Posts Tagged 'brand positioning'

Is Marketing being marginalized in B-school?

The world has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  Consumers and customers have changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  Media has changed dramatically in less than 10 years.  The actual practice of marketing, by corporate marketers, is changing as people adapt to the new realities — some more successfully than others.

But what hasn’t changed is the most popular theory of marketing — brand positioning — and the way that it is taught in B-School.

Several professors, including Wharton’s Gerry Wind, have now said that the teaching and study of marketing is so narrow that it is in danger of being marginalized at business schools.  The title of their article gives it all away: “Is Marketing Academia Losing It’s Way?”   While they don’t single out brand positioning in particular, they make the very clear point that just at the time when new theories are marketing are most needed, they are least likely to be found in the great universities.

There is an alarming and growing gap between the interests, standards, and priorities of academic mar- keters and the needs of marketing executives operat- ing in an ambiguous, uncertain, fast-changing, and complex marketspace.

There are now several alternative theoretical models to replace the traditional brand positioning approach.  Only one of them was developed by an academics.  The four I am most familiar with — and which are true frameworks — are 1) Professor Doug Holt’s Iconic Branding; 2) Marc Gobe’s Emotional Branding; 3) Larry Light and Joan Kiddon’s Brand Journalism which they created for McDonald’s.  The fourth is our own Narrative Branding approach.

The article was published in The Journal of Marketing last summer.  A copy of it is here.


CMO study update

Another finding from our new CMO study.

The economic turmoil and cut-backs in marketing last year are showing up as a significant decrease in the strength of marketing communications and brand.  There has been a jump in the number of marketers who are making rebuilding their brand image a priority for 2010.

There has been no change in number of marketers who are looking for breakthrough methods to replace the traditional brand positioning.  That is because the majority of marketers surveyed view the traditional brand positioning approach as losing effectiveness.

Next week we expect to release a trend report comparing 2010 to 2009 data, showing how marketers are changing and adapting to evolving market needs.

Kotler & Kartajaya on Marketing 3.0

I’ll make a broad generalization.  There are two types of academics: Paradigm Shifters and Eternal Seekers.

The Paradigm Shifters are people who create a ground breaking theory and then spend the rest of their career teaching and promoting that theory — regardless of how the world changes around them.  Think of Braque, one of the originators of cubism in painting.

Eternal Seekers are the people who create a ground breaking theory and then develop an even stronger ground breaking theory.  They remain open, curious and continuously looking for a better theory as they get new data and see weaknesses in their original theory. Think of Picasso, who worked side by side with Braque and then moved into different “periods” and continued to reinvent his vision of art.

I’d put Philip Kotler into that second category, Eternal Seeker.  His is not satisfied to rest with his original models of marketing.  He has continued to innovate, rethink and evolve his theories and our understanding of how marketing actually works.

The role of Corporate Social Responsibility has been very much on Phil’s mind for several years.  (Full disclosure — I had the good fortune to work with him on a client project about the rise of socially-engaged consumers.)  It has very much influenced his thinking and rethinking of marketing.

His newest reinvention of marketing is “Marketing 3.0”, co-developed with Hermawan Kartajaya.   In the fall of 2009 Phil presented the model of Marketing 3.0 at a Kellogg school conference.  Below is the key slide summarizing Marketing 3.0 from that conference.  I’ve lifted a  this from the blog of Guy Kawasaki So full credit for this photo goes to Guy Kawasaki.

Slide on Marketing 3.0 photo by G Kawasaki

The new book Marketing 3.0 is being published  in the US this spring.  But you don’t have to wait that long to better understand the fundamental principles of Marketing 3.0. Kotler and Kartajaya.  They’ve recently published a whitepaper on the topic which you can download here: marketing_3.0 Values-Driven Marketing

Philip Kotler on reinventing marketing

Looking forward to 2010!

Some marketing thoughts about the year to come.  This is from the book CHAOTICS by Philip Kotler and John Caslione.

“Great marketers don’t just rebound from crises.  They build the internal capacity to expect the unexpected. They continuously reinvent business models and marketing strategies during chaotic times so that they can adapt quickly as circumstances in the marketplace change.

