How to Drive Innovation into Your Brand

“Everything that can be invented has been invented.”
Charles H. Duell, Commissioner, US Patent Office,  1899

Brand LeadershipWhile that quote from 114 years ago may have missed out on the airplane, radio, TV, microwave, car, computer, internet, nearly every cpg product and of course my beloved iPhone.  Maybe the sentiment of the quote was just about 100 years too early.  In the last decade, most of the great innovation has been relegated to social media and electronics.  I hope this century brings us much more than just Facebook, BBM and Twitter.  In the consumer goods area, we must be on the 197th version of “new” cherry flavoured bubble gum since 1955, we’ve now seen hundreds of “new” peach yoghurt and I hope I never see another “new” laundry soap telling us that their little blue beads get their clothes really clean.  

Generating Love for the Brand

Under the Brand Idea are 5 sources of connectivity that help connect the brand with consumers and drive Brand Love, including the brand promise, the strategic choices you make, the brand’s ability to tell their story, the freshness of the product or service and the overall experience and impressions it leaves with you.  Everyone wants to debate what makes a great brand–whether it’s the product, the advertising, the experience or through consumers.  It is not just one or the other–it’s the collective connection of all these things that make a brand beloved.

  1. The brand’s promise sets up the positioning, as you focus on a key target with one main benefit you offer.  Brands need to be either better, different or cheaper.  Or else not around for very long.  “Me-too” brands have a short window before being squeezed out.  How relevant, simple and compelling the brand positioning is impacts the potential love for the brand.
  2. The most beloved brands create an experience that over-delivers the promise.  How your culture and organization are set up can make or break that experience.  Hiring the best people, creating service values that employees can deliver against and having processes that eliminate service leakage.  The culture attacks the brand’s weaknesses and fixes them before the competition can attack.  With a Beloved Brand, the culture and brand become one.
  3. Brands also make focused strategic choices that start with identifying where the brand is on the Brand Love Curve going from Indifferent to Like It to Love It and all the way to Beloved status.   Marketing is not just activity, but rather focused activity–based on strategy with an ROI mindset.  Where you are on the curve might help you make strategic and tactical choices such as media, innovation and service levels.
  4. The most beloved brands have a freshness of innovation, staying one-step ahead of the consumers.  The idea of the brand helps acting as an internal beacon to help frame the R&D.  Every new product has to back that idea.  At Apple, every new product must deliver simplicity and at Volvo, it must focus on safety.  .
  5. Beloved brands can tell the brand story through great advertising in paid media, through earned media either in the mainstream press or through social media.  Beloved Brands use each of these media choices to connect with consumers and have a bit of magic to their work.

 

New Products can help separate a brand as well as keep it fresh.  For a Beloved Brand, freshness is essential in attacking your own brand before someone can attack you.  New products that truly solve a consumer problem in a unique way are rare.  This is the generation of marketing incrementalism.  On most brand plans I see “launch innovative new products”  sits comfortably in the #3, 4 or 5 slot on the plan, while #1 is fix the advertising and #2 is get more distribution.  

Stages of Innovation

There are four key stages to innovation:  1) Invention 2) Differentiation 3) Experience and 4) Perception.  And the marketing is different at each phase.

Stage 1: Invention of the Core Product:  The challenge of a truly new product is to finding something that is truly different: a new technology, delivery, format or process.   Rarely, do we get to work on a game changing “invention”.  
Stage 1 of a new product usually focuses all of their efforts on launching and explaining why it is needed.  The product at this stage is usually just the core product, not yet perfected, higher costs and limited sales with no profits.   The advertising is about awareness and the message is simple:  you have this problem, we solve that problem.   There’s an effort to the distribution, because many customers are risk averse and afraid of new products.   Consumers are willing to pay a little more to solve the problem, they overlook all the flaws and limitations, and they think “why didn’t I think of this”.  While some consumers love the new product already, most consumers still sit at the sceptical and indifferent stage.  

Stage 2: Product Proliferation means Differentiation:  With a little bit of success in the market comes copy cats.  With more consumers buying, there becomes room for some differentiation, but mostly limited to product still:  new features and added services on top of the core product.  They might have found a way to make things cheaper, easier to use or better tasting.  Prices come down and brands offer more variety.  Distribution becomes a battle ground and getting full distribution becomes the goal.  Customers try to line up behind certain brands–looking for preferential treatment.  The advertising is about consideration and purchase, trying to stake out certain spaces, shifting from product to brand and separating your brand from others. Brands now sell the solution, not just the product.  And consumers start to choose, one brand over another.  While some consumers prefer one brand over another, most consumers are at the like it stage.

