Tag Archives: branding

Building a Brand In a Recession

The recent reces­sion saw sales of con­doms, guns and burg­lar alarms soar. This is because, when fear enters our mind in terms of los­ing our job or of not being able to pay bills, we focus on two of our most basic drives: fear and sex.

The key to selling and build­ing a brand dur­ing fin­an­cial crises, there­fore, is simple: man­age fear. Under­stand how it works and how it affects pur­chas­ing beha­viour. This advice on brand-build­ing dur­ing a reces­sion comes from Mar­tin Lind­strom, ex-advert­ising agency exec­ut­ive, author of Buy­ology, and one of TIME’s 100 Most Influ­en­tial People in the World, 2009.

First, there’s always good news in bad times. A stand­ard approach in this situ­ation is to address con­sumers’ prob­lems. And people always have prob­lems. The fact is we rarely know what we want, but we have no trouble point­ing out our dif­fi­culties. For example, no one knew they wanted an airbag, but every­one agreed they wanted safer cars.

It’s there­fore import­ant to ask your­self what sort of prob­lems are con­sumers facing dur­ing this eco­nom­ic reces­sion? There are many. […] Con­vert prob­lems into assets for your brand.

Second, add a prac­tic­al dimen­sion to an irra­tion­al decision. No mat­ter how much money you may have in the bank, or how secure your employ­ment may be, it’s now fash­ion­able to save your money and buy everything at a dis­count. What can a brand own­er do? Par­tic­u­larly in light of the fact that a dis­coun­ted brand typ­ic­ally takes sev­en years to recov­er!

The answer is simple. Add a prac­tic­al dimen­sion to the equa­tion. […]

Third, you have to sys­tem­at­ic­ally remove fear. Hyundai did it. And a stream of new banks are doing it. Both have suc­ceeded in identi­fy­ing why con­sumers are reluct­ant to spend. Once this is under­stood, then you can har­ness it and build a bet­ter product by address­ing the fear and find­ing a way to elim­in­ate it. Your sales may be down. But do you know why? People are cer­tainly buy­ing less, and explan­a­tions like, “Well, there’s a reces­sion going on out there,” are not help­ful. What’s import­ant is to under­stand the fun­da­ment­al role of fear, and then turn it around to strengthen your brand. Some of the world’s most endur­ing gro­cery brands were built on the back of the Great Depres­sion. Each one turned the threat into an oppor­tun­ity.

Narratives for Selling Premium Goods: The Grey Goose Story

People want to pay more in order to own lux­ury goods, but you need to give them a reas­on to do so. That excuse? A com­pel­ling story.

One man that sub­scribed to this idea was Sydney Frank, as is evid­ent from the strategy he developed for Grey Goose: the ‘super­premi­um’ vodka that Bar­cardi bought for $2 bil­lion in cash in what became the largest ever single brand sale.

In a 2005 New York art­icle pub­lished shortly before his death, you can read all about Sydney Frank’s marketing/branding strategy and the com­pel­ing story of Grey Goose vodka. This excerpt fol­lows Frank’s decision to have Grey Goose dis­tilled in France:

But why France? Does­n’t vodka come from Rus­sia, or per­haps, in a pinch, Scand­inavia? “People are always look­ing for some­thing new,” says Frank. It’s all about brand dif­fer­en­ti­ation. If you’re going to charge twice as much for a vodka, you need to give people a reas­on.

“Niet­z­sche explains that human beings are look­ing for the ‘why’ in their lives, […] we refer to this ‘why’ as ‘the Great Story.’ The Great Story must be enti­cing, mem­or­able, eas­ily repeat­able, and about what you want your brand to be about.”

For Grey Goose, the brand was about unrivaled qual­ity. Grey Goose’s Great Story hinged on the fol­low­ing key points: It comes from France, where all the best lux­ury products come from. It’s not anoth­er rough-hewn Rus­si­an vodka—it’s a mas­ter­piece craf­ted by French vodka artis­ans.

It uses water from pristine French springs, filtered through Cham­pagne lime­stone.

It’s got a dis­tinct­ive, care­fully designed bottle, with smoked glass and a sil­hou­ette of fly­ing geese. It looks fant­ast­ic up behind the bar, the way it catches the light […] It sure looks expens­ive.

It was shipped in wood crates, like a fine wine, not in card­board boxes like Joe Schmo’s vodka. This catches the bar­tender­’s eye and rein­forces the aura of qual­ity. Nev­er for­get the influ­ence of the bar­tender. […]

And now the most import­ant piece of the story—the twist that brings it all togeth­er: Grey Goose costs way more than oth­er vod­kas. Waaaaaaay more. So it must be the best.

