want people to focus on and how they don’t want people to act, they are less certain about articulating inspiring expectations that give people the motivations and the permission to explore what is possible. It comes back to that much-discussed point that too many companies and brand leaders within such companies have not moved on from the command-and-delegate arrangements that they feel comfortable with.

Your mission should focus on what your people are here to achieve (based on why) but, in some ways, it should also act as a counter-balance to the inclination to over-stipulate through policy how they are expected to achieve. Too often brands ask people to be creative and think broadly about problems and then tie them up in ways of doing and reporting that hamper the very thing they say they are most committed to. A powerful mission is a straight-forward way of reconciling intent and constraint at a principles level.

Values Should Differentiate

Too many of the value sets I see are packed with hygiene factors – like Integrity – that have no competitive value at all. For a brand, the whole purpose of values is to lay out the qualities that you value as a culture because they make you the most competitive you can be. To achieve that, they need to be distinctive (not just expected) and they need to lock in the qualities you most want to see displayed by people in their approach to their work.

In that sense, brand values are quite distinct from organizational values (and this same point expands to the difference between brand culture and organizational culture). The latter tends to be driven by what is considered acceptable – whereas brand values should be focused on what it will take for the brand to be competitive and brand culture should be the manner in which those values are expressed by people acting collectively. And because brands also have a personality in the marketplace, brand values should significantly influence things like the brand’s tone and manner.

Connect Brand Vision, Mission And Values With Business Strategy

Too many companies decide their vision, mission and values in isolation and without direct reference to their business goals. To me, the whole point of establishing this framework is to lock it into what the business is expecting its brand(s) to achieve. You can’t separate out the priorities of the business from the intentions of the brand because if you do you quickly send mixed messages to all involved. As one CEO who is heavily committed to these alignments once explained to me, nothing is too valuable to defy what defines you. Well said.

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about our mission, vision and values workshop.

Build A Human Centric Brand. Join us for The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, April 2-4, 2018 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals. Register before September 25th and SAVE $300!

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Brand Innovation Drives New Retail Strategy

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Brand Innovation Drives New Retail Strategy

It’s not easy to be a retail brand these days. Every few weeks it seems there is yet another story about some major retailer either abandoning or downsizing multiple locations. Online shopping has fundamentally changed the way consumers buy as well as the ways brands sell. It’s hard to show an industry that has been as fundamentally disrupted.

In a report from the (US) National Retail Federation, Ray Gaul, vice president of research and analytics with Kantar Retail says, “We are witnessing a transformation in which the physical environment now needs to serve three shopper missions rather than one. The old one was a full shopper mission where the consumer discovers products, selects the products and then transports the products home. The two additional missions are buy online, pickup at store and showrooms and product information, these will require two things … store remodels and store closings, or both, and a new economic model to cover costs and deliver profits. Companies that have embraced this new way of shopping have begun to deliver better profit per square foot than companies that have not.”

The transformation that’s happening right now isn’t always pretty or painless. But as with all times of rapid change, there is massive opportunity for those that have embraced this new era of retailing, and have the resources (and organizational will) to drive fundamental change.

Nordstrom is one such brand.

In a few weeks, they will launch a clothing store with no clothes for sale. Called Nordstrom Local, it will be very small, just 3,000 Sq Ft instead of the normal 140,000. Instead, customers can seek out personal stylists who will bring merchandise to the small store same-day, they can pick up items bought on-line, also same-day. An on-site tailor will handle all alteration needs, a feature for which the brand is renown, and will offer beer, wine and espresso (of course).

While it may seem that a clothing store with no inventory would be an inefficient way to shop, Nordstrom believes it will streamline the experience for customers who are already pressed for time. “Shopping today may not always mean going to a store and looking at a vast amount of inventory,” Shea Jensen, Nordstrom’s senior vice president of customer experience, told the Wall Street Journal. “It can mean trusting an expert to pick out a selection of items.”

As a brand, Nordstrom has always differentiated itself on devout attention to customer service, and the Nordstrom Local concept store seems to be built around this principle, rather than a gimmick or add-on intended simply to get people in the door. And this concept is the latest in a line of recent innovations the brand has deployed that work around the idea of phenomenal customer attentiveness.

