Original Version - published Economist Intelligence Unit 1995
Communicate : essence :: id system :: history (stregngths, wesknesses, famos moments)
future :opportunity- rising exponential Threat ( collapsing exponential)
Recently, in a letter from a Japanese pen-pal of mine, I was reminded that our first conversation on umbrella branding got off to a sticky start. It was ten years ago and my first visit to Japan. Typically, I had adopted expatriate defensive posture in being slow to immerse myself in the power of corporate branding. I had argued along the lines that "Perhaps it is only in Japan that a company brand can represent salmon, steel mills and electronics at one and the same time". The reminder in my friend's letter began : "perhaps, we see now that it is only in the UK that a brand (Richard Branson's Virgin) can stretch its virginity from pop music to air lines to colas to personal pension plans". The letter concluded "by the way I hear that your nation's biggest grocery brand (Sainsbury's) now advertises itself as able to supply everyone's favourite ingredient". Fair cop guv.
Memories came flooding back. My friend had coached me with exquisite patience that there is a right and a wrong way of asking how do brands work at making connections. The precisely wrong sort of question relies on literal consumer research. Sadly, a lot of academic research of brand equity still perpetrates this by asking "as a consumer who knows this brand's existing products, what else could be manufactured in this brand's name?" Framed in this way, you will get the response that the manufacturer should at most stretch his knitting to neighbouring product categories.
A vaguely right kind of questioning needs to be asked of the company. If we started with one brand as the company's topmost brand which brand would this be? And more importantly what stretch-domains of leadership can the brand represent in consumers' minds? Diary entry - Chris Macrae (1995)
|Table 1 - a list of approaches for clarifying essential connections|
·Big meaning for company and consumer (providing everything coheres and is relevant in a self-perpetuating way) a bigger brand beats a collection of smaller brands)
·Connections to sub-meanings (usage meanings, performance differentiation, source/platform of values owned, personality/image that is consumer-smart)
·Uniqueness that company can protect and which can't be outpositioned by a higher level appeal
·A capacity for growing and growing, eg by coining its own legends/heritage and creating buzz and self-perpetuating momentum
·Consistently adds value, should ideally encompass highest quality points in core markets (as well as other value points) if it is not to be outpositioned
·Strategic fit with company's core competences, ie brand pathway matches corporate advantages to deliver (although not necessarily to produce, eg Nike sources products as of course do top retailers)
·Has sufficient flexibility to be proactive to change (whether this is in environment, consumers or competitors). Robust as a competitive survivor even when not optimally supported.
·Clarity of its own territories versus rest of corporate brand portfolio. Focused so that company organises around : eg NPD for this brand
·Competitive Impact - easily lends itself to great identities, newsworthiness etc; here again company must be clear on which brand services it can profit from and which are vital for brand's essence as image-makers etc
·Consistency/Integration, alignment in everything done in the brand's name, eg masterbriefing or "intuitive feel" of serving this brand. Ideally, a very simple core so that it is never misinterpreted by corporate personnel etc
·Global Prestige (from staff pride and motivation, to communications channel newsworthiness, ie free PR to distribution channel partnership), eg to be perceived as world's number 1·Values/vision as if it were a company brand intent on two-way smart relationships with every audience