Why David Brooks Almost has it Right about Brands

David Brooks, an Op-Ed Columnist at the New York Times writes a very interesting article about the differences between the use of and understanding of brands between the Americans and the Chinese. His premise is that the Chinese are not good at building brands that connect with consumers in the West despite the fact that they have the largest economy in the world. This will hinder their achievement of global economic dominance. He is right.

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However, one of his notions is only partly correct and flies in the face of what great brands work hard at every day. Brooks believes that “People who create great brands are usually seeking some inner longing of their own…”. In this he is thinking about romantic notions of founder-led brands like Nike or Ralph Laruen.

What he is missing is that great business leaders spend a great deal of time and energy to understand their customers and their needs, and then address them in a way that builds an enduring relationship that can last a long time. In most cases it is the diligence and hard work requiredto build stronger relationships with consumers than competitors in every category that leads to sustainable market leadership.

Much of what Brooks writes about is very true, and he is astute to recognize as much as he does. Where he misses the mark is realizing that there is a process and method to establishing and building a strong brand that connects with key audiences that works on it’s own and is not necessarily founder led. Just look at a few minor brands like IBM, General Electric, BMW, New York Yankees, Mayo Clinic, etc. Sure each was founded by great thinkers and leaders, but they have evolved into very strong brands generations past founder longing.

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Congrats to Brooks for recognizing how brand have become an engine of the Western economic growth. His basic premise is more than correct.

May 31, 2013   No Comments

Why Brand Strategy Matters Even More Online

To ensure a seamless image, smart brands take responsibility for both the content of their ads, as well as the environment in which their ads appear.

Vigilance is especially necessary online, where intelligent software and e-marketing technologies allow brands to target the user, not the environment. The old adage of ‘fish where the big fish are’ has never been more true. With varying degrees of success.

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A friend of mine recently joked on Facebook: ‘If the ads that Facebook so cleverly targets at me are correct, I need to: a. Lose 9kg. b. Buy a motorbike and c. Attend the classic rock concert at Willowbridge Barnyard Theatre. Now that’s artificial unintelligence if ever I saw it.’

She’s a fit, slim, married, mother of two in her 40s, who lives in the suburbs and drives a family-friendly 5-seater VW.

But getting it wrong can have more sinister results. What happens when a brand finds itself in an online environment that potentially undermines its image? [Read more →]

April 30, 2013   No Comments

Brands can be the Comfort Food for the Soul

For those living through the “Perfect Storm” of October 2012 that hit the East coast of the U.S., we all, collectively, had our senses heightened out of need. Many had no electricity, the coast had severe flooding, wind damage was everywhere and there were all manner of challenges in the days following the storm. What I found interesting is how some well-known “brands” comforted my soul as the winds howled and the storm raged on.

For example, we heated up Campbell’s Chicken Noodle and Tomato soup in the evenings over a propane stove. More than the warmth of the soup, the Campbell’s brand enveloped us with a smile and a comforting feeling that all would be OK. It was like a grandmother’s hug.

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November 12, 2012   No Comments

Salvaging Yahoo!… it’s all about Culture.

The press about Marissa Mayer, the new Yahoo! CEO, has focused on whether she is up to the task of reviving the company and the difficulties she will face with a declining business and less than ideal resources. While this may be true, the real challenge is whether Ms. Mayer can recapture the original, organic, innovative culture that made Yahoo! so popular in the first place. This is the engine of brand success today.

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August 9, 2012   No Comments

“Less is More” is the New Paradigm in Building Brands

Who would have predicted that in the year 2012, a silent movie would win the Oscar for Best Picture? The fact that “The Artist” defied the odds is a manifestation of consumers’ demand for “less is more”. Consumers are rejecting the “bigger is better” culture that dominated the late nineties and 2000’s and came crashing down with the global economic crisis. Add to that the daily barrage of information, advertising, news, social media and politics and you have a consumer audience begging for simplicity, less clutter, honesty and integrity.

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February 28, 2012   No Comments

Why Crowds Now Build Brands

David Brooks insightful Op-Ed article about now living “in the middle of an amazing era of individualism” reveals many emerging truths. For branders, understanding that we live in an increasingly individualistic society puts the burden on brands to position themselves to fit onto someone’s life. Said another way, we can no longer rely to the same degree on the social structures of family, church, community, etc. to validate and help us form preference. Brands need to focus on this more on our own than ever before.

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February 22, 2012   1 Comment

You Earned My Loyalty. I’m Sticking with DYMO.

DYMO, one of the leaders in providing label printers, just treated me the right way, and retained my loyalty at a critical moment. I had recently upgraded to a new operating system for my Mac. As a result, my computer couldn’t communicate with my label printer. After trying several options, I finally called DYMO customer service, and they used that moment to secure my loyalty for a long time to come. When they realized that my label printer wasn’t compatible with my new OS, they generously said they would replace my printer with a new one… at no cost to me.

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February 10, 2012   No Comments

The Apple Brand Hits another “Tipping Point”

The Wall Street Journal feature about the Mac landing on more corporate desks is more than just an opportunity… it is a tectonic shift that will open up the business market for Apple in amazing new ways. It is truly a tipping point of amazing proportions.

If I were you, I’d buy Apple stock today… believe it or not, it’s just a leap to another plateau.

The Tipping Point, best known from Malcom Gladwell’s 2000 book of that name, is defined as “the moment of critical mass, the threshold, the boiling point.” The very public acknowledgement by GE that it is making Apple products available to GE employees is, in our opinion, a “tipping point”. [Read more →]

January 19, 2012   No Comments

What Happens When We Don’t Trust a Brand Anymore? Ask Netflix.

Netflix stock has tumbled again to an 18-month low of $75 a share based on, among other things, trust. Think about it… the company’s value has erased about $12 billion in just 104 days. Yes the company has see-sawed on promises of splitting apart services, then relenting and bringing them back together… but what they have really undone is the consumer trust and loyalty they had worked so hard to achieve.

One of the fundamental values of a brand is to earn loyalty that results in the security of future earnings. In other words, consumers will come back time and time again to both purchase your products, and also allow them to expand their relationship with you. But the moment a company breaks that trust, it is very hard for consumers to stay on board. [Read more →]

October 25, 2011   No Comments

Can Old Stodgy Brands with Negative Perceptions really Reinvent Themselves?

There is only one way for a brand plagued with a negative brand perception to survive – tackle it head on. Acknowledge shortcomings, address the issues externally and internally and take significant actions to fix things. There are many brands that should take this advice to heart. One example is the United States Postal Service.

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August 17, 2011   2 Comments