While Nordstrom provides plenty of innovations that keep the competition on their toes, their culture which drives this impressive activity should be an example for all brands. Here’s some of what Nordstrom demonstrates:

  • Revisit existing definitions and challenge your brand’s status quo often. Nordstrom seems to ask the question “What does it mean to shop,” continuously. By challenging conventional definitions, they’ve rolled out digital and physical improvements that make it easy for the customer to interact with the brand, on the customer’s terms.
  • Always be thinking about how to create a valuable experience. Nordstrom’s store without inventory seems to meet a need their customers (at least those near West Hollywood) have. It’s definitely on-trend. And while the concept store is something Nordstrom hopes will be permanent, even short-term experiences like Cheeto’s Pop-Up Restaurant or Nike’s “Off-Campus” experience offer ways that customers can interact with brands in new and unexpected venues.
  • Get serious about business transformation. A pivotal key to what Nordstrom has been doing involves leveraging technology to enhance operations internally and regarding the customer experience. While nearly everyone says they want to help their business transform, too many throw technology at the problem without unpacking the organizational blockers or legacy business processes that technology can improve. Transformation is culture-driven and assisted by the technology, not the other way around.

Bringing a concept to life is always exciting for a brand. Time will tell if, indeed, the Nordstrom Local concept store will play a valuable role in the modern definition of shopping, either way we can learn from their efforts to evolve.

The Blake Project Can Help: Accelerate Brand Growth Through Powerful Emotional Connections

Build A Human Centric Brand. Join us for The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, April 2-4, 2018 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals. Register before September 25th and SAVE $300!

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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10 Questions To Ask When Crafting Brand Stories

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10 Questions To Ask When Crafting Brand Stories

Branding Strategy Insider helps marketing oriented leaders and professionals like you build strong brands. BSI readers know, we regularly answer questions from marketers everywhere. Today we hear from Lawrence a brand manager from Dallas, Texas who has this question about crafting brand stories.

“We are about to embark on an internal effort to shape a brand story that will help give us a competitive advantage. What guidance can you offer?”

Thanks for your question Lawrence. We live in a world filled with stories. But that doesn’t mean for one moment that simply telling a story will make you a fascinating brand. Stories aren’t defined by the teller. In the end, their success is decided by the listener and the watcher. To that end, take some time to put the following down on paper, they will give you and your team a starting point for thinking through the right storyline for your brand.

1. Describe your primary audiences for brand communications both internally and externally. Who are they and why do they care about your brand?

2. Describe your primary audience core motivations, attribute description, and key attitudes and behaviors.

3. Describe the key challenges currently facing your organization’s ability to develop, manage and monitor the effectiveness of your brand communication initiatives.

4. Describe the desired mental associations you believe these audiences currently have when they think about:
– the brand identity (who the brand is)
– the brand utility ( what the brand promises / provides audiences that is unique
and different from competitors)
– the brand delivery (tone and manner of the brand’s expression)

5. Describe the desired audience associations you want audiences to have in their minds when thinking about your brand identity, utility and delivery.

6. What are the core truths about your brand story? (purpose, values, beliefs)

7. Who are the brand’s primary competitors?

8. In your opinion, what is the value proposition of the brand’s primary competitors?

9. What stories are your competitor’s communicating to the market?

10. What are the primary brand communications touch points and various media channels that customers/users are exposed to when engaging with your brand?

Do you have a branding question? Just Ask The Blake Project

The Blake Project Can Help: The Strategic Brand Storytelling Workshop

Build A Human Centric Brand. Join us for The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, April 2-4, 2018 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals. Register before September 25th and SAVE $300!

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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We Need People To Make Brands Work

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We Need People To Make Brands Work

In 2000, the Wired article The Future Does Not Need Us called into question whether machines were quite the panacea we hoped they were. It was possible, said Bill Joy, that this dependence on machines was not going to a good place. If we can conclude as marketers that machines are building barriers and taking the human factors out of brands he was right.

The power of big data is that it gives us what feels so much like greater insight. The danger is that it could tell us so much that we don’t think we need people to make brands work.

Well beyond the transactional world and high above functions, features and benefits, the strongest brands thrive by their human-centricity and the people behind it. Each connecting on a level where their customers turn from alternatives and accept no substitutes.