Stage 3: It’s all about the Experience:  In order to establish leadership or challenge for leadership, brands begin to talk about the experience consumers will have with their product.  It becomes no longer about the brand or product but about the consumer and how your brand fits into their life.  Brands look to use positioning strategies to separate themselves, focusing on key targets, with unique benefits–a balance of emotional and rational benefits.  Advertising brings the consumer front and centre, trying to establish a routine with your brand in it.  Brands try to move to the love it stage, some do, but most will be stuck still at the like it stage.  Those that get stuck are forced into value and focusing on price, promotions or value.  The brands that reach the love it stage can command a premium, drive share  and establish leadership in the category.

Stage 4:  Managing the Perception:  As the market matures, any share point movements become difficult to gain any traction on real quality so the shift moves to perceived quality.  Strategy shifts to brand personality where tone and manner in the execution are paramount so that Consumers connect with the brand and begin to see themselves in the brand.   Brands push to become a Beloved Brand, where demand becomes desire, needs become cravings, thinking is replaced with feelings and Consumers become outspoken fans.  The brand becomes powerful, with power over distribution because consumers would switch stores before they switch brands and power over competitors who are stuck trying to establish their own point of difference.  Profits are at their highest–revenue, margins are both strong and spending is focused and efficient on maintaining the relationship.  While at the top of the mountain, with firm leadership in the category, the brand is always at risk of losing that leadership.  Challenge yourself to continuously stay at the top.  Avoid becoming complacent.

Ask Gap Clothing, Cadillac, IBM computers, Levis, Sony or Kodak who have each reached the Beloved Stage only to be replaced by new products and brands and moved back down the love curve towards Indifferent.  Most recently, Blackberry.  Only 18 months ago, people jokingly used the term “crackberry” to describe their addictions.  No longer.

The four stages can easily be matched up to the Brand Love Curve and help establish strategic focus for the brand.  At the Invention stage, consumers remain indifferent until you build awareness and explain how your product solves a problem in my life.  At the Differentiation stage, some like it, but you are now facing proliferation and attack forcing your brand to stake out a claim.  At the experience stage, you need to become part of your consumers life and balance the emotional and rational benefits that can move you to the love it stage.  And finally, you have to tightly manage the Perceptions to become that Beloved Brand for Life stage, it’s about connecting with consumers so they see themselves through your brand.   You need to establish your personality and begin to wield the power of being a Beloved Brand.

But be careful: Without Innovation, very few brands remain at the top for very long.   

To read more about how the love for a brand creates more power and profits:

For a presentation on how to write a Positioning Statement, follow:

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  1. How to Write a Creative Brief.  The creative brief really comes out of two sources, the brand positioning statement and the advertising strategy that should come from the brand plan.  To read how to write a Creative Brief, click on this hyperlink:  How to Write a Creative Brief
  2. How to Write a Brand Plan:  The positioning statement helps frame what the brand is all about.  However, the brand plan starts to make choices on how you’re going to make the most of that promise.  Follow this hyperlink to read more on writing a Brand Plan:  How to Write a Brand Plan
  3. Turning Brand Love into Power and Profits:  The positioning statement sets up the promise that kick starts the connection between the brand and consumer.  There are four other factors that connect:  brand strategy, communication, innovation and experience.   The connectivity is a source of power that can be leveraged into deeper profitability.  To read more click on the hyper link:  Love = Power = Profits

 

Brand LeadershipI run the Brand Leader Learning Center,  with programs on a variety of topics that are all designed to make better Brand Leaders.  To read more on how the Learning Center can help you as a Brand Leader click here:   Brand Leadership Learning Center

 

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To reach out directly, email me at graham.robertson@beloved-brands.com

About Graham Robertson: The reason why I started Beloved Brands Inc. is to help brands realize their full potential value by generating more love for the brand.   I only do two things:  1) Make Brands Better or 2) Make Brand Leaders Better.  I have a reputation as someone who can find growth where others can’t, whether that’s on a turnaround, re-positioning, new launch or a sustaining high growth.  And I love to make Brand Leaders better by sharing my knowledge.  Im a marketer at heart, who loves everything about brands.  My background includes 20 years of CPG marketing at companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Pfizer Consumer, General Mills and Coke.  My promise to you is that I will get your brand and your team in a better position for future growth. Add me on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/grahamrobertson1 so we can stay connected.

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Confession: I Killed Two Doctors in 2006

Take a Benylin Day, was all about the consumer.

In the fall of 2006, I can now confess that I murdered two doctors.   One was a 15 year “Doctor Recommended” campaign for Benylin Cough Medicine, and the other was a 10 year “Doctor and Pharmacist recommended” campaign for Nicoderm Quit Smoking Patches.  Both murders were pre-meditated.   And both doctors deserved it.

