I would like to say this is "tongue-in-cheek" but the words are so true for brand strategy and insights that I am adopting this as my theme-song. No I'm not kidding, there is science that backs this up... a study of Facebook messaging by brands (1-2018 Advertising Content and Consumer Engagement on Social Media: Evidence from Facebook Dokyun Lee Kartik Hosanagar University of Pennsylvania Harikesh Nair) shows that posts that talk about "you, you, you" are negatively correlated with engagement versus posts that are "me, me, me" emotional, humorous brand personality-related increase engagement. So enjoy the song... and think about me! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxUuDPNbkJk
When it comes to successful brand marketing…moments matter. It seems counter-intuitive in the world of big brands that sell in the hundreds of millions every year, but even those brands have effectively captured a moment in our lives…and not even a lit bit more. Moments can be shared by large numbers of people, some even universally. This is why moments, in my opinion, are more important than segments. This is not to say that segmentation does not enhance your understanding of the consumer, however, by its very nature, it divides the marketplace into small groups of similar consumers. Thus, it is usually more effective to position your brand in a moment rather than for a segment. Not a believer yet? Here is an example to consider...
Corona Extra Beer is one of the few big beer brands to maintain growth in the face of competition from craft beers and migration to wine and spirits. They have focused the brand on a very particular moment of “stress relief” bringing this moment to life in the metaphor of “find your beach.” This positioning does not target beach-goers, but rather the universal moment of “relief from everyday stress and routine.” Even its famous lime ritual serves to cement the brand to this emotional moment, as a symbol of “clocking out” and “squeezing your stress away and into the drink.”
The 5 Rules of Creating Culturally Relevant Brands
By Tim Coffey
Founder & Chief Revolutionist
1. It’s Not You, It’s Me.
The first rule of creating culturally relevant brands is to understand that this process is not primarily focused on defining your brand. More fundamentally, it is about understanding the consumer from the standpoint of their desires and needs in a particular circumstance or setting. It is about them, not you. Harvard Professor Theodore Leavitt is oft quoted as saying that…
“People don't want to buy a quarter-inch drill. They want a quarter-inch hole!”
In this analogy, your brand is the quarter-inch drill and they don’t want to buy it…they want a quarter-inch hole! So, step one is discovering what is your “quarter inch hole.” Sounds easy enough, but in our experience, you need to “drill” a bit deeper.
2. What is Culture?
Ahh yes, culture. One of those sexy words which defies easy definition. Pop culture? Human culture? Sub-culture? Counter culture? Corporate culture? There are a lot of ways to go with this one, but for purposes of branding, I like how Merriam-Webster approaches the word:
“The characteristic features of everyday existence shared by people in a place or time.”
The real essence of this definition from a marketing POV, in my opinion, are the words: shared, people, place and time. That’s because these words focus our attention on what really matters when in comes to creating culturally relevant brands. We need to be specific when it comes to what we are trying to understand… remember it’s not about you?
3. So What’s the Need?
So, in the context of “culture” as defined above, we need to understand the need? That is, for a particular group of people (shared), in a particular circumstance (place and time) what are the emotional, functional, and social jobs to do. This is a big job and the most important one when it comes to creating culturally relevant brands. In order to be relevant, you must know for what you are attempting to be relevant. Breaking this down a bit, you need to start looking at the people (shared), in a particular circumstance (place and time), where your brand lives. In other words, for whom, when, and where is your brand relevant?
4. How Do You Uniquely Meet The Need?
So, unless you are the as yet undiscovered cure for whatever ails mankind, then functional needs are probably not going to be the the place for you to focus on being unique. Take water for example, the functional need is to quench your thirst and provide hydration. Ok, so your brand of water really, really quenches thirst. So unless I am in a desert and your water is the only one available…but you are not the only one available, so let’s look elsewhere. Again, the answer is to stop focusing on yourself and focus on the consumer’s deeper needs that are likely emotional or social. In a world where most people focus on themselves (or their brands) you are more likely to find a unique proposition in the emotional or social realms. Are these needs unique? No, actually they are more general, more broadly applicable… translation… big ideas. Net, what you are really looking for is a need (probably emotional or social) that is not already associated with another brand and can be authentically associated with your brand.