This descrip­tion of Grey Goose’s Great Story per­fectly cap­tures the essence of the art­icle.

Facebook’s ‘Like’ and Conspicuous Consumption

Won­der­ing why we freely and often make our tastes pub­lic (spe­cific­ally, our brand pref­er­ences through Face­book’s ‘Like’ mech­an­ism), Nic­olas Bau­mard dis­cusses how we pur­chase goods to dis­play our good taste:

In a way, Face­book can be seen as a handy device to send a lot of very pre­cise sig­nals about your opin­ion and your val­ues! (The aver­age user becomes a fan of four pages every month, accord­ing to Face­book). Note that this the­ory of mar­ket­ing is just a form of hon­est sig­nal the­ory, advoc­ated pre­vi­ously by Veblen in social sci­ences and Zahavi in evol­u­tion­ary bio­logy. The dif­fer­ence is that, instead of being focused on the dis­play of wealth, this bour­dieus­i­an explan­a­tion is inter­ested by oth­er qual­it­ies that also need to be adverstised by indi­vidu­als such as intel­li­gence, social con­nec­tions, mor­al dis­pos­i­tion, etc.

To con­clude, people may buy razors advert­ised by Beck­ham not because they think that these razors made Beck­ham suc­cess­ful or because they trust Beck­ham is such mat­ters but because buy­ing a razor linked to Beck­ham con­vey a cer­tain mes­sage about their dis­tinc­tion.

I feel that the ‘Like’ func­tion­al­ity is an expense-less meth­od of con­spicu­ous con­sump­tion: sig­nalling your likes and brand pref­er­ences without hav­ing to actu­ally pur­chase any­thing (we are say­ing “I aspire to be the type of per­son who likes x, y, z” or maybe more accur­ately “I want you to think I’m the type of per­son who likes x, y, z”).

I par­tic­u­larly like the intro­duct­ory sec­tion on how Face­book’s ‘Like’ func­tion­al­ity has doubled brand integ­ra­tion on the site, com­pared to the old ‘Become a fan’ meth­od. It has appar­ently reduced the men­tal bar­ri­ers (lowered the “threshold”, they say) for users to sig­nal their brand pref­er­ences, mak­ing shar­ing easi­er. And that last bit is key for Face­book.

via The Browser

Resources for Community Building

Richard Millington—online com­munity build­er for the UNHCR and one of Seth God­in’s 2008 interns—has com­piled over 100 of his best posts from the pre­vi­ous two years.

There’s a wealth of valu­able inform­a­tion at Fever­Bee and this list is a great intro­duc­tion to the top­ic of com­munity build­ing. A few of the twelve cat­egor­ies Mil­ling­ton has used in organ­ising his posts:

  • Pre-Launch and Strategy
  • Build­ing An Online Com­munity Web­site
  • Increas­ing Par­ti­cip­a­tion
  • Measurement/ROI
  • Mon­et­iz­ing

The Transformative Power of a Narrative

Can a nar­rat­ive attached to an every­day object increase its object­ive value? That was the ques­tion posed by Rob Walk­er (author of The New York Times’ Con­sumed column) and Joshua Glenn (author of Tak­ing Things Ser­i­ously) when they star­ted the Sig­ni­fic­ant Objects Pro­ject—an exper­i­ment designed to test wheth­er a series of stor­ies cre­ated about an object will increase its selling price.

After buy­ing 100 “unre­mark­able” objects with an aver­age price of just under $1.29 each, the two advert­ised them for sale along­side nar­rat­ives cre­ated by volun­teers. They then sold for a total of $3,612.51—more than 28 times their ori­gin­al price.

Dan Ari­ely of Pre­dict­ably Irra­tion­al dis­cusses the pro­ject and its find­ings:

The res­ults may seem sur­pris­ing, but this is actu­ally some­thing we see all the time. It’s the basic idea behind the endow­ment effect, the the­ory that once we own some­thing, its value increases in our eyes. […] But own­er­ship isn’t the only way to endow an object or ser­vice with mean­ing. You can also cre­ate value by invest­ing time and effort into some­thing (hence why we cher­ish those scrag­gly scarves we knit ourselves) or by know­ing that someone else has (gifts fall under this cat­egory).

And then there’s the power of stor­ies: spend a fant­ast­ic week­end some­where, and no mat­ter what you bring back […] you’ll value it immensely, simply because of its asso­ci­ations. This explains the find­ings of the Sig­ni­fic­ant Objects Pro­ject, and also how oth­er things like brand­ing works.