Inheriting doctor spots is one big yawn.  They feel very 1980s.  In fact, people have been making fun of doctor ads since the 1970s, which must mean that consumers have long been sick of this technique.  

The First Doctor I murdered:  An Old Benylin “Doctor” Advertising

Year after year from 1990 to 2005, Benylin trudged out a new doctor spot, each following the same formula.  There was the pompous doctor speaking down to everyone including the consumer to establish a position of authority hoping that people would assume “wow, that Benylin must really work”.  Here’s an example of the condescending advertising.  

The second Doctor I murdered:  Old Nicoderm “Doctor” Advertising

On the other hand, Nicoderm was so insecure they used BOTH doctors and pharmacists, just in case you thought one was not enough.   One big yawn.  For most campaigns, one of the big challenges is finding ways to keep it fresh year after year.  But let’s admit it, the best ads are usually in the first few years.  With Benylin and Nicoderm, having such a small idea to start made it hard for the best of creatives to keep it fresh and interesting.  

The ad tracking on both brands were flat and declining for years, but everyone on the team was afraid to do anything.  Nicoderm was rapidly losing share while Benylin was stuck, almost unable to fight off the new comers to the category.

What’s Wrong with Using Doctors?

Doctor campaigns force you into a zone where it’s non-stop talk about the product.   No focus at all on consumers–they don’t matter when you have such a great product.   And Doctors mainly talk features, not even benefits.  It’s all about association, not about consumer insights.    Doctor ads have been done to death, making them wall paper.   Consumers who see these ads are left feeling indifferent, and can barely find a way to even “Like” the brand.  

Advertising is a great tool to really connect with consumers.  But Brand Leaders afraid of getting emotional feel in a safe zone with a vehicle that just talks about the product.    They can tell the consumer everything they know about their brand.   And they avoid getting all  emotional with consumers because that can feel scary.  But in reality, the consumer will never care about what you do, until you start showing that you care about what they want.   Sales 101 or Dating 101, use the same rule: “get them talking about themselves.”   How come advertising 101 says “Let’s talk about ourselves and hope they love us”?  Great advertising should start with the consumer first, not the product. 

New Benylin TV Ads Without Doctors

With Benylin, it’s pretty darn obvious that when consumers get a cold, they feel like total crap and want to take a day off.   But no brand would ever say that, would they? Advil tells consumers they can do anything (go for a swim, a run, a hike or work all day) when they are sick.  Benylin did the un-thinkable, the riskiest thing that a Cough Medicine could do.   They said “take a day off, rest up and get better”.    This put the brand on the side of the consumer.   Benylin found that magic insight to move the brand from Indifferent all the way to “Love It”.  The Benylin brand team took a huge risk that year, and it paid off, with strong solid share gains in a tough category to make gains and won a Cassie Award for the results.   The lesson here:  going down the middle of the road is riskier than going either left or right.   I followed my team’s lead on this, admiring their guts in killing doctors.   I kept saying, “Can you believe we used The Clash in a Benylin spot?”

New Nicoderm TV Ads Without Doctors

On Nicoderm, the insight we used was “consumers don’t feel themselves when they try to quit smoking”.   Basically, it sucks &*!$% when you quit smoking.  There was a push to have a claim, like most medical marketing.  (eg Our product is better than yours,  or with us, you can quit 6x as good).   But really, the only claim we saw was “quitting smoking will suck less with Nicoderm”.   People on our team kept saying “quitting smoking is serious, so we need to have a serious TV ad to convey how serious it is”.  That restriction put a major handcuff on the creative team and we saw some pretty boring ads.   The creative team was asking to have that restriction lifted and when we did, pure magic happened.   In Ipsos AdLab testing, this was the strongest ad we ever tested at J&J.  This ad has generated over 1 Million hits on youtube and won the best Global Ad for J&J in 2006.  Nicoderm saw a big 20% spike in sales.  The lesson here is to always eliminate creative road blocks and trust that the work gets better.

One last thing:  when we killed doctors on both of these, we won over the creative teams.  We showed up differently to the agency and the creative teams.  Creative People wanted to work on our brands, and the work on other brands got even better.  With two great campaigns in a row from our shop, everyone on our team wanted to make better work.   A huge overall lesson:  great people, empowered and motivated will make great work.

You get the advertising you deserve.

 

Here’s an insight video, done by Jack Perone at JWT, supporting the Benylin Day idea.

If you are in the mood to see other great advertising, here’s a few other stories:

To see a training presentation on getting better Advertising: