|The threat of overbranding|
By overbranding I mean that until a few years ago, particularly if you were an fmcg company - foods, toiletries things like that - the way to develop markets was within country and within product category. So you had a different brand in each country and product category and that was the level at which brands were operated. But now business competition is going truly international; most brands have become so fragmented that they really do not have any share of voice in the global public's minds; so the result is that having hundreds and hundreds of separate brand channels actually puts the company at disadvantage.
The real key is the legacy and history of how brands have been managed in the 1970s and 1980s. Many companies are now saddled in the 1990s with huge portfolios of small minority brands which do not justify themselves and are not supportable economically in the current communications environment nor on any future competitive scenarios. Extracts from BBC for Business video "Branding - The Marketing Advantage"
Unfortunately, we now have to recognise an episode in marketing history where many marketing and advertising people have set to sea - like the owl and the pussy cat of Edward Lear - in a beautiful pea green boat. One which is now sailing into history and must therefore be quickly jettisoned by those who want to enjoy the future of brand organisation.
Most of the terms of reference for brand positioning trace back to the seventies when Americans Trout and Ries (T&R) popularised a theory of positioning consumers' minds that was anchored almost exclusively in the brand's first power base of 'value'. Their schooling emphasised that effective product positionings required a different brand for every product. Moreover, T&R castigated the mere thought of umbrella branding across product or national territories (of consumers' minds) as a corporate sickness. In effect, T&R positioned positioning to delight managers of the short-term.
I first started researching umbrella brands seriously ten years ago. The Japanese office of a leading fmcg multinational had not been making any headway with product brands and was prepared to tear up T&R's approach to positioning. In Japanese markets, product sub-brands were the lowest form of brand with Japanese consumers wanting to know what quality of corporate guarantee was on the line whenever they chose a product. In positioning umbrella brands in consumers minds', we started to discover that in addition to the product positionings of T&R, it was necessary to invest in an inventory of identities (enabling consumers to recall, wear and recognise the umbrella brand in as many ways as possible - see Chapter 2) and an integrating brand essence (which works as an emotional platform, service vision or corporate guarantee connecting up a wide range of products - see chapter 1).
In the nineties, one of the biggest problems facing international consumer goods companies is the ownership of too many fragmented product brands whose marketing budgets just do not have minimum critical mass. You might have thought that the positioning school of T&R would already be defunct. Yet recently, while working for the same multinational but a different national office, their advertising agency's local account executive made a cautionary presentation on the dangers of line extending drawing totally on the T&R syllabus. Moreover, I have become accustomed to the sad fact that the T&R gospel of the more brands the better has often suited marketing clients (eg the more brand managers the better) and their agencies (because umbrella branding can expose how poorly many agencies cater for the vital branding need of integrated communications - eg identities created by packaging design and advertising should always be a unifying source of a brand's impact).Chris Macrae, personal diary entry, 1994
|BRAND||STRATEGIC TRANSITION||EXECUTION KEYS|
|NIVEAinternational||•Transition from long-established image of Nivea Cream's trusted value for money and understated but uniquely identifiable royal blue pack to cosmetic and treatment ranges including many high added value applications of female moisturisers/skin care products||STARTING POSITION|
Nivea, circa 1990, has extraordinarily loyal consumer franchise founded on cream's properties as:
reference point for skin care (mother of all creams before high fashion/science products targeted this area)
trusted (simple value choice)
impactful ownership of royal blue livery
BUT underexploited occasions of Nivea usage due to founding product's modestly presented simplicity and singular form
Each high added value fashion line appears in own advertising commercial; usually several of these run concurrently; rotations of campaigns also aim to match seasonal needs (eg sun care). Very successful in translating the following message : if Nivea has for so long been depended on for its expertise in producing the reference point product in ordinary creams, then it should now be only natural to look to Nivea as the first source for high added value variants of skin care products
·Sub-branded ranges have evolved Eg Nivea "Visage"
·Adverts are usually executed as an essay in blue
·Sub-branded technologies are word-of-mouthed in women's magazines
| KEY MOVES|
Leveraging extension potential of extraordinarily powerful brand equity due to the following combination:
·unique essence due to heritage values of reference product as trustworthy, simple, valued, consistent, caring through generations, the global standard
·developing awareness trigger in consumers' minds as the consistent leader of skin care's "mental bridge" between products chosen for cosmetic values and those chosen for treatment values
|BRAND||STRATEGIC TRANSITION||EXECUTION KEYS|
|GILLETTEUS & Europe||•Transition from fragmented, local and low added value "best-selling" product brands to international company lifestyle brand "GILLETTE"|
•GILLETTE company brand to be used as the master brand in a double-branding leadership strategy planned in the following way:
- GILLETTE to have meaning relevant to being number 1 across all target markets (categories and countries); flagship product sub-brands to be aspirational leaders of categories crafted to give 2 newsworthy means of added value linkage:
•continuing "news" campaigns of company brand and product sub-brand could enhance each other•additional "news" coming from campaign rotation of sub-brands while retaining Gillette as core
Gillette, mid 1980s, has history of largest volume shares in global markets but fragmented and low added value positions.There were no linkages across markets other than "subtracting value" through communications as cheap, blue and plastic
•Cancelled system of local advertising budgets allocated to campaigns on best selling local product brands. (This had developed over time into fragmented and value-but-not quality positions)
•Execution of New Umbrella Format:
| KEY MOVES|
"Double-Branding" - company umbrella branding (lifestyle) and aspirational product sub-brands add value to each other
·product sub-brands presented as newsworthy with leading features in their category
·company brand is kept as the connecting centrepiece while campaigns for product sub-brands are rotated
·actual best-selling Gillette products feed off the news/fashion created by Gillette and its flagship sub-brands in spite of being absent from advertising
·other elements of Gillette's identity system recycle Gillette's history of communications/design properties - eg blue is now the spotlight colour under which Gillette's close-of-ad logo is highlighted