Heath Anderson's Strategic Brand Management blog.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


In this post I'm going to cover less ground than in the previous posts; however, there are several aspects of differentiation that warrant discussion.

First, I wanted to mention the Young & Rubicam Brand Asset Valuator study. I was not aware of this but when time permits I'll definitely do more research into the study. Basically the BAV study meaures 13,000 brands, 450 global brands, covers more than three dozen countries and applies more than 50 measures. The study is produced every two to three years.

Next, why is differentiation important? Easy. In such a competitive landscape companies need to distinguish themselves from the group. A french fry is a french fry but McDonalds wants its french fry to be an experience of its own. In the same fashion, a hotel is hotel but Qbic, as cited in a previous post, seeks to differentiate itself from other Amsterdam hotels with its Cubi, its superior bedding and its functionality. When consumers are faced with so many choices the endless options can make it seem as though all the choices are virtually the same. Brand differentiation attempts to help a company and its products or services stick out in the minds of consumers.

What are branded differentiators? Differentiators are features, ingredients, services and programs that create a point of differentiation that is meaningful to consumers and requires active management over time.

Branded Features. A branded feature is typically a graphical or tangible feature. For instance, think about Glad Lock sandwich bags. There are tons of sandwich bags on the market and all are essentially the same. But, a Glad Lock keeps the freshness inside by that branded feature of the "yellow and blue make green" sealing system.

Branded Ingredient. A branded ingredient is an ingredient, component or technology that distinguishes the brand. What I find interesting here is that the consumer doesn't even have to understand and often doesn't understand what the ingredient really does but still finds value in it. For instance, the book gives a good example with Chevron. Gasoline is gasoline but Chevron differentiates itself with the branded ingredient of Techron. What is Techron? I have no idea and I'd presume most of us don't. But many people will buy Chevron gas because of the perceived superiority of its branded Techron ingredient.

Branded Service. A branded service is a service that augments the brand, adds value to the consumer and sets the brand apart from the competition. The book gives another good example with UPS. UPS is a shipping company but it has added several services under the brand UPS Supply Chain Solutions to differentiate itself.

Branded Programs. As you might have imagined, branded programs are programs that attempt to differentiate a brand. This differentiator is of importance to me because so many companies are turning to the web to implement programs of value for consumers. The book cites Harley-Davidson's online Rider Planner program. There are also loyalty programs like United Mileage Plus and Wells Fargo's Business Miles. Sweepstakes are common branded programs.

Next, I wanted to touch on why it's important to brand a differentiator. As the book states, the value of a branded differentiator in many ways goes back to the basic value of a brand. What's the value of a brand? A brand adds credibility, aids memory, helps communication and can provide a competitive advantage.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the Amazon example from the book. I love it because it so perfectly highlights the value of branded differentiators. If you've used Amazon, and I would imagine most of us have, then you know that Amazon has a very powerful tool that recommends books and items that might be of interest to a consumer based upon that consumer's previous purchases and the purchases of like minded consumers. Amazon released the tool but they actually failed to brand it. How big of a missed opportunity was this mistake? If Amazon had branded this tool, they would have created a lasting point of differentiation that would be invaluable. Needless to say, when Amazon released its one page check out process they didn't make the same mistake twice. Amazon branded it the One-Click checkout.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Schwab, Google and Sony

For today's blog we're going to take a quick look at a few items.

I'm actually going to skip over the Charles Schwab example from the book. The example was supposed to highlight how Schwab was a trend driver in the discount broker industry. Maybe they were way back when. But, in my mind and given my age, when I think of trend drivers in the discount broker industry I'm thinking of E*TRADE and maybe an Ameritrade - not Charles Schwab. To me the brand Charles Schwab just sounds like some old, crusty white guy brokerage house. Obviously, Schwab hasn't done their job in connecting with the 20 to 30 something crowd (okay... the 20 to 31 something crowd).

Next on the list of items to discuss, I wanted to address category or subcategory defining labels. We're all familiar with Kleenex (tissues), A1 (steak sauce) and Xerox (copiers). Since these brands define a category and have entered our vernacular, they definitely don't have to worry about being relevant to a category - they are the category. On the other hand, since they define the category there can be serious issues of confinement to that category which can limit options (among other problems... see below).

While on the subject of brands that define a category, I really wanted to comment on the subject of Google and the use of this brand as a verb. I don't know how exactly "google", the verb, entered the American vernacular but it drives me absolutely crazy. You "search". You don't "google". It could potentially be acceptable to say you "googled" when actually searching on Google. But, too often I hear people say they "google" when they're actually using Yahoo, MSN, AOL (yes, AOL is technically a Google distribution parter), etc. Regardless, Google reaps the benefits of defining a category but they are also extremely concerned about protecting their brand (when a brand name becomes too commonly used you can loose several rights to that trademark... do a search and read more about the topic or here is a link to a BBC article I found real easily).

Lastly, the book shifts to differentiation and brand energizers. In the process, it offers a great look at the Sony portfolio. Sony is one of the most, if not the most, recognized brands in the world. It's an amazing brand and for me Sony means top of the line electronics. However, Sony is way more than a consumer electronics company. They are leaders in music, games, movies, theaters and even insurance and banking in Japan. What's interesting about Sony's portfolio of brands is that they've used the portfolio to develop extremely strong yet differentiated subbrands and endorsed brands that actually work to enhance the overall Sony brand. For instance, Playstation, Walkman, VAIO, Cybershot and Discman all serve their own markets yet at the same time act as brand energizers for the Sony brand. When you think of the Playstation or the VAIO, you think of another Sony innovation. Another interesting point is that Sony's portfolio strategy differs drastically from several of their main competitors. Toshiba, Mitsubishi and Canon all rely on a single brand. Obviously, Sony doesn't. They rely on several brands. Additionally, Sony bucks the trend when allocating resources to its portfolio. Whereas IBM allocates over 50% of its resources behind the master brand, Sony chooses to support the master brand by spending budgets and accumulating equity in the subbrands and endorsed brands.

BTW - I stand corrected... in a previous post I complained about Blogger defaulting into the language of the ip address accessed from without offering a way to get back to English. I was wrong. Thankfully, I found the link to get back to English.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Relevance and Some Search Engine History

Lets jump right in and pick up where we left off on the last blog - relevance.

Relevance is such an interesting topic and today I'd like to cover a few additional concepts and discuss relevance in the context of the search engine category.

When we look at strategies to create or maintain relevance, three main strategies emerge: trend neglectors, trend responders, and trend drivers.

Trend neglectors are companies that operate independent of the market and ultimately fail to maintain relevance. Digital, the microcomputing leader that ignored the advent of the PC, is a great example. They neglected the market, lost relevance and ultimately failed.

On the other hand, trend responders attempt to recognize, evaluate and capitalize on trends they deem as opportunities. The successful trend responder will be able to discern between trends that have staying power and those that are merely fads. The book offers a great example of the trend responder by taking a look at the fast food industry and the emergence of the healthy fast food subcategory (ie - Subway, Sweet Tomato, Souper Salad, etc.). McDonald's in the staple of fast food; however, they've made sizable attempts to capitalize on the rather recent demand for healthy fast food. From new product introductions like Salad Shakers, the McLean Deluxe and Grilled Chicken Flatbread to co-branding premium salads with Newman's Own and acquiring brands like Chipotle and Boston Market, McDonald's challenge has been to stay relevant by attaining credibility in the new healthy fast food market.

The third group of organizations are the trend drivers. Trend drivers are a rarity. They are the ones that actually participate in the creation of a new category or subcategory. They are the innovators and the ones that hit the market at just the right time (the importance of timing can not be understated).

In looking at relevance, I thought it might be fun to take these concepts and apply them to the search engine category. Search engines have been an emerging market for some time now and many companies have come and gone. Who are the trend neglectors, the trend responders and trend drivers? Better yet, I'd propose that each major brand might actually display characteristics of all three categories. BTW - my discussion will be a bit basic given the remoteness of my location (I'm on the tiny Greek island of Amorgos) and lack of a good connection which means that my history will have to come entirely from memory.

To start the discussion, let's address the 10,000lb gorilla in the room - Google. Google certainly wasn't the first search engine. There were many more that proceeded Google. But, what Google did was come in with superior technology (the use of off-page link analysis in its ranking algorithms) and provide a better search experience. At the time, Yahoo, MSN, AltaVista, AOL, HotBot, GO, Netscape, DirectHit, NBCi, iWON and the other top search sites were moving in the portal direction. Search was just one of the many features that these sites were focused on. It was this momentary lapse of focus at the top engines that provided the perfect opportunity for a better technology and better search engine to emerge. Thus, Google entered the picture as a trend driver and redefined search. In the process, they relied on their superior product to generate word of mouth. The end result was that they gained market share, took over the search space and have yet to relinquish their stranglehold on the industry.

Google is also a great example of a trend responder. As Google was building its online dominance, the need to monetize search became apparent. There was a company back in the late 90's whose name escapes me at the moment that actually tried the pay per click concept. The timing was wrong for them and they failed. But, the concept of pay per click would not be a failure for long. GoTo came about at about the turn of the 2000, brought back pay per click and struck gold with their AOL and AltaVista distribution agreements. Distribution agreements with Yahoo, MSN and Netscape would soon follow. Google's response was to create their own pay per click advertising platform. But, as normal, Google took the concept of pay per click to a new level by making it smarter (with the implementation of click through rates into the ranking formulas), automated and more user friendly.

Google's overall rise came at the demise of several small engines but most notably Google knocked Yahoo and MSN down several notches. Yahoo used to be the leader in the search engine industry. Their human powered directory was the place to be located. But, as the search category was changing, Yahoo was forced to follow the lead of Google. Instead of developing their own crawler based capabilities like MSN, Yahoo went the direction of acquiring FAST and AlltheWeb for their search technologies to combat the growing Google threat. Unfortunately for Yahoo, by the time that they could produce a reasonable search product, Google had stole the show. Yahoo was once the trend driver with their directory but they would latter become the classic example of the trend responder with crawler based search. Yahoo was also forced to follow the lead of Google in the pay per click advertising side of search. Yahoo eventually bought the company that took pay per click mainstream - GoTo (which had changed its name to Overture).

The last example that I wanted to provide is LookSmart. LookSmart used to be a very viable human powered directory. In fact, at one point in time they had a solid distribution agreement with MSN and significant traffic of their own. The reason that I provide the LookSmart example is that they are probably a good example of the trend neglector. They failed to see past the limitation of a human power directory and recognize the need for the automation of bots to organize the web. As a result, once their relationship with MSN dried up, LookSmart became irrelevant.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Citgroup and the Concept of Relevance

Today I'm going to really briefly touch on Citigroup and move forward into the concept of relevance.

The Citigroup example in the book highlights how a portfolio has to constantly evolve in a managed fashion. In 1998, Citicorp and Travelers Group merged. At the time of the merger, the key brand assets included Citibank, Travelers Insurance, Salomon Smit Barney, Primerica Financial Services and Commercial Credit. However, post merger the new organization was faced with complex decisions as to how best manage a combined and diverse brand portfolio.

The result? Citigroup employed a hybrid portfolio aimed at their three main financial service areas: consumer brands (branded Citi with the red umbrella stylized to fit over the bold "citi" prefix - Citibank, Citifinancial, Citimortgage), institutional brands (branded Citigroup with the red umbrella - Citigroup Corporate and Investment Bank, Citigroup Private Bank, Citigroup Asset Management), and specialty brands that retained their own branding (SmithBarney, Travelers, Primerica, Banamex).

What's essential here with the Citigroup example is the method it handled the merger, the use of the merger as a catalyst to take inventory of the brand assets and the resulting organization and management of the new portfolio.

Now, let's shift gears and take a look at this quote in 1977 from the CEO of Digital, the leader of minicomputers back during the 60's and 70's.

"There is no reason to believe anyone would want a computer in his or her home."

Obviously, this quote was so very wrong but what it does is introduce to us is the concept of relevance. What is relevance? Relevance occurs when there is a perceived need for a product category and when a brand is among the set considered by the consumer to relevant to a product category.

The book provides a great example in taking a look at Powerbar and the dynamic evolution of the energy bar industry. Powerbar entered the snack bar market dominated by Snickers in 1986 and created a whole new category - the energy bar. The energy bar was positioned as athletic, energy food. Out of Powerbar's success, competitors like Clif Bar and Balance entered the market and pushed entirely new sub categories of energy bars - those that actually tasted good, those for women, diet bars, etc. As a result, Powerbar was forced to keep pace and maintain its relevance in an ever changing yet growing industry. To put the growth of the industry in perspective, in 1996 the energy bar industry generated about $100 million and by 2001 the industry had exploded to a $700 million a year industry.

An important aspect to understand about relevance is that relevance has as much to do about the category as it does the product or service. For instance, simply take a look at minivans. You can be the best and most well known minivan maker in the world but if consumer demands have shifted to SUVs, you are no longer relevant to the market. Or, for a more exact example, take a look at AOL. AOL dominated dial up internet services. However, dial up is largely a thing of the past thanks to DSL and high speed cable. As a result, AOL is struggling to find its relevance in the market of today.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Microsoft Example

While the last blog came from Amsterdam, this blog comes from the tiny island of Astypalea, Greece. Things are definitely changing and the world is wired. It's amazing that there is connectivity in such a remote location. There are actually three open wireless networks to choose from.

Anyhow, with all of this flying I've made it through a good bit of the book but I'll go back and pick up where we left off - the Microsoft and Citigroup examples. Today I'll look at Microsoft.

We all know of Microsoft. Back in 1981 Microsoft struck the deal that built the company - a nonexclusive agreement with computer leader, IBM, to build its operating system. MS-DOS, the text only interface, grew into Windows and by the Windows 3.0 release in 1990 Microsoft had become the dominant operating system for non Apple computers. While Mircosoft is the parent brand, Windows is a dominant key brand. It is also a brand that has been constantly updated with releases like Windows 95, Windows 2000, Windows ME, Windows XP and expanded with entries like the networking enabled operating system Windows NT.

Microsoft has also extended its presence with applications. For instance, Microsoft has captured the spreadsheet computing market with Excel and the word processing market with Word. Microsoft also produces Powerpoint, Outlook, Frontpage, etc. With all of these stand alone application brands in the market, in 2003 Microsoft felt it was best served by creating an umbrella brand for consumer simplicity. Microsoft Office was created and it bundled together each of these applications as subbrands.

In addition to Microsoft's applications, its presence is also significant on the web with the email giant, Hotmail, and top portal and search site, MSN. Microsoft also has its Microsoft Business Solutions, Xbox, Zune, etc.

As Microsoft continues to grow and spread its wings, the relationship between Microsoft, Windows or any of Microsoft's subbrands is a delicate one and one that is constantly managed. Microsoft and its subbrands have incredible brand penetration but each carry their own unique attributes. The Microsoft brand is often used as an endorser and there is distance between Microsoft and its subbrands. This distance has served Microsoft well. For instance, Microsoft has been publicly portrayed as a bully by competitors and it has been attacked by governments for anti-trust violations. But, because of Microsoft's portfolio management, they have been able to use their portfolio to minimize the negative feelings toward the subbrands. Microsoft's portfolio management lets it maximize the positive benefits of its many brands and defray much of the negativity emanating from any one brand.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Qbic Hotels

Today's blog comes from Amsterdam. I mention this only because I wanted to comment on the fact that Blogger has defaulted into Dutch based upon the location of my ip address. Sometimes Google over thinks itself. Yes, I'm in the Netherlands and most people here would probably prefer Dutch. However, not all of us would. Some of us need English. And, guess what? Google doesn't even give us an option for English.