For 50 marketers that are focused on building human-centric brands, The Blake Project and Branding Strategy Insider have designed a uniquely powerful experience for keeping brands human in the age of disruption. We call it The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World.

It’s unlike any other branding or marketing conference you’ve attended before:

  • Everyone in the room is an expert and gains from the sum of the expertise in the room.
  • Our competitive learning format is fun, energized and impactful.
  • The walls are down, there are no podiums or stages, there is no hierarchy – your uniform is jeans.
  • The focus is on learning outcomes, not ticket sales.
  • Small is powerful, with only 50 marketers participating in hands on learning.
  • This is marketing’s ONLY issues-based, problem-solving event.
  • As in your marketplace, some will win, some will lose, all will learn.

2018 Brand Strategy Conference

No Attendees. Only Participants.
The best pathway for learning is through participation, not observation. The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World will challenge your thinking about brands and brand management. To do that, we’ll put you on a team of 10 and offer you opportunities to compete, lead and learn alongside other marketers in a unique environment. The challenges you’ll tackle are based on and influenced by the actual issues that you and other participants are facing.

In April of 2018, our 6th annual event, through the lens of Keeping Brands Human, we’re taking a close look at the shaping forces occupying the intersection of brand strategy and technology. Some of the topics we’ll cover include: How Participation Drives Brands, Creating Frictionless Customer Experiences, Disruptive Marketing Trends, Building Emotional Connections, Encoding Brands In The Mind, Brand Storytelling, Brand Leadership, Digital Strategy, B2B Brand Strategy and more.

The Un-Conference is highly interactive and designed to question assumptions, taking participants on searching journeys to arrive at new and optimistic decisions about their competitive future.

Brand Strategy Conference 2018 San Diego

It all takes place at The Hard Rock Café Hotel, San Diego, California April 2 – 4, 2018.

Our schedule…

Monday, April 2nd – Kickoff Mixer: 7- 9pm at The Hard Rock Café Hotel Rooftop Pool

Tuesday, April 3rd – Day 1: 8am – 5pm, at The Hard Rock Café Hotel / 6:30pm – ? Team building event and dinner

Wednesday, April 4th – Day 2: 8am – 5pm, at The Hard Rock Café Hotel

Who Should Participate?
We have reserved these two days (and a kickoff mixer on the evening of the 2nd) for 50 senior B2C and B2B marketers who see professional growth and value creation as a mandate for success and who seek a learning experience superior to last century’s format of marketing conferences:

-Marketing oriented leaders
-Marketing professionals (brand managers, product managers, directors, vice presidents, CMO’s, brand strategists etc.)
-Advertising agency professionals (account executives, planners, creatives, agency heads)
-Marketers facing brand strategy issues
-Marketers seeking a competitive advantage
-Professionals in charge of brand building, brand management, human resources
-Professional brand consultants, digital consultants and researchers
-Entrepreneurs launching new brands
-Marketers who prefer participation over observation
-Marketers who don’t believe that last century’s format of marketing conferences advances them as leaders.

Every year a wide range of marketing oriented leaders and professionals from around the world join us representing startups, emerging, regional, national and global brands. Past participants include AAA, Air France/KLM, Bayer, Bloomberg, Humana, Land O’ Lakes, Liberty Mutual, Pilot/Flying J, RJ Reynolds, TD Ameritrade, GlaxoSmithKlein, Wounded Warrior Project, Monsanto, Ogilvy, Kawasaki, GE and many more.

Your $2,200 registration ($2,500 after September 25th) includes:

-Private kickoff mixer at The Hard Rock Café Hotel Rooftop Pool

-Private Team building event and dinner

-Lunch and refreshments for both Un-Conference days

-Conference Materials

-Special room rates at The Hard Rock Café Hotel

Only 50 marketers can participate. To secure a spot for you or your group at The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World call me directly in Los Angeles at 813-842-2260. Or simply email me.


Brought to you by experiential agency Moosylvania and the Los Angeles American Marketing Association

I do hope you can join us.


Derrick Daye for The Un-Conference, Branding Strategy Insider and The Blake Project

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Soulful Integrated Branding Defined

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Soulful Integrated Branding Defined

Integrated Branding is the use of brand identity, personality, advertising, retail promotions & services, product design, print collateral, website and online marketing, etc. to make your target market associate your particular company with admirable character traits and core values. Integrated branding is also an organizational structure and process that presents a consistent message, image and personality across all marketing efforts. It allows a business and brand to speak with a consistent, unified voice.

