Following the example of Media Orchart blog which compiled a list of top 25 blogs tagged Public Relations in Technorati blog search engine, I did the same, getting a list of top 25 linked blogs tagged with branding.
Before the list itself, is worth mentioning that the list is problematic, in terms of there might be some blogs that are not exclusively discussing branding subjects (it all depends on the blog authors tagging their blogs with the term) on one hand or some others that are more visible branding blogs that are not present in the top (as their authors never signed up with technorati), on the other hand.
All in all, it is an interesting list of blogs, if you’re looking for more information or resources on the matter.
2. Johnnie Moore’s Weblog
3. Thinking by Peter Davidson
4. The Social Customer Manifesto
5. Media Culpa
9. Piaras Kelly PR
11. Advertising/Design Goodness
12. Emergence Marketing
13. Brand Infection
16. brandXpress Blog
17. Jane Genova: Speechwriter Ghostwriter
18. Media Orchard
20. Marketing Usabile
21. Shotgun Marketing Blog
22. Casual Fridays
23. My Name is Kate
24. The Brand Builder Blog
25 Day Care For Your Brain
I had here earlier an article on brand loyalty and why brand loyalty is the ultimate goal a company sets for a branded product, on main reasons why brand loyalty is important and some action-steps to take in order to turn repeatead customers into brand-loyal customers.
Meanwhile I just find an interesting post on The Diva Marketing Blog, on the subject, which quoting Don Schultz, professor at Northwestern University and president of Agora Inc, lists several reasons why consumers are brand loyal, even though I would call them repeated customers in these cases:
The product is the only one available – such as in a monopoly marketplace situation
Consumer inertia – repetitive consumer behavior and the path of least resistance
Indifference – all available brands are considered alike, cost the same, are a commodity product
Customer satisfaction – customer believes there is good price/value relationship and the product or service is consistent over time
Brands are a badge of honor or identifier – customers want to be affiliated with the brand. Those reasons may range from ego to self confidence to being a member of a special group. Harley-Davdison is a great example. How many other brands do you know of where customers actually have a brand logo tattooed on their bodies?
My view is that brand loyalty doesn’t exist for many products and services, and is declining for those who have a modicum of it, because the marketing organization and the brand are not loyal to the customer. Brand loyalty is a reciprocal process, with both buyer and seller getting what they want.
The article is ending up with a question to consider if you have, or are thinking about developing a loyalty program:
Can you keep your promises? And what happens when you can’t?
Well I totally agree with that, with the the mention that branding is making promises and keeping them in the first place, and this question has its place before even starting your business or branding campaign.
The New York Times has an article on the emergence of blogs dedicated to the discussion of individual brands
As the number of blogs has grown, more consumers are keeping Web diaries dedicated exclusively to their favorite brands. While most of them are written without the consent of the companies that own the brands, some companies are starting to pay attention to blogs, using them as a kind of informal network of consumer opinion.
For these bloggers, intertwining their personal stories and commentaries gives them a stake in defining the brand’s image while linking them with fans of similar mind across the country.
For readers, these blogs, help them make decisions about what to buy. And according to a survey released this spring by Yankelovich, a marketing firm based in Chapel Hill, N.C., a third of all consumers would prefer to receive product information from friends and specialists rather than from advertising.
The brand blogs also give consumers information that companies do not necessarily publicize on their Web sites.
Steve Rubel, of New York, whose blog Micro Persuasion, follows the impact of blogs on public relations, argues that companies should embrace the in-depth customer feedback the blogs offer.
It’s a 24/7 focus group that’s transparent and out in the open,[…] the opportunity here is for companies to find their brand ambassadors.
Almost every business has a trading name, from the smallest market trader to the largest multi-national corporation. Only a minority of those businesses however, have what could be classed as a brand.
Branding is the process of creating distinctive and durable perceptions in the minds of consumers. A brand is a persistent, unique business identity intertwined with associations of personality, quality, origin, liking and more.
Although most people associate brands with big companies, the smallest of enterprises can use branding techniques with great rewards.
Recognition and Loyalty
The main benefit of branding is that customers are much more likely to remember your business. A strong brand name and logo/image helps to keep your company image in the mind of your potential customers.
If your business sells products that are often bought on impulse, a customer recognising your brand could mean the difference between no-sale and a sale. Even if the customer was not aware that you sell a particular product, if they trust your brand, they are likely to trust you with unfamiliar products. If a customer is happy with your products or services, a brand helps to build customer loyalty across your business.
Image of Size
A strong brand will project an image of a large and established business to your potential customers. People usually associate branding with larger businesses that have the money to spend on advertising and promotion. If you can create effective branding, then it can make your business appear to be much bigger than it really is.
An image of size and establishment can be especially important when a customer wants reassurance that you will still be around in a few years time.
Image of Quality
A strong brand projects an image of quality in your business, many people see the brand as a part of a product or service that helps to show its quality and value.
It is commonly said that if you show a person two identical products, only one of which is branded; they will almost always believe the branded item is higher quality.
If you can create effective branding, then over time the image of quality in your business will usually go up. Of course, branding cannot replace good quality, and bad publicity will damage a brand (and your businesses image), especially if it continues over a long period of time.
Image of Experience and Reliability
A strong brand creates an image of an established business that has been around for long enough to become well known. A branded business is more likely to be seen as experienced in their products or services, and will generally be seen as more reliable and trustworthy than an unbranded business.
Most people will believe that a business would be hesitant to put their brand name on something that was of poor quality.
If your business has a strong brand, it allows you to link together several different products or ranges. You can put your brand name on every product or service you sell, meaning that customers for one product will be more likely to buy another product from you.
PointRoll Inc., a leader in rich media technology and service, today announced the results of its first annual survey of creative online advertising professionals. Respondents from leading agencies worldwide detailed market trends, challenges and opportunities, illustrating a significant shift in the goals and measurement of online ads.
Key findings of the survey include:
Branding is the most important consideration for online ads, with 70 percent of respondents identifying it as the “most important” or “second most important” goal.
Interaction rate is the most important measurement of rich media performance. 53 percent of participants indicated that the best way to judge an ad is to measure the percent of users that interact with the unit.
Video is gaining ground. 79 percent of those surveyed have included video when creating rich media ads, which PointRoll’s metrics demonstrate boosts time-on-brand +16% versus the overall PointRoll average. 53 percent of participants think video should be 15 seconds or less, and many noted an increase in video created specifically for online use.
Brands are so much a part of our lives that we forget how much we depend on them. We use brands as shorthand to make our trips to the grocery store easier; we use brands to reassure us about our purchasing decisions; we even use brands to define ourselves in society.
A brand is a promise. A kept promise. With a brand, you set customer expectations. When someone buys your product or service, they count on those expectations to be fulfilled.
The components of your brand promise are based on:
Consistency of experience.
This is the absolute critical component in building a brand. Whether I go into a McDonald’s in Boise or Beijing, I expect my french fries to taste the same, and I expect to see those golden arches.
At the most basic level, to build a brand you must develop a strong brand image. You know you are in a Starbucks even if you don’t see the name over the door. Consistent look-and-feel extends to your logo, colors, typefaces, decor, employee clothing, and more.
It’s not enough to deliver a consistent experience to your customer. The experience must also be of a certain level of quality. McDonald’s french fries don’t have to be the best french fries in the world, but they have to be good french fries and they have to be fresh every time.
Distinct competitive position.
A brand must stand for something and differentiate you from the competition. Three strong brands of superstores have very different competitive positions: Wal-Mart, low prices; Target, hip discount. These positions make it easy for a consumer to choose the brand that suits them.
To remember your brand, customers must hear it or see it over and over. Of course, building brand awareness takes money, and that’s a challenge if you are a small company. The key is to clearly and narrowly define your target market. Then, make sure those potential customers see you many times by repeatedly advertising in the same publications and attending the same networking events.
Brand loyalty is the ultimate goal a company sets for a branded product. Brand loyalty is a consumer’s preference to buy a particular brand in a product category. It occurs because consumers perceive that the brand offers the right product features, images, or level of quality at the right price. This perception becomes the foundation for a new buying habit. Basically, consumers initially will make a trial purchase of the brand and, after satisfaction, tend to form habits and continue purchasing the same brand because the product is safe and familiar.
Brand loyalty is the strongest measure of a brand’s value, it can be demonstrated not only by repeated buying of a product or servic but also by a good word of mouth and advocation of a product or service. Even with the availability of other alternatives.
There are three main reasons why brand loyalty is important:
Higher Sales Volume – The average US company loses half of its customers every five years, equating to a 13% annual loss of customers. This statistic illustrates the challenges companies face when trying to grow in competitive environments. Achieving even 1% annual growth requires increasing sales to customers, both existing and new, by 14%. Reducing customer loss can dramatically improve business growth and brand loyalty, which leads to consistent and even greater sales since the same brand is purchased repeatedly.
Premium Pricing Ability – Studies show that as brand loyalty increases, consumers are less sensitive to price changes. Generally, they are willing to pay more for their preferred brand because they perceive some unique value in the brand that other alternatives do not provide. Additionally, brand loyalists buy less frequently on cents-off deals – these promotions only subsidize planned purchases.
Retain Rather than Seek – Brand loyalists are willing to search for their favorite brand and are less sensitive to competitive promotions. The result is lower costs for advertising, marketing and distribution. Specifically, it costs four to six times as much to attract a new customer as it does to retain an old one.
