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Sparkler Strategy, brands in the digital age

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Sparkler Strategy, brands in the digital age

  1. 1. 1
  2. 2. The digital age has changed how brands work
  3. 3. 3 There’s been a revolution in how brands meet the outside world www From a world with a small number of broadcast media To a world with a vast number of increasingly interactive media
  4. 4. 4 At the same time our culture has become less deferential and more interactive Culture has also changed. We live in a culture which is: Less deferential, often openly sceptical More interactive and wants to have its say
  5. 5. 5 The role of a brand used to be to control a one way relationship with the outside world BRAND {Previously, One Way} PRODUCTORGANISATION {Low Surface Area} In the old world order things were a bit more 2 dimensional. Brands controlled a one way relationship with consumers through a small number of touchpoints. The brand was pretty much the only part of an organisation exposed to the outside world.
  6. 6. 6 Today the relationship between brands and consumers is very different MARKETING COMMUNICATIONS BRAND {Today, Interactive} {High Surface Area} Brands today have to be more 3 dimensional. People expect an interactive relationship across many touchpoints. Much more of an organisation is exposed to the outside world. Brand can no longer simply be tacked on to the wider organisation. Brands today work best when they run through all aspects of what a business does.
  7. 7. 7 However, most ways of thinking about brands come from the old world BRAND PRODUCTORGANISATION But there’s a problem. The ways we’ve learnt to think about brands comes from the old world. Our concepts, frameworks and even the words we use carry the implicit assumptions of a previous era and its founders. Today we need digital age thinking for digital age brands. Positioning (Single-minded) Propositions USPs The one thing we want to say Messaging Brand models/keys/onions Reasons to believe Ownable differentiators Pictured are: John E. Kennedy, Claude Hopkins, Rosser Reeves, Ernest Ditcher, Stephen King & Bill Bernbach
  8. 8. At Sparkler Strategy, we’ve been thinking about how we can update the ways we think about brands. The things from the previous era that are still useful, and the areas where we need to change our thinking altogether.
  9. 9. 9 Whether brands rooted in the digital or the physical world, they are facing similar challenges CONTENT MARKETING BIG DATA UI DESIGN CUSTOMER JOURNEY This changing environment doesn’t only affect digital businesses. We’ve noticed that our clients (some of whom are pictured above) are increasingly facing similar challenges and asking similar questions.
  10. 10. From our recent strategy work, we’ve identified five big themes to do with managing brands of all kinds in today’s digital age.
  11. 11. 11 4. Choosing not owning 3. Making it happen not telling people about it 2. Course corrections not step changes 5. Remembering to smile not just talking about the weather 1. Sharp thinking The five themes
  12. 12. 1. Sharp thinking In conversations with our clients, we tend to have more conversations about Byron Sharp than any other brand thinker. Sharp’s consciously radical take on marketing is really powerful. He’s gleefully taken a hatchet to some of the woollier concepts in the marketing world. Good on him. And yet, in our view at least, Sharp’s approach is not a panacea. It “leaves too much out and is just too simple on its own”. We need to be careful about embracing Sharp's world wholesale.
  13. 13. 13 Both of Sharp’s How Brands Grow books have been hugely successful. He’s very salient across all kinds of businesses at the moment. He has high mental availability. Sharp has mounted a fearsome and devastating attack on what he sees as the illusions and ‘unicorns’ of modern marketing, everything from loyalty programmes to customer segmentations and beyond. “Most of a brand’s customers think and care little about the brand” “Marketing managers work a bit like medieval doctors” Byron Sharp’s work has become more and more prominent
  14. 14. 14 Sharp recommends moving from “a past world view to a new world view” How Brands Grow, pt1 (2010) Sharp’s alternative is a world of mass- targeting, mass-media and “meaningless” distinctiveness. To its credit Sharp’s work focuses on how brands can achieve salience and emotional responses, rather than attempt to win over consumers with rational arguments. However there are also limitations. In some ways Sharp’s “new world view” can be quite old fashioned. Deep engagement Positioning Message comprehension Target segments Differentiation USPs Wide reach Salience Emotional response Target the whole category Meaningless distinctiveness Relevant associations {past world view} {new world view}
  15. 15. 15 “Just too simple on its own” “[Sharp’s thinking] accounts for an awful lot of what advertising does. Most work is over-analysed, inconsistent, timid and under-resourced. ….But the theory leaves too much out and is just too simple on its own… It doesn’t make anyone look clever and so no one usually wants to do it.” … Paul Feldwick, The Anatomy of Humbug, 2015 Sharp has many very good things to say. But there are also lots of areas where the simplicity on the page sits uncomfortably with the lived reality on the ground. For example, we’ve always struggled with his idea of “meaningless distinctiveness”. In our experience, meaning is still critical for brands; even if it is conveyed in emotional and visual, rather than rational and written, ways. Paul Feldwick’s analysis feels on the money:
  16. 16. 2. Course corrections not step changes The established ways of managing brands are out of sync with today’s culture of constant, gradual change. Conventional ways of managing brands tend to end up in risky, difficult and expensive step changes rather than smooth evolutions. We consistently underestimate the impact of small changes and overestimate the impact of big changes (as well as the ease with which organisations can deliver this scale of change).
