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What Is A Brand?

Brand. It’s a term we hear tossed around all the time. We say “the CocaCola” brand or the “Nike” brand. Loads of books have been written about the value of a brand and the effect it has on bottom line profits.

Since I’m not one for long definitions, I am going to make it easy. Brand is what people think of a product. Brand is the set of product concepts and beliefs that someone carries with them. It’s how people respond when you ask them “What do you think about ….?”.

Take this test. Do bananas have a brand? Sound ridiculous? Well, how would you answer the question “What do you think about bananas?”

What comes into your head if I were to ask what you thought about Nike… or about Apple or about Starbucks? The answer to each of these questions is “brand”.

Every product or service that you have been exposed to has a “space” in your brain. In that space is a set of concepts about that product. Those concepts are based on the experiences that you have collected about that product or service. Have a miserable experience with a rep at your local bank? That gets deposited in the brand space. Just experienced outstanding food and atmosphere at your local restaurant? Into your brand “brain space” it goes.

Once that information in in your head, it governs how you make decisions. That’s because the information in your brain gets categorized (good food, bad food) and rated against other concepts (Joe’s is a better restaurant than Blues). Eventually it is used to make buying decisions. That’s why brand is important to a company.

Once a brand is in your head it’s real hard work to change what occupies that space. First you first have to undo what you previously thought and then you have to re-form it into another (hopefully more positive) set of thoughts.

We are used to brands being associated with products but people have brands too (so… what do you think of Joe?) and in fact, you also have a brand (what do others think of you?)

Shaping or building a brand (shaping what people think about a product or about you) is a difficult and long process. Every touch point you have with a person effects how they think about you and what occupies that bit of brain-space they dedicate to you. This is why so much time and money is spent on branding and defending your brand from misconceptions.

Brand development should involve a reality check (is what I want the consumer to believe even possible), branding should start with an understanding of what people think about you now (or do they even have a perception) and branding should also influence each communication you have with your customer (is what I am communicating consistent with what they already think about me or is it going to cause a disconnect from previous experiences?) Brands influence communication plans, brands help govern what type of packaging you select, what the home page of your web site looks like and hopefully how your employees interact with customers.

In short… brand is everywhere and everything to a company. Branding is something worth spending time on. It’s not something that you can ignore and certainly it’s not just for the big-boys like Coke and Nike.



Everyone Wants To Catch A Virus

I was remided this morning about a marketing concept that has now reached far beyond the concept stage. The successes that we see when a well executed Viral marketing campaign is executed are nothing short of fascinating.

Briefly, if you are not familiar with the concept, Viral marketing takes a good idea and let’s other spread it around. All you have to do is to come up with the good idea (which is not all that easy) and have a way to spread the idea.

Viral marketing is based on a specific need that humans have to share something that amazes them, gives them a laugh or is simply fascinating.

For those of you who remember, one of the most successful and earliest “modern age” viral marketing campaigns was Wendy’s “Where’s The Beef” campaign. This campaign was responsible for making Clara famous and for injecting the phrase “Where’s The Beef” into our everyday speech.

People who saw the campaign just loved it and got a real kick about passing it on (performing it) for their friends. This campaign was in the days before Facebook and YouTube so it was passed on by person to person contact (just like all good viruses are!)

The power of viral marketing can’t be underestimated in political movements.  The last presidential campaign knew that. And so does a movement in India that is protesting their countries “moral police”.  As detailed on NPR this morning, the “Consortium of Pub-Going, Loose and Forward Women” unveiled a plan for a nonviolent gesture of defiance in protest against their country’s self-appointed “moral police .

The Consortium started a social networking group on Facebook (substituting for face to face contact) and rapidly grew to over 25,000 members who are sending their knickers to collection points to then be delivered to the leader of Sri Ram Sena in a nonviolent gesture of defiance. The movement grew and grew fast — just like a virus.  (Expect further growth now that NPR is on board.)

This movement not only is an example of viral marketing but it also illustrates that with today’s social networking tools, everybody (not just those who can afford it) can mobilize a group of people toward an idea.

One other example that is worth citing is here. I first read about it in a book called Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations by Clay Shirky.

It’s about a women who lost her cell phone in a New York City taxicab and how she not only got it back but was instrumental in having the 16-year old teenager who found it arrested. Briefly, after the boyfriend of the women who lost the phone identified who had it based on instant messages that were being sent, he created a web page detailing the story and how when he asked to have the phone returned, he was told “get lost”. The story on the web page moved a lot of people to respond with comments and help that eventually resulted in the phone being recovered.

Well, if you don’t get it by now, viral marketing is all about a good idea getting picked up and moved by a crowd.  I’m not sure if there is a specific formula for creating a “viral idea” but there is no doubt that it involves:

  • a current trend that evokes either sympathy or fulfills some need
  • a crowd
  • a method to disperse the idea quickly and effectively

I’m also sure that it requires a lot of “failed launches”. We never hear about all the ideas that didn’t get off the launching pad (they weren’t funny or didn’t resonate). We only hear about those that did.

Why The Razor-Sharp Focus on On-line Marketing?

A key component of MarketThink’s vision is to focus on what we believe is a radical change in the method of how buyers and sellers are brought together.

As recently as 10 years ago, the ability for an organization to control how when and where it conveyed “its message” was limited to a few, expensive outlets controlled by a select few “gatekeepers”. Ten years ago, print (brochures, catalogs, advertisements, direct mail) and direct sales (face to face contact) were the main staples in a marketer’s toolbox. For a lucky few with a lot of cash and resources, Read more »