Unfortunately, the most commonly used approaches tend to equate loyalty with a frequency of repeat purchases. This type of quantitative tactic does not take into account customer motivations, which should not be overlooked. Without knowing why a customer makes multiple purchases, management is missing the critical key behind the actions and cannot adapt the product or marketing to respond to customer preferences. An opportunity to maximize sales is simply lost. The challenge becomes:
How to focus a marketing campaign on existing customers who are most likely to generate repeat business.
How to anticipate what goods and services these customers will want.
How to communicate with these premium customers cost-effectively.
The first step in maximizing sales and profits from your existing customer base is to identify which are your core brand-loyal customers and which are the price-sensitive, bargain-hunting, convenience customers. The distinction is important because different customer/loyalty types respond better to promotions targeted to their respective purchase motivations: e.g., coupons and discounts are far more effective in stimulating sales to the communication customers than the brand loyals.
In general, it is more cost-effective to focus major marketing efforts on the core brand-loyal customers for whom the products is filling a need or preference, because this group has the highest value and will be a more profitable source of repeat business. The bargain-hunters, in contrast, are more fickle and less likely to be profitable since their major draw is based on low price or convenience.
After identifying your brand loyals, the next step is to develop a long-term, ongoing relationship with them. Profits will naturally follow.
It is easier to reinforce behaviors than to change them and the sale is just the beginning of an opportunity to turn the purchaser into a loyalist.
Develop an unbeatable product – if you want to keep customers, make sure they can get what they want from your product.
Stand behind your product – if customers don’t trust the product, they won’t purchase it again.
Know your trophy customers and treat them best of all – remember the rule that 80% of sales will come from the top 20% of customers.
Become a customer service champion – seek to serve the customer and they will repeat-purchase…again and again!
Landor Associates, the world’s leading branding and design consultancy, in partnership with BrandEconomics, a division of global consulting firm Stern Stewart & Co., today announced the results of its 2005 Breakaway Brands Study. The study’s findings appear exclusively in FORTUNE magazine’s October 31st issue, available now at www.fortune.com and on newsstands October 21st.
The study identifies the ten brands in the United States that have made the greatest percentage gains in business value as a result of superb brand strategy and execution over the three-year period, from 2001-2004.
The list includes a wide range of consumer and business-to-business brands, as well as mono- and sub-brands.
Landor’s Breakaway Brands Study represents a significantly different approach from the more traditional published brand rankings which tend to categorize brands by size or popularity. Instead, our study quantitatively values measurable improvement in brand strength over three years,
said Hayes Roth, Vice President, Worldwide Marketing and Business Development for Landor.
While the study includes popular brands, like Google and iPod, it also recognizes newer brands that are still carving a niche for themselves, like LeapFrog and Sierra Mist, as well as old favorites, such as Eggo and Gerber, that have successfully revitalized their franchises through well conceived and executed strategies. The study demonstrates that building strong brands is vital to virtually any organization, regardless of its size or industry.
The study identifies the following ten Breakaway Brands:
Your brand positioning is the “space” that your services and solutions occupy in the minds of your target audience. The right positioning incorporates strong values and differentiators that are important to your customers. Brand positioning is important in deciding where you want to position your brand within its category and relative to the competition. Brand Positioning permeates virtually everything we do. It is the foundation to all communications and brand strategy. It is the disciplined thinking that guides the basis for building relationships between brands and customers.
Once you determine the way in which you can reach your market, the next thing to look at is how you are going to lure your customer to try your brand.
Here is a list of nine positioning types you can think of before deciding on which one you will attach to your brand:
1. Quality positioning
Perception of quality is probably one of the most important elements for a brand to have and can be combined with any of the other prompts below.
Quality, or the perception of quality, lies in the mind of the buyer. Build a powerful perception of quality, and you will succeed in creating a powerful brand. Al Reis and Laura Reis, authors of The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding say the best way to increase perception of quality is to narrow the company’s focus. When you narrow a product’s focus, they explain, you become a specialist rather than a generalist, and a specialist is perceived to know more, or be of “higher quality” than a generalist.
Another way to build the perception of high quality is to simply attach a higher price tag to your brand. Most people think that they know a high quality product from another, but in reality, things are not always as they seem.
Believe it or not, high price is a benefit to some customers. It allows the affluent consumer to obtain psychological satisfaction from the public purchase and consumption of a high end product. Of course, the product or service does need to have some perk or difference to justify the higher price.
2. Value positioning
Although at one time, items that were considered to be a good “value” meant that they were inexpensive, that stigma has fallen by the wayside. Today, brands that are considered a value are rising in popularity amongst consumers. Southwest Airlines is probably the best example of how a company has been able to offer discount prices and still keep a strong brand identity. In fact, most of the other major airlines have followed Southwest’s lead by rolling out value-priced flights under new, co-branded names.