What Is Brand Soul? 

Brands with soul share a passion and motivation with their consumers, they have a clear reason for being. The brand soul is not necessarily a mission or a charitable cause, although it can be that. Brand soul is usually related to values and ethics, such as quality, self-esteem, integrity or identity. The brand is a champion of some set of uplifting human values or personality traits. A brand without soul appeals to logic only by relying on a hard sell and is primarily focused on product features. Brands with soul usually have an emotional underpinning around the role (spirit) that their products can provide in the way people experience life. To communicate soul, brands commonly employ emotional communication strategies.

What Is Emotional Branding?

Emotional Branding is a term used within marketing communications that refers to the practice of building brands that appeal directly to consumer’s emotional state, needs and aspirations. Emotional branding is successful when it triggers an emotional response in the consumer, that is, a desire for the advertised brand (or product) that cannot fully be rationalized. Emotional brands have a significant impact when the consumer experiences a strong and lasting attachment to the brand comparable to a feeling of bonding, companionship or love.

The purpose of emotional branding is to create a bond between the consumer and the product by provoking the consumer’s emotion. Vance Packard’s ‘The Hidden Persuaders’ speaks to the emotional response of consumers to advertising. It reads, ” In the buying situation, the consumer generally acts emotionally and compulsively, unconsciously reacting to the images and designs that are associated with the product.” The notion that emotion is not only associated with compulsiveness and irrationality, but is a subconscious reaction, is the framework that drives emotional branding theory.

Today’s most successful companies have built relationships with consumers by engaging them in a personal dialogue that responds to their spoken and tacit needs. Marketers who’ve broken through the clutter have done so by connecting with consumers and, thereby, have created strong emotional bonds through their brands. You have to have a love affair with the consumer – flirt with them, provide that titillating buzz. When that flirtatious relationship becomes a deep relationship, then you have a major brand.

Emotional branding creates a personality for the brand. Identity is recognition. Personality is about character and charisma! Brand identities express a point of difference in the competitive landscape — but that’s just the first step. Brand personalities are special: They evoke an emotional response. The brand personality is crucial in emotional branding.

The combination of all brand touch points and interactions … across all forms of brand communication, the retail space, product design & performance, product packaging and service, make up a customer’s total brand experience. Both customers and prospects form brand perceptions based on all these touch points and interactions. When the brand elements are unique, strong and favorable this is what builds brand equity in the consumer’s mind, and it is composed of four key dimensions: differentiation, relevance, esteem and knowledge. Various branding methods impact different dimensions of brand equity, which must be carefully considered by marketers or brand managers when they are striving to achieve one powerful, integrated brand experience.

1. Differentiation: Perceived distinctiveness of the brand

Differentiation is a brand’s ability to stand apart from others, and to gain consumer choice, preference and loyalty. It is the degree to which consumers find a brand unique. A compelling and memorable brand experience can attract customers’ attention and maintain their interest, and therefore contribute to brand differentiation.

2. Relevance: Personal appropriateness of the brand

Relevance refers to how meaningful a brand is to their target consumers. Relevant brands are both appropriate and appealing. Niche and growing brands may choose to focus first on differentiation and then on relevance, whereas leading brands will excel on all four dimensions.

3. Esteem: Regard for the brand

Esteem measures the degree to which the target audiences regard and respect a brand—in short, how well it is liked. When a company grows larger and becomes more mature, brand esteem becomes more and more important. Today, companies often use both emotional branding strategies in traditional media and indirect experiential branding methods to build brand esteem.

4. Knowledge: Understanding of What the Brand Stands For

Knowledge determines whether there is a true understanding of what a brand stands for. Brand awareness is a sub-component of knowledge. The level of brand knowledge is a signal of the company’s past performance, as well as a foundation for its further development. Positive and accurate understanding of the brand among target consumers results in brand loyalty. However, it is not enough for a brand to tell consumers what their brand means, they have to show them, and what better way to do this than through brand experience.

This is what Apple did with Apple stores, what Nike did with its Nike owned stores and what Starbucks has done with its grand café concept The Roastery.