5. Insert Your Brand Into The Circumstance.
So how does that work? Well, this is where you need to understand that your brand in just a prop in the drama of life, in a particular scene, or circumstance. You need to become part of the story. An article in Psychology and Marketing, 2008, Dr Arch Woodside wrote…
“Consumers often use products and services as props or anthropomorphic identities to enact story productions that reflect archetypal myths. Storytelling of such enactments includes conversations between consumers and brands on both unconscious and conscious levels of thinking (cf.Wang et al., 2007; Zaltman, 2003).”
Yep, that is a mouthful! But, that is where we come in. Our expertise is helping you to sort through and craft the storyline into which your brand becomes a prop… and in doing so, you are well on your way to becoming a culturally relevant brand.
Modelo Especial Beer.
People: For young adult males
Circumstance: Who are working hard to overcome humble beginnings
Emotional Need: So that they can achieve honor and status
Prop: Modelo Especial is “the gold” that symbolizes and celebrates their journey.
Archetypal Story:Rags to riches)
Archetypal Character: Knight/Warrior (fights for honor)
Brand Experience: Taste that’s pure gold. Gold embellished packaging. UFC sponsorship.
I call this the end of an era rather than the beginning of a new one, as this transition has been going on for at least 10 years, if not more. I would like to give credit for this to millennials who are coming of age as adult consumers, but frankly Gen X should probably get the credit. I will talk about that more later, but for now, let's examine the above example of a major brand making a radical transformation of their brand packaging and the implications thereof for all brands.
Bud Light is the largest beer brand in the world. So for that brand to make such a revolutionary change to their trade dress is striking. It either represents great hubris of a CMO, as was the case with Pepsico's ill-fated transformation of the Tropicana brand a few years ago, or it is a reflection of a brand who recognizes the world around them has changed for good and that they must change with it before they become irrelevant. I believe it is the latter.
What is driving this change? At its core, I believe that it is a universal mistrust of all things corporate. The more savvy and perhaps cynical Gen X and Millennial consumers have no trust or loyalty to the traditional corporations for whom their parents dedicated their lives and loyalty to, only to be betrayed as a consequence of soul-less economics. That's why they are attracted to founder-led, maker, and often local brands that impute the purpose and values of a human being in a way that can be evaluated straight up. Some have argued that this group cares more about what you stand for than what you make. I don't disagree with this, however, I believe it is deeper than this. It is about authenticity.
Authenticity is a difficult concept for large corporations to grasp, particularly those who offer large portfolios of multiple brands that have been created and positioned to appeal to the desires of a particular segment of the market. The notion of positioning is somewhat in-authentic to begin with. Politicians position themselves to appeal to the largest number of voters and we all know the motivations of politicians! Brands do the same thing. They are willing to "be" whatever will appeal to the largest number of buyers!
So what is the poor corporation supposed to do? In my way of thinking they need to begin thinking about brands not as the identity of a specified group of products in their portfolio, but rather think of brands as entities that exist to achieve a mission that shares values with a large number of people. They need to structure their organizations around that mission, filling them with employees who are passionate about that mission (rather than employees who are mercenaries to earn a living). Why? Because without purpose, a thin veneer of authenticity that only covers up inauthenticity is most damning of all for today's consumers.
When we look at Bud Light's new packaging, we easily see their attempt to convey a deeper sense of who they are as a brand, as one with history, honor and pride of a true maker of beer. Notice how the new packaging walks away from the communication of functional attributes of smooth and refreshing and replaces that with values based imagery.
This is a good start. The question now will be one of integrity to build a mission-driven brand organization behind this new identity. If they have the courage to do this, then they will have transitioned to brand authenticity.
Where does your brand stand today?
#brands, #brandstrategy, #budlight
Early this morning I was visited by an old friend in my dreams who reminded me of his revolutionary design thinking. I had the great privilege to have worked with the late Morison Cousins in the early 90's at Tupperware. Morison was the "rock star" which was appropriate since he had already accomplished significant milestones in his industrial design career. I like to think, however, that he and I were collaborators, and I am sure that he would agree. Morison was the artist. I was the commercializing Director of Innovation & Marketing. Form and function.
The image above is of the On The Dot Kitchen Timer, which is part of the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York. This product was created as part of our initiative to expand Tupperware's presence from plastic cups & bowls to the entire kitchen with "extraordinary design for everyday living." This little kitchen timer was significant, perhaps even transformative, to Tupperware in many ways. It was the Company's first foray into kitchen gadgets. It was the Company's first "mechanical" device. It was the first product to be sold by Tupperware that would be manufactured by another company in Italy. It was the first product that would be sold with a "guarantee of satisfaction" rather than the Company's well-know lifetime guarantee. After all, it was not reasonable to expect that this device could withstand the rigors of a lifetime of use.
The product was and is a perfect representation of Morison's design philosophy. Simple. Clean. Pure. Geometric. Functional, yes, but the form transcended to create an emotional connection with its user. There was a sense of beauty and artistry to this simple functional device that made it exceptional enough to have become part of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum's permanent collection. There was also a sense of whimsical personality that I wanted to capture with the name, so I coined the product as the On The Dot Kitchen Timer. It made me smile. It still does. The small spherical dot on the side of its perfectly conical shape was a functional adaptation to keep the timer from rolling off the countertop!
Form and function, yes. Beyond this classic paradigm, however, was, what I believe to be the larger concept of #emotional innovation. There is a sense of magic that happens when a functional item touches our hearts with a sense of beauty and whimsy that simply makes us smile. This idea says that form does not follow function, but rather form is function.
P.S. The On The Dot Kitchen Timer was never sold to consumers. I believe that there is one remaining working prototype at the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and one more in my kitchen, where it has made me smile now for over 25 years. The product was deemed as "too dangerous" by a corporate lawyer, who judged the point of the conical shape to be a potential safety hazard. Rather than modify the design with a blunt and clunky point, we decided that this product would remain as part of our memories and in the museum as a pure expression of #emotionalinnovation. #cooperhewitt. #smithsonian.
There are three foundational insights that guide what we do and how we think about brand strategy at Launchforce Strategy, which together, represent what I like to call the "Brand Motivation Triangle." The three insights are as follows:
The second insight is where motivation meets brands. This is the idea that consumers are naturally and magnetically attracted to brands (and people) that appear to express the fulfillment of the motivations that we are particularly oriented to. So the implications for brand managers are obvious: make your brands speak the language of motivation! Of course, this is where we come in. Our Blink Apperception Research method is designed to identify the motivations that brands uniquely express to consumers. The method is a sophisticated version of a projective interview that uses over 100 images to discern prompt projective stories. If you want to learn more about this method, then check out our website, or better yet, give us a call.
The third insight, for me is the most exciting. Again, that insight is that brands can increase their appeal and loyalty by focusing their branding and innovation through the lens of an ownable motivation. We have developed a guide for this called the Resonant Insights Model, but I will save this for another blog post. Real motivational power is available to brand who are willing venture into the Brand Motivation Triangle.
We see adaptations everywhere! Simply defined, an adaptation, from an innovation point of view, is any behavior or device that seeks to accomplish a task or a goal in an apparently easier or better way. For example, if this toddler is wearing a diaper or pull-up, what is the adaptation?
Exploring adaptations is useful in that it can often lead to an insight about how we can create innovations to help make living easier or better. So have at it. This picture is full of them!
It wasn't that long ago that brands made the claim of no preservatives, no artificial flavors, no artificial colors was a point of differentiation. I remember when Tropicana effectively disrupted the orange juice category with its not from concentrate, nothing added, nothing taken away claim. Today, however, I opened this can of Chef Boyardee and noticed that it included what I believe to be new claims on the can of all of the above. Maybe they've always been that way, but this is the first time I've seen it called out. Good for them. But...I don't think this is going to disrupt anything. Today, this is table-stakes, price of entry stuff. Purely defensive I suppose. Consumers have moved on. Even my hair stylist mentioned this today (I don't remember why?).
So, what can a brand do to drive relevance and differentiation in this world of un-differentiation? The answer, I believe, is to connect your brand to human motivations. How do you do that? Well we do this by helping brands understand the motivations that their brands implicitly express to consumers and how that might be different than their competition. With that insight, we can then show them how to focus their voice through this lens and build not only their differentiation but also their authenticity. The formula is something like this:
We stand for MOTIVATION that is why we TANGIBLE CLAIM.
For example, Chef Boyardee might choose to focus on a motivation of FAMILY (the desire to have, nurture, and please your family). Thus, it would give the NO, NO's a deeper meaning than table-stakes. Instead, they become proof of the brand's character.
We have no problem understanding that, as human beings, we have motivations that guide our behaviors, both consciously and unconsciously. Have you ever considered, however, that brands can express motivations and that these kinds of expressions are especially powerful attractants to human beings?
While we do all kinds of qualitative research, we developed and often use a methodology we call Blink Apperception Research (BAR) to dig into how brands express motivations and how these brands can build their resonance with consumers by telling their brand story through the lens of their distinct motivational profile. The fascinating thing about BAR is that we consistently discern substantial differences between brands in a tight competitive set that ordinary brand image tracking research fails to detect. In fact, often the reason companies hire us is that they believe that their brand is relatively un-differentiated versus its competition and they would like to find a way to change this.
The BAR method is based on the methods psychologists have used for years, called Thematic Apperception Tests or Projective Research, to elicit stories from patients that could be psychologically revealing. Of course, BAR is specifically designed to elicit stories about brands from consumers. Which brings us back to our initial question... do brands express motivations? The answer is yes they do.
As an example of how this works, consider a well-established brand that competes in a well-established category with other well-established brands. It is no surprise that these brands are all seen as trusted/reliable in image studies. When we explore the motivations these brands are expressing, we see a much different picture. One brand, that is trusted/reliable strongly expresses the motivation of HONOR (or the desire to follow parental values to do the right thing), while another more strongly expresses the motivation of STATUS ( or the desire to be seen as having a higher social standing). Both are "trusted/reliable" but their inherent stories are completely different. By understanding your specific brand motivation, you can begin to focus your communications, branding, and innovation through the lens of your ownable motivation, thereby increasing brand differentiation. Without this insight, you could be trying to tell a story about your brand that just doesn't seem to stick, and the reason is that it is out of sync with the brand's implicit motivational profile.
We would be happy to share more about this topic with you and how it might be able to help you increase the differentiating resonance of your brand.
If you haven't seen this little gem, then you are definitely missing an important trend that is in full swing with Millennials, not to mention a very tasty addition to your food repertoire. No this is not the latest Ron Popeil invention, although I wouldn't doubt that he made something like this at some point in time. It is called The Spiralizer by Paderno, and it is starting to show up in Millennials' kitchens everywhere. So what's so important about the "Spiralizer?"
The importance of this gadget is that it is a clear manifestation of a powerful trend called "clean eating." As a recent article in the NY Daily News expressed, "clean eating is suddenly everywhere." It is like the proverbial perfect storm of several trends converging into one. Organic, locavore, fitness, weight loss, low carb and foody all "spiraling" together into a coalescence that could do some real damage if you are on the wrong side of this bad boy. Ok, enough of the metaphors, you get the picture.
What you are seeing in the picture above is a device that allows you to make noodles from vegetables like zucchini, in order to replace carbohydrate rich pastas. And, by the way, this tastes really good with some homemade marinara sauce. And is very low in simple carbs and fat.
So you have to ask yourself, what are the implications for my business of this trend that is taking full root with Millennials? Are my products and brands on the right side of history? We can help you hear and see how millennials are changing landscape of consumer products, and how you can be on the right side of this "perfect storm."
This blog offers stories and discussions on how to build more relevance and differentiation for brands. The author is Timothy Coffey, Chief Revolutionist of Launchforce Strategy, a consumer research consultancy that specializes in highly creative qualitative methods. His experience ranges from brand and research management at Procter & Gamble to innovation management at Tupperware to founding and leading an integrated marketing strategy agency. He is the author of three books, Innovation Myths & Mythstakes, The New Super Consumer, Mom&Kid, and The Great Tween Buying Machine.