Building Iconic Brands

07 Sep 2009|Added Value

Iconic brands have three things in common; a strong connection with their consumers or customers, a strong identity and an ability to envision the future. 

Easy to see.  Not so easy to do. 

The first part of the equation, a connection with your market, is the foundation of any truly forward thinking brand.  Being rooted in what makes people tick can give you the edge.  These are the people who hold the purse strings.  They are the men and women who stand in the shopping aisles and choose one brand over another. Understanding your market is Marketing 1.01.  But few people really get it right.  They’ll commission a study, do a couple of focus groups and leave it at that.  Those reports gathering dust on the shelves of their corner view office. 

True insight can opens all kinds of doors.  A solid segmentation, for example, can go beyond just dividing and sizing your market. It can be the chart that guides your position, portfolio strategy and brand architecture.  It can give you a glimpse of the future – niche behaviour today could be the mainstream of tomorrow. And it can give you an internal tool for your sales and marketing teams to plan their activities.

Insight can also help you build the cultural capital of your brand.  The magic dust of insight that’s the difference between just communicating an arbitrary expression of your positioning and really resonating deeply with the individuals you’re speaking to. 

What’s been missing from the traditional triumvirate of consumers, competitors and trade research is cultural insight.  Cultural insight gives brand owners a vision of the context in which their brands live and a good view of how that context will change in the future. 

This is not just about trend spotting.  It’s about getting to grips with the seismic shifts in what we call “Cultural Centres of Gravity” or COGS, and the social, cultural and economic factors that affect us all.  Shifts in attitudes to health, material value, ethics, gender and identity and technology, for example, have had repercussions for brands everywhere, including our own southern corner of the globe. 

For brands to build real cultural capital over time, this kind of insight can help decode how culture is evolving and use that information to keep brands fresh, relevant and mobile. 

The next part of a winning combo is identity.  And it’s more than just the colour of the logo and the shape of the brand.  It’s the heart and soul of what makes one brand different from another.  Why would I choose a Coke over a Pepsi on a hot summer’s day? Despite all the taste tests, they’re both just brown, fizzy cool drinks sold at pretty much the same price point.?  Because I’ve bought into the brand.  What it stands for.  What it’s told me about itself. And how it makes me feel.

Finding that sweet spot for a positioning is one of the hardest jobs a brand has to do.  Done well, a great positioning gives your brand voice, colour, energy and life.  It can help you identify what makes you different from the brand next to you on the supermarket shelf. It makes consumer choice easier. It helps consumers to navigate confusing categories and fixtures. It adds value to your balance sheet.  And great positioning can take you into the future.  If you’ve spent time understanding the evolving cultural backdrop, developing your brand’s story, it’s personality, you’re better equipped to start thinking how that story might play out in a morphing culture, whether in the city scapes of developed markets or the heart lands of Africa or Asia.

Being able to envision the future means you’re able to keep innovating.  Not just the big new splash innovations that shake up the world.  But the small incremental steps that can take a moisturising soap like Dove into a multibrand smash hit in the beauty industry, with extensions in shampoos, body lotions and skin care.  Innovation is the life blood of long lived brands.  The ability to be flexible, responsive and to take action before your competitors, can drive growth like nothing else.

And this is what we do.  This is why iconic brands like Peroni, Southern Sun, Levi’s, Coca Cola and Brand South Africa have come to us with some of their biggest challenges.  Because we answer the central marketing questions.  Questions about portfolio management, positioning and innovation. Answers which require insight, rigour, creativity and marketing know-how.  Clear, sharp answers with an eye on the future and that carry momentum.  That inspire action.

What’s your question?

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