3. Feature-driven positioning
More marketers rely on product/service features to differentiate their brands than any other method. The advantage is that the message is clear, and the positioning will be credible if you stick to the facts about the product. Unfortunately, feature-orientated stances are often rendered useless if the competition comes out with a faster or more advanced model.
4. Relational positioning
One of the most effective ways to create interest in a brand is to send out a positioning prompt that resonates well with potential buyers. For instance, Sketchers equates sneakers with cool and that characteristic passes to all who wear them. Apple computer, which was down on its luck in the overall computer marketplace, started asking computer users to liberate themselves from the PC camp and” Think Different.” These brands have achieved positioning based on who buys what they sell, not solely by what they sell.
5. Aspiration positioning
These are positioning prompts that offer prospects a place they might like to go, or a person they might like to be, or a state of mind they might like to achieve.
6. Problem/solution positioning
As the name implies, problem/solution prompts show the consumer how a sticky situation can be relieved quickly and easily with the brand or service. What problem/solution campaigns lack in imagination, they usually make up for in directness and credibility. For example, frozen meals cut meal preparation time to minutes. Detergents and cleansers also make good use of these prompts.
7. Rivalry-based positioning
By definition, positioning deals with how one brand is thought of compared to its obvious competitors. Therefore, the idea of a rivalry-based position might seem redundant but many campaigns take this approach. Laundry detergents, for one, are constantly going head-to-head to prove which one has the most power to lift stains.
8. Warm and fuzzy positioning
Underneath our capitalist driven needs to consume, we are still docile and emotional animals. As such, many marketers play on our feelings. In the book, Building Brand Identity: A Strategy for Success in a Hostile Marketplace, author Lynn Upshaw writes, “How people feel about a brand is oftentimes need- or desire based, which means that emotional or psychological approaches can oftentimes be very effective as positioning prompts.”
9. Benefit-driven positioning
Other brands base their entire positioning on the fact that they give back to the consumer. Discover credit card, for instance tells customers that “It Pays to Discover.” Use the card and get money back. Discover was among the first major credit cards companies to provide its users with a financial incentive for using their card.
Booz Allen Hamilton and the brand consulting firm Wolff Olins carried out research among marketing executives across Europe. It shows that over 90 percent of companies believe their brand is a key element of their success—twice as many as five years ago. Yet less than 20 percent put the management of their brand at the heart of their business systems and capabilities. This appears to be significant in explaining superior brand performance.
The study identified three categories of organizations:
…recognize the importance of brands and sound management of brands for their business success. They have established a common understanding of what the company stands for, and hence have assigned clear brand ownership at top management level. Brand-guided companies occur across all industries.
Emerging brand companies
…have not yet fully recognized the importance of brands for their business success but expect brands to become increasingly important over the next five years. They are working on establishing a common understanding of their brand within their company, but have not yet established clear brand ownership.
…do not consider brands to be an important factor to their business success today and do not believe they will be important in the next five years. They do not intend to develop a common understanding of their brands within the company and have no interest in establishing clear brand ownership in their organizations.
Brand-guided companies have clearly-defined brand values that are understood throughout the entire organization. They establish well-defined ownership for management of the brand at top management level. This enables the brand to provide the cohesive force that guides key activities—such as product development, customer service, sales, and operations—and supports the strategic management process.
On average, the research shows that brand-guided companies have profitability margins nearly twice the industry standard.
The study also identified 10 key attributes of brand-guided organizations.
The company recognizes that the brand is a key asset in delivering its strategic targets at a level that is higher than the industry standard
The company doesn’t consider the brand as merely a communications issue—brand is recognized as the key platform to link the company strategy with customers and employees
Brand management processes are integrated seamlessly into the company’s processes—i.e., “branding” is not a separate activity
Success is generated by corporate confidence—the brand delivers that success by providing a catalyst for the company’s products, services and employees
Senior management is accountable for the brand’s continued health—brand responsibility resides at C-level
All employees share a belief in the brand as well as a common understanding of it, the power of the brand acts as an incentive to employees, employees’ activities are aligned with the brand values and contribute to building and strengthening the brand, and employees are measured and rewarded by the success of these brand-guided activities
Marketing department is able to talk in terms of expected return on their investments—marketers can leverage customer insights to make the most effective marketing decisions, they can also analyze what they know about customers to contribute effectively to strategy in the future, and marketing activities are always closely aligned with the core brand values
The company has sufficient IT capability in place to capture data on customers, segment them effectively, respond to their needs, and catalyze marketing techniques to deliver high ROI
The company assesses key performance indicators, such as “share of wallet,” on a regular basis—as a result of these assessments, you take appropriate management action
The company identifies brand equity (the financial value of your brand)— understanding the brand’s value drivers and the levers required to influence these drivers