  17. 17. 17 Change in the digital age happens differently Change happens differently in the digital age. In today’s culture, change is constant, gradual and incremental. Ours is a world of social media feeds, beta versions, big data and marginal gains. Progress in the digital age comes from continual small advances. “We've got this saying: performance by the aggregation of marginal gains‘ … Dave Brailsford- Team Sky Principal
  18. 18. 18 Yet as organisations we still mostly deal in step changes As businesses we tend to stick to what works until it’s broken. We wait for a problem to be big enough to be ‘worth fixing’ and then start a big process that effectively has to recommend a major change to justify its existence. Or we just get bored- we think that dramatic changes are the shortcut to dramatic growth. However, dramatic change is very hard to pull off successfully. Very often dramatic change creates dramatic headaches.
  19. 19. 19 Small changes can have big impact; dramatic changes take huge effort to cut through It’s easy to under-estimate the impact of small changes. A seemingly innocuous pack redesign for Tropicana led to a big drop in sales. Big changes are hard and expensive. Axe continued with a strong, if quite 90s, view of masculinity for over 20 years. They are now in the difficult (and costly) process of updating the brand with a more modern view of the world. Tropicana pack re-design 20% sales drop in one month Axe re-positioning, from The Axe Effect to Find Your Magic
  20. 20. 20 Occasional branching off, 1 Occasional branching off, 2 Longitudinal insight engines Longitudinal insight engines Regular check-ins We find the best results come from course corrections rather than occasional big set pieces Sparkler Live Strategy model We’ve developed an approach called Live Strategy, which aims to make strategy something which happens continually & gradually, and doesn’t require a big pool of time & money every 3 or 4 years.
  21. 21. 3. Making it happen not telling people about it Too often our ways of thinking about brands carry the implicit assumptions that advertising is the end-goal of a brand process and the solution to most/all of a brand’s problem. In the digital age we need to keep an open mind about how to make a brand happen, and avoid pre-supposing that we should tell people about it.
  22. 22. 22 Purpose beats positioning “In the case of positioning you would ask ‘How can we tell people about our new positioning?’ (Now) the key question you need to ask is ‘How can we take this mission out into the world? How can we make it happen?’” … {Huib Van Bockel (Red Bull), The Social Brand, 2014} Our clients increasingly want to make the shift from brand positioning to brand purpose. That’s great. The sentiment behind purpose feels much more contemporary and in sync with the changing relationship between consumers and brands. But brand purpose should be more than a change of word on a brand model. It’s a fundamental change in mindset. It’s easy to forget that.
  23. 23. 23 Purpose is not just positioning with a new name; it’s a whole new approach Adapted from Grow by Jim Stengel We find that brand purpose only really works with big, broad insights. Most often wide- raging and category generic thoughts. This can be hard when we’re used to finely crafted positioning statements filled with clever bits of language. Purpose can feel broad, basic and undifferentiated. But its precisely this breadth that gives the clarity to a whole organisation and creates the space for creativity that allows a brand to successfully go out in to the world and make it happen. Under Armour: To make all athletes better IBM: To build a smarter planet Starbucks: To create human connections
  24. 24. 24 Under Armour is an example of brand purpose at its best “To work here you have to love the brand. You have to really love it: what it stands for, what the company values, the way it does things. We have a culture of people who feel like they own the company, whether they have equity or not. When they leave at night, they turn the lights off. Not because it’s a rule, but because they want to. They feel like this is their company. People get that – and it inspires them. ” … {Kevin Plank, CEO, Under Amour}
  25. 25. 25 4. Choosing not owning Traditional ways of doing brand can get us tied in knots. We create barriers for ourselves that don’t always need to be there. We’ve been taught that a good process results in a new argument for a brand’s superiority. And that this idea should be differentiating, ownable and backed up with reasons to believe. But, as Byron Sharp would remind us, the outside world isn’t looking for tightly constructed arguments nor persuasive messages. If an idea fits, then we should feel free to choose it- whether or not we can claim to rightfully own it.