Brand soul, emotional branding and experiential branding combined, present companies with an opportunity for a powerful, creative and integrated process that focuses on customer experience, contributes to brand differentiation, esteem, relevance, and knowledge, and can offer a more powerful way to build a sustainable brand. Through combining traditional media, interactive technologies, innovative retail spaces, and indirect online brand communication methods, consumers can now see, touch, hear, taste, and smell brands in ways they never could before. Advertising alone or price-slashing product promotions are not sustainable methods for brand building. An integrated and creative approach, with the objective of building lasting and defensible brand equity, has emerged as the most promising and viable alternative.

These and other insights into brand truth, purpose and deep campaigns is covered in greater detail in my book, Soulful Branding – Unlock the Hidden Energy In Your Company and Brand.

Build A Human Centric Brand. Join us for The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, April 2-4, 2018 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals. Register before September 25th and SAVE $300!

The Blake Project Can Help: The Brand Positioning Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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Embracing Culture To Drive Brand Growth

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Embracing Culture To Drive Brand Growth

Brands can no longer stand out by solely relying on clever ads and effective media placements. They must also be relevant in the rapidly evolving culture of consumers. Brands that become iconic do so by co-creating culture through fashion, music, film, sport, food, drink, art and design. Conversely, brands that don’t align with culture go unnoticed at best, or at worst, offend their audience with out-of-touch campaigns that translate into PR nightmares.

This makes the role of marketers a lot harder, as they cannot only focus on what they control (advertising). They must also understand and embrace culture, which is mostly driven by their audience. Unlike retargeting and other lower-funnel tactics, embedding a brand in culture is a long-term strategic endeavor.

Below is set of three guidelines that can serve as a foundation for the development of your brand’s cultural strategy.

1. Embedding Brands Into Culture

The spirit and beer category is particularly challenging for marketers as consumers’ preferences evolve rapidly from one generation to another. Also, differentiating on taste alone can be very hard, especially as spirits are often mixed with other ingredients. Would you be up for a blind test between Smirnoff, Tito’s and Belvedere vodka, once mixed in a Bloody Mary?

Spirit and beer producer Diageo has developed a sharp competitive advantage by aligning their premium brands with their target consumers via culture and entertainment.

When Diageo wanted to evolve its messaging to men, it carried out in-depth cultural analysis and talked to DJs, sociologists and magazine editors about this audience. The research brought to light 15 personality types that men aspired to. These became valuable yardsticks for Diageo’s marketing.

2. Evolving A Legacy Brand For The Current Generation

Becoming an icon for a generation of consumers is no easy task, but staying iconic for the next generation is even harder.

Speaking at Mediapost’s Brand Marketer Insider Summit, Anthony Abernathy (North America Brand Marketing Director at Jordan Brand) described how Nike had to rebrand its Michael Jordan line of products for a generation of young athletes that have never seen Michael Jordan play. Instead of relying on pictures and footage of Michael Jordan’s perfect shots, Nike articulated its campaign around pictures of champions in preparation. Indeed, research showed that today’s audience was not responding to picture-perfect advertisements, but rather wanted to understand and experience what it takes to become Michael Jordan. Based on its understanding of today’s teens training world, Nike expanded its brand in an authentic way by promoting the real training rigor that distinguishes all champions.

3. Reviving A Legacy Brand

Brands that are out of touch with culture can decline as fast as they once grew. Lego became hugely successful with its bricks and “minifigures” in the 80’s…and courted bankruptcy in 2003. In a first attempt to survive, the brand started producing bigger bricks, based on the assumption that players thought Lego bricks were too small.

By doing so, Lego focused on the functional aspect of its product while ignoring its cultural environment. Right after launching its bigger bricks, Lego sales plummeted by 30%.

The turnaround came when ethnographic research revealed that people were willing to spend time and efforts using small bricks to build things that were culturally relevant. Lego partnered with franchises such as Star Wars and Harry Potter and became an immediate success. Children started using Legos to tell stories and make culture through Lego mini figures, firehouses, police stations, homes and cities. In 2014, Lego became a larger part of popular culture through the release of The Lego Movie. It became an instant box office hit, grossing over $450 Million worldwide. Lego recently expanded on its ability to not only embrace but also make culture, with the release of Lego Batman and upcoming release of Lego Ninjago.

Diageo, Nike and Lego illustrate why implementing a cultural strategy is crucial to the health, growth and even survival of a brand. As discussed previously, marketers are often consumed by lower-funnel tactics and metrics. While web analytics and other behavioral metrics offer valuable insights into the consumer journey, one should never lose sight of their brand’s ability to engage with and even influence culture.

The Blake Project Can Help: Accelerate Brand Growth Through Powerful Emotional Connections

Build A Human Centric Brand. Join us for The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, April 2-4, 2018 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals. Register before September 25th and SAVE $300!

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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How Brands Can Harness Customer Creativity

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How Brands Can Harness Customer Creativity

Today Lego is one of the world’s top brands, but not too long ago the brand was in serious trouble. A substantial budget deficit in the early 2000s saw a few executives try their hands at a brand turnaround. While global restructuring has helped to improve profits, a great deal of the brand’s turnaround (which lasted until very recently) had come from the ways it fully embraced the creative power of crowds.

Over time, the product hasn’t changed much at all. Even Lars Silberbauer, Lego’s Senior Global Director of Social Media and Video admits, “It’s just a plastic brick.” What did change though was the mindset of the brand leaders at Lego to realize, “We [Lego] may own the copyright but we co-own the brand with adults and children.”

At this year’s Cannes Lions, Silberbauer shared the two pillars upon which Lego’s social strategy is built, and it’s pretty simple because they revolve around some fundamental human needs: the need to play and build together, and the pride of creation. Each of these human needs map to the relational motivations that are essential to building a strong network and also show the brand recognizes the creative power found in its customers.

As Jeff Beer shared in Fast Company, “By facilitating, supporting, and promoting the efforts of its fans, Lego amplifies their passion to a global audience, further fanning the flames of fandom everywhere it goes.” Beer further recounts some examples Silberbauer shared of how Lego’s strategy comes to life:

  • First Lego League is a robotics competition that isn’t run by the brand. Up to 70,000 kids around the world compete against each other to build Lego robots that solve problems.
  • Lego Ideas is essentially a branded version of Kickstarter, in which aspiring Lego designers must get 10,000 supporters for their project to be considered. And support isn’t a simple “like” it’s a survey!
  • The Kronkiwongi Project famously used Facebook to encourage customers all over the world to share their creative interpretation of “What’s a Kronkiwongi?”

Silberbauer continues to say, “At the end of the day, no matter what we do, there’s always going to be creativity within the fan community. And all of our outgoing stuff and brand messaging may just be obsolete when fans come up with some really cool stuff.”

He makes a good point. Brands that understand modern storytelling is porous, and make investments to harness the power of regenerative listening and tap into the cognitive surplus unleashed by the global network society, will be in stronger and more relevant positions than those that continue to adhere to strict brand rules.

So, what can your brand do right now? For starters, provide a platform for fans and customers to engage. In too many decks, whenever ‘brand’ and ‘social media’ appear on the same slide, you see something about conversations. Lego, however, gets specific about what they want social networks to do. Engagement for Lego means feedback from customers, product research, competitions and user-generated content.

For some brands or those just starting out, existing platforms might provide everything you need. But notice how Lego also “remixed” the familiarity of Kickstarter into a branded platform to solicit new product ideas, and collect valuable customer data in the form of surveys. That’s the level of creativity that truly sets Lego’s definition of engagement far above most brands. Oftentimes, a remix of a technology, platform or concept is all that’s needed to raise the bar and may prove more compelling than something entirely new.

And to that point, Silberbauer’s Cannes presentation ended with a fan-made Lego recreation of Red Bull Stratos – user generated branded content based on branded content. How very meta.

But, sadly, Lego is in trouble again – likely over-extended between films and new product lines. Hopefully, via their robust social infrastructure, the brand will quickly be able to find its way back to profitability.

The Blake Project Can Help: Disruptive Brand Strategy Workshop

Build A Human Centric Brand. Join us for The Un-Conference: 360 Degrees of Brand Strategy for a Changing World, April 2-4, 2018 in San Diego, California. A fun, competitive-learning experience reserved for 50 marketing oriented leaders and professionals. Register before September 25th and SAVE $300!

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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