5 questions to help you determine if you really have a brand

April 22, 2009

In the last couple of weeks, I have had a lot of conversations with fellow marketing consultants and small business owners about “branding”.  In these conversations, a recurring theme has come up:  not everyone is really clear about what a brand is, and if they really have one.  So in this blog, I have decided to help define what a brand is, and then list 5 key questions you can ask yourself to determine if you really do have a brand.

First of all, there are many definitions of a brand that are attributed to many thought leaders in marketing.  I should not claim that this is my definition in any way.  But here is a take on a brand:  It is an idea that resides in the mind of your consumers, that is based on their experiences with the benefit that your product or service provides.   This idea should give your consumers an emotional connection to your product or service.  If they have this positive emotional connection, this is an important asset to you — and your first clue that you have a brand on your hands!

Here are 5 questions you should ask yourself that will help you determine if you have a brand.  There are a few more questions you should consider beyond this, but it is a start.

  1. Can you really describe the target consumer for your brand?  (What I mean by this is do you know the demographics, psycho-graphics, and behaviors of your target consumer so that you know how your brand fits into their life?)
  2. What core benefit does your brand provide to your consumer?  (This benefit should be stable and unchanging.  For instance, Tide’s benefit is all about cleaning your clothes so that they can be the best they can be.  Starbuck’s benefit is all about providing a great coffee experience).
  3. If you asked your consumers what your brand’s core benefit is, would they answer the same answer as #2?
  4. How is your brand’s core benefit different from your competitors’ brands?
  5. If consumers are asked to provide a few words that describe your brand’s personality, or how they feel when they think of your brand, do these words match what you would say?

(Note:  I can think of  about 8 more questions that should go on this list — but I think that these are the most important.  If you think there is a question that should be in the top 5, please send me a comment and let me know.  I would love to hear from you!)

If you can confidently answer questions 1-4, and can answer “yes” to #5, it looks like you might have a brand on your hands!  Congrats!  It is one of the most important assets your business has.  If you struggle to answer some of these, then maybe your brand isn’t as strong as it could be.  Talking to your employees and some of your consumers about their ideas to these questions can help you start to figure out how to make your brand stronger.

Great resource: The Influencer Handbook on WOMMA (Word of Mouth Marketing Association) website

April 14, 2009

As I have started to meet with various people in the last few weeks to to talk with them a bit about ALL in One Marketing and the services that I offer, I have been asked many questions about my work starting an Influencer program in Chicago for Starbucks.  I don’t mind talking about this work, as it was one of my most favorite and challenging projects.  It is something that I would love to be able to do again — helping other companies or brands with their influence program strategies.

Most of the questions that I have gotten about setting up influencer programs have been around the basic concept.  How does one start one up?  How does one keep a program going?  What are the “incentives” that are required, if any?  I have talked through these answers based on my own experience, but I have never officially “documented” the answers.  Now I realize that I don’t have to.  The Influencer Handbook on the Word of Mouth Marketing Association website has all of the basics clearly outlined.  It is a great overview that explains things in very straightforward terms.  If this is a topic that you are curious about or that you think you should consider for your business or brand, I would recommend reviewing the handbook to get a better understanding of what an influencer program can be all about.

Can Kraft go even further beyond the bagel?

April 6, 2009

I read Brandweek’s article “Kraft goes beyond the bagel” this morning and was very impressed by Kraft’s work to make cream cheese relevant beyond the morning day-part.  I found this article particularly intriguing, because as  30-something female morning cream cheese consumer, I had already noticed the new advertisements that show Philadelphia cream cheese as afternoon snack as opposed to a morning bagel topping, and thought “Well that is a good idea.  I’ll keep that in mind for a tasty snack.”   I guess I was a little slow to actually think about Kraft’s new strategy to increase product usage when I saw the new commercials.

Putting that aside, the Brandweek article made me think about a way that Kraft could further increase usage, and enter into additional adjacent categories.  What if Kraft decided to go beyond spreads and condiments with cream cheese, and actually start to position itself against other “cracker” toppings — such as fine cheeses, meats, tapenades, etc?  Now would be the time to give it a try — everyone is looking to save a few pennies here or there.  So instead of spending $5 or more on third of a pound of Blue Stilton cheese, people might seriously consider purchasing some Philadelphia Cream cheese that is priced much lower, and using it as a base for a “like homemade” premium cracker topping.  All Kraft would have to do would be to show this “premium occasion” usage, and then provide some easy recipes to transform the cream cheese from a “snack” topping, to a more premium appetizer topping. 

I am sure that this isn’t a new idea to the folks at Kraft, and I admit that the premium appetizer occasion probably doesn’t drive a whole lot more frequency.  However, it just strikes me that it would be an easy way to further extend the usages of the product, with a relatively small investment (adding one more product/situation shot into a commercial and then updating a recipe on package or on the website).   And as I said above, now is the perfect time to do it.  People would be very receptive to the message, and since it is predicted that people might not go back to their previous spending habits once the economy recovers, this could get cream cheese in the hands of many, and then it might stay part of their routine for many years to come.