  26. 26. 26 Choosing not owning “Brands don’t need to worry about having a persuasive message. Too often they produce advertising filled with persuasive arguments about trivial benefits that are rejected, misunderstood or ignored by viewers. Buying a brand for the first time doesn’t require a major conversion, just a little salience” … {Byron Sharp, How Brands Grow, 2010 and 2015} Traditional brand theories tend to focus on owning a differentiated benefit. But often this means that we end up focusing on aspects of a brand that are small and unique, rather than the big things that really matter to the outside world. Our experience is that we need to worry less about owning a differentiated concept and more about delivering big category benefits in unique ways.
  27. 27. 27 Alcohol is a category deeply involved in owning “Ever since the first drop of whisky fell from our stills on Christmas Day 1887, Glenfiddich have celebrated those who do things differently.” Alcohol is an interesting category. Perhaps because so many of the brands have long, interesting histories, perhaps because we’ve been taught that old alcohol is good alcohol, the drinks category is full of mythic histories and stories of maverick founders. The tendency is to stake a claim to a cultural world rooted in the brand’s past. Provenance, heritage and authenticity are the category defaults. And yet brands who try to sound authentic often end up sounding anything but.
  28. 28. 28 Take Hendrick’s. The brand has helped drive the global boom in gin. Hendrick’s brand of twisted Victoriana has been one of the biggest factors in its success but it is an entirely invented world. While alcohol defaults to stories of authenticity, provenance and heritage, the Hendrick’s brand has none of those things. Unlike its competitors, Hendrick’s has no claim on this Victorian world (it was launched in 2001). Hendrick’s success came from identifying a fundamental truth about gin (British eccentricity) and simply choosing to adopt it. They have taken this world unencumbered by whether they had any rights to it or any reasons to believe. The curious rise of Hendrick’s gin
  29. 29. 29 5. Remembering to smile when talking about the weather Perceptions of brands and their equity result more from the style with which they are executed that the content of their ‘message’. Yet most approaches to brand treat questions of style as an afterthought, and instead focus on the rational argument or message. We need to treat style as seriously as we treat substance.
  30. 30. 30 Style is as important as substance “It is the tone of voice, the detail of the execution, the connotative use of language, all things that conventional advertising theory has treated as peripheral, that are in fact most important. An uncomfortable fact for most organisations.” … Paul Feldwick, The Anatomy of Humbug, 2015 Most approaches to brands are specifically designed to focus on things like propositions, messages, the thing we want to say- and so these processes tend to become about constructing rational , written/verbal arguments for a brand. The problem is that most impact and most meaning that people take away from brand activations come not from the content of a rational argument but from style and feel.
  31. 31. 31 4. Remembering to smile when asking about the weatherRemembering to smile when talking about the weather It’s like small talk. The topic is mostly incidental- the weather, the weekend, holiday plans... It’s not what we say but how we do it that counts. It’s about building rapport. There’s no point in asking about the weather if you forget to smile. Psychologist Paul Watzalwick’s showed that relationships are primarily influenced not by the rational content of what we say, but by the less precise, more gestural communication around it. In his words, small talk is actually saying “we are not enemies”.
  32. 32. 32 Smiling in the digital age Brands exist to enrich and differentiate the experience of consuming a product, but often in today’s world it’s easy for the emotional sense of the brand to become a bit separated from the product. It’s interesting to look at how different brands have responded to this challenge. The Amazon product, the slick machine, is the brand. Its breadth and functional excellence is the brand’s equity. Challenge: the brand is respected and used rather than loved. Challenge: justifying the use of conventional media. Facebook have used advertising to help define the brand, and give it meaning beyond being a neutral platform for UGC. “Advertising is the price you pay for having an unremarkable product”- Jeff Bezos Tesla does no advertising, but has instead built a strong social media and PR presence around the brand and its CEO. Challenge: maintaining presence and salience
  33. 33. 33 Summary
  34. 34. 34 4. Choosing not owning 3. Making it happen not telling people about it 2. Course corrections not step changes 5. Remembering to smile when talking about the weather 1. Sharp thinking Some of the old filters for judging brand ideas just aren’t that helpful any more. We need to worry less about owning a differentiated concept. And more about delivering big benefits in unique ways. Making it happen is a much more contemporary thought than telling people about something. But, purpose is not positioning by a different name. We also need a shift in mindset and approach. It’s hard, time- consuming and expensive for brands to make big step changes. We need to develop our brands in time with the culture around them. We live in a world that increasingly communicates in ways that are bitesize, visual and rooted in emotion (rather than rationality). We need to focus as much on style as we do on substance. Sharp’s emphasis on salience and emotional (rather than rational) response is really strong. His disregard for meaning, we find much less helpful.
  35. 35. 58-60 Berners Street, London W1T 3NQ T: 020 7079 9555 www.sparkler.co.uk Edward Greggs Head of Sparkler Strategy ed@sparkler.co.uk

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