Today, the typical company operates a marketing system that has emerged from years of trial and error. It has developed policies, strategies, and tactics for using marketing research, pricing, the sales force, advertising, promotions, trade shows, and other marketing tools. These practices are likely to persist because they deliver a feeling of safety and predictability.  They worked in the past and are assumed to work in the future.

There is, however, one problem.  The world keeps changing.

“These developments put a company at a strategic inflection point: Either the company continues with the same strategy or recognizes the need for a new one.  Clearly,the company needs to revisit and revise its marketing policies and tools.  If it doesn’t, the new environment will punish the company — maybe to the point of failure.”

2010 will be the year for reinventing marketing.   It is an exciting time to be in marketing!

Happy New Year’s!

Story as execution vs. Story as strategy

The brilliance of BBDO over the years had been the power of their story telling in the advertising executions.  Phil Dusenberry was a natural born storyteller.  He was also a screenwriter, most famously for The Natural.  Ted Sann was the creative force behind the agency for many years.  Is it a coincidence that he earned a Master of  Fine Arts in Creative Writing at the fabulous Iowa Writer’s Workshop?  (Full disclosure, I worked at BBDO and also have an MFA in Creative Writing.)

BBDO were masters of storytelling as execution.

What is new is storytelling as strategy.

What is most powerful is when the storytelling combines the strategic with the executional.

That means elevating storytelling up to the highest level of defining the brand itself.  What is the story of the brand?  That is a bigger question than what is the story of the advertisement.

The story of a brand will include a number of elements:

1. The founding of the brand, which some people refer to as the “brand myth”.  That is a slightly misleading term since the creation of the brand is based in fact.

Brands have a past (except, of course, for a completely new brand) and people have a set of associations with the brand that have formed over time.  By recognizing this past and emphasizing the relevant threads of the past, it is possible to increase the relevance of the brand today and to set the trajectory for tomorrow.

2. The persona of the brand.  This is a fleshed out description of the brand, including the brand’s relationship to the various audience.  This relationship between the brand and the audience hinges on understanding the role of the brand in the life of the audience — professional life for b2b brands, personal or family life for consumer brands.

Often companies will overestimate the role of the brand in the life of their customer, which may create a sense of arrogance in the branding.

On the other side of the coin, underestimating the role of the brand can lead to missing opportunities for elevating the brand’s image.  It is easy to imaging the executives at Intel saying, “We are just a computer chip and consumers are buying the computer brand.”  In that situation there never would have been an “Intel inside.”

3. The verbal story of the brand.  Capturing the brand story in writing is important for an internal understanding of the brand and for having the right language to connect with customers.  The language of the brand must fit the persona.  It needs to be language that resonates with the audiences.  It is most powerful when it has strong, coherent, metaphors.

It is most unique when it has its own vocabulary, provided that the vocabulary is intuitive, not insular.  Intuitive language allows us to recall our own memories, combine them with the brand story and co-create a much richer set of associations.

Apple has built a unique vocabulary around animal metaphors — Safari, Leopard, Tiger.

Starbucks has its own language of Frappucino, Tazo, Vivanno.

A verbal story is far more than a name and a tagline, but those are included in the brand’s vocabulary.  Be careful about defining the brand in abstract language and then waiting for the advertising agency, the PR agency, the digital agency to all create the actual language used in the marketplace.  That demotes the brand story to the level of execution instead of integrating the brand story with the executional story.

4. The visual story of a brand.  Not all communication is verbal.  Psychologists have estimated that up to 80% of communication is non-verbal.  So the visual story, the visual metaphors, of a brand need to be carefully developed at a strategic level.  What are the strong visual metaphors of the brand?  When we see a rich and robust metaphor, we begin to co-create powerful associations in our minds and memories.  These strong metaphors shape our memories more profoundly than factual information.

For Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes it is Tony the Tiger (the voice of Tony the Tiger is another way of communicating through the senses).

Burton has a very high energy visual style, extreme and frenetic.  Apple has a very high energy visual style but it is smoother, rounder, more sophisticated.  Both appeal to young adults.  Both are unique visual vocabularies for their brands.  This visual language needs to be robust, influencing every aspect of the brand from product design to online design to advertising to retail design to business forms, invoices and so forth.

Burton snowboards: high energy

High energy design

High energy design

5. The experience people have with the brand.  The brand story is told through other sensory methods in addition to the verbal and visual.  Using storytelling at the strategic level means defining those experiences at the very beginning and not leaving it until the website is being developed.

The brand strategy should provide a strong guiding hand to the actual execution.  The more places that a customer can experience a brand, the stronger that strategic guidance needs to be in order to present a coherent face to the world. In a digital world the user experience has the potential be among the strong branding elements.  There is a fine balance between creating an easily accessible, functional online experience and one that is strongly branded.  We have seen examples where the branding is only considered as a skin or paint on top of a functionally defined user experience.  The brand experience should define the functionality and not the other way around.

It is not limited to digital experiences or retail experiences.  Consider for a moment how the Ritz-Carlton brand is defined by the service experience.  That experience has been codified and turned into a rigorous training program.  The same for Disneyland.  There is no reason that it cannot be done for any brand which has a strong service element.

By defining the brand story at a strategic level, the executional storytelling will add more dimensions and create a coherent whole.  The days when a few television commercials and lots of media spending could create a brand are quickly coming to an end.  The ways people come into contact with brands, both B2B and consumer, are proliferating.  In this world, the need for strong, robust strategic storytelling is growing.

Reinventing marketing: new survey underway

We are nearly finished fielding the second of our research studies on Reinventing Marketing.  The survey is among CMOs and other marketing decision makers.  The purpose is to understand their perspectives on the practice of marketing, what approaches are working best, what is no longer working and how the practice of marketing can be improved.

As part of the study we are looking at CMO priorities for 2010.

I invite all of you to share your ideas on how to reinvent marketing through the comments.

It will take another few weeks to do the full analysis and put out the report.  If you’d like to be put on the distribution list, just send me an email:

Just click here if you want to see the first study released earlier this year.  VerseGroup_MarketerReport You can also download some of the articles about the study from the Verse Group website.

The need for a new model of branding

Recently I came across data showing the decline of broadcast viewership vs. the growth of cable viewership.  The chart clearly showed that the good old days of 3 major networks is over.  Companies are adopting completely different media strategies, not only moving to cable but also to digital media.

Most senior marketers grew up in a different world where share of spending was highly correlated to share of market.  By highly correlated, I do mean in the statistical sense.  [When I was at Backer Spielvogel Bates, the media group could show a very strong correlation, over 80%, between spending levels and market share.  All things being equal, the biggest gains often went to the companies with deep pockets.  Media models were built on the assumption that the variations due to creative execution were generally minimal over time.]

The creative vehicle was thirty seconds long.  Sometimes there were executions as long as 60 seconds at the beginning of a campaign.

The message of a brand had to be distilled.  A whole new marketing science grew up around that distillation.

The branding model that dominated was brand positioning.  The age of brand positioning was declared the age where brand strategy was more important than creative brilliance.  In fact, Trout and Reis declared that the age of creativity was over and it was being replaced by the age of strategy.  That was the model that today’s generation of senior marketers grew up knowing.  It was the model that they associated with success early in their careers.

And today Brand Positioning is the model that still dominates.  Our research shows that the large majority of marketers are using Brand Positioning as their most common branding approach.

Yet that brand positioning model no longer fits the facts and available data.  The relationship between media spending and share of market has been broken.  Significant brands have grown through many different kinds of branding models.  Google is outspent by Yahoo, by Microsoft, by AOL.  Yet Google has grown while the others have shrunk.  Is the Google product really all that much better than the others at this point in time?  The difference is not noticeable by the average internet user.  In fact, Microsoft is putting out data to show that Bing is more relevant in search results.  Big spending, a demonstrable point of difference and yet little traction in the marketplace.

Strategy is not more important than Creativity.

A single point of difference, repeated in all media, is like showing a 30 second commercial over and over again at the length of a feature film.

The brand positioning model is broken.  Media strategies have been reinvented. The models for successful branding need to be reinvented, too.

A model built for a world of 3 networks no longer fits the reality of our world today.  The distillation appropriate for a 30 second commercial is simply not effective in a rich media online site where people can spend as much or as little time as they desire.  It doesn’t work for creating a 3 minute YouTube.

The new brand models are based on the principles of storytelling.  A story can be as long or as compressed as necessary.  A story can be told in many episodes.  A story unfolds over time.  A story can have sub-plots to reach many different messages.  A story has enough breathing room that it can engage in long media.

The Age of Brand Positioning is over.  The Age of Narrative has begun.

Why I am still not tweeting

No, I don’t tweet.

I have nothing against Twitter.  I don’t use it because it does not fit in with the strategic purpose of this blog.   Twitter is a limited medium for developing and sharing ideas.  In a blog there is more time for developing ideas more fully and giving examples.  With the blog I have the freedom to explain.  The post can be short or long.  It can have video, photographs, quotes all easily accessible without interrupting the experience.

The purpose of this blog is to contribute to the conversation about how marketing can be reinvented.  It is a complex conversation because it means unlearning the way we were all taught to market — the traditional “positioning” approach — and discovering new approaches that are more effective in a world of digital media.  That takes more time, more characters, than Twitter offers.

So why am I addressing this now?  Well, the question of my tweeting has come up frequently in the past week, more so than usual.  It seems that everybody is on Twitter, it is now in the 12th or 13th month of being all the rage.  Everyone is tweeting, so why not me?

So, I am taking the time to explain my non-tweet status instead of simply saying, “no, I don’t tweet.”  The simple answer is that it is not a good medium for reaching my audiences.  The longer answer goes into other areas such as resources and the ease of being misunderstood.  Using Twitter takes resources.  It is not something that can be done in spare time.  Distilling ideas into ready-to-tweet bite-size nuggets takes time.  Like the old Mark Twain joke, “it would have been shorter if I had more time.”



Scented memories

A great brand engages a customer on several different sensory levels, not just the name and the logo.  That extend to the feel of a Coke bottle in your hand, the sound of a Harley Davidson, the smell of Chanel.

In today’s NYTimes there was a neat piece about the role of scents in creating memories.

A new study being published in the Journal of Consumer Research provides strong evidence that scents improve the way people remember at the formation stage.  In other words, I don’t have to again smell the scent to recall the experience and my connection to the brand.

It’s the Scent That Tickles the Memory –

That is remarkable.  Typically we assume that the scent has to be present to trigger the memory.

The importance of scents in memory formation and connection to brands is another reason why marketing needs to be reinvented.

There is no place in the traditional brand positioning model to include all the sensory cues of a brand.  There is no space on the brand positioning form for scent profile or taste profile or tactile profile.  All of those are treated as if they are separate from the brand.

In Narrative Branding we believe that those experiences are central to the brand.  That is why they are included in creating the overarching narrative.  If a brand is to be more than words and designs, then it needs to embrace all aspects of the brand experience.  In all senses of the word.

So it is heartening to see that Professor Aradhna Krishna, a co-author of the study, is pushing into new areas of marketing.   She’s a professor at U of Michigan, where she’s organized a conference on Sensory Marketing.

And the winner is…Hyundai!

In case  you missed this morning’s edition of Ad Age, Hyundai has been voted “Marketer of the Year”  So Kudos to the folks at Hyundai and their various agencies!

In a year when other marketers were soft-pedalling the economic crisis, Hyundai addressed it head-on with frank and honest messages.  That’s pretty refreshing.

And they paid off the marketing with cars that are remarkable for their quality and design.  I rented one in the middle of September and was very surprised and pleased.

Hyundai_Marketer of the Year

It is proof that you can change people’s minds about brands with a strong narrative.  This should bring optimism to any marketer with a brand that has drifted.  It takes time, it takes bold moves, but it can be done.  It is easier to change people’s minds than it is to change your brand.

The company has come a long way from the days that it was first introduced to America in advertising by Backer and Spielvogel.

Now maybe someone can step in and give Chrysler some help?



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