Anyhow, today's blog isn't about Google. It was going to be about the Microsoft and Citibank case studies in the book but I'm going to change things up and write about a brand new hotel and a brand new brand - Qbic Hotels. Qbic just opened its first hotel two days ago, the hotel in Amsterdam at the World Trade Center. What's cool is that while killing time waiting for my check-in I had the chance to chat with Maxine Hofman, their Sales & Marketing manager, about Qbic, their brand and their marketing activities.

The thing about being brand new is that Qbic has several opportunities.

First, they have the opportunity to define themselves. How do they do this? In Amsterdam, a city of largely old run down and very overly priced hotels, Qbic's mission was to simply listen to guest demands. Guests want 5 star amenities but don't necessarily want to pay for the service. In Qbic's business traveler market, beds, bath and business functionality mean everything but prices are made to be affordable by trimming back the services and using automation. For instance, check in is done automatically through a kiosk.

In addition to positioning itself as an affordable yet amenity rich business traveler hotel, Qbic is also positioning itself as chic and cool design hotel. Central to this positioning is the Cubi, a cube shaped state of the art living space. Each Cubi features a designer bed and bath elements, LCD tv, internet connection and audio.

As for the indentity symbols, we talked a little bit about the logo and what it meant. The cicle is meant to encompass all visitor needs. The Qbic is comprised of the "Q" and "B". Together they are the backbone of the Qbic experience - the Cubi (pronounced "que-bee").

Otherwise, we also talked about how they were working to introduce and build the Qbic brand. As a relatively small company, they were leveraging two main mediums - the press and the internet. One of the biggest events for them to announce the new hotel came at a recent Milan press show. It was here that press from around the world were gathered and Qbic was introduced. The results were positive articles in local papers and papers as far as the New York Times. As for the interactive channel, Qbic has forged relationships with online booking agents like Booking.com and they've also used cross channel initiatives to drive visitors to their website.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Brand Relationship Spectrum

Over the last couple of days, I've been reading about the brand relationship spectrum and how it seeks to differentiate brands on the basis of driver roles. Basically, there are four main categories of brands:

House of brands. Consists of two master brands. Ex - Pantene and Head & Shoulders.
Endorsed brands. Consists of an endorsed brand and the endorser. Ex - "The Lion King" from Disney.
Subbrands. Consists of a master brand and a subbrand. Ex - Honda Civic.
Branded house. Consists of a master brand and a descriptor. Ex - GE Appliances.

The house of brands and branded house strategies are at each end of the brand portfolio strategy spectrum. A house of brands is a strategy based on two independent brands assuming their own driver roles. On the other hand, a branded house uses a single master brand to drive several offerings. In the middle of the spectrum, there are endorsed brands and subbrands. Endorsed brands are driven to a limited degree by the master brand and subbrands leverage the master brand more so.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of each strategy?

House of brands. Lets think of P&G. They manufacture Head & Shoulders, Pert Plus, Herbal Essences and Vidal Sassoon. Obviously, they give up economies of scale by having multiple unconnected brands. However, P&G's house of brands strategy lets them market to distinct niches by providing each niche its own value proposition - dandruff control, combined shampoo and conditioner, etc. Additionally, the house of brands strategy lets you avoid incompatible brand associations (Budweiser beer is incompatible with a Budweiser cola), distinguish new offerings (like Toyota did with Lexus), minimize channel conflict (like L'Oreal sold through drugstores and Lancome sold through high end department stores) and minimize conflicting product lines (Nestle and Purina shouldn't be related).

Endorsed brands. There are several endorsed brands strategies. For instance, the typical endorsed brand strategy is based on lending the endorser's credibility to the endorsed brand.

There is also the shadow endorser strategy which is a variant of the house of brands in that there are two master brands. The difference lies in the fact that many people know that there is a relationship between the two brands. The key to this strategy is that the endorsed brand yields the benefit derived from the endorser but at the same time there is a degree of separation that allows the endorsed brand to develop its own personality.

Additionally, there is the token endorser strategy that features, albeit less prominently, the endorsement. The token endorser might simply lend a logo to provide the endorsement benefit. But the reason the token endorser takes a less prominent role is to allow the endorsed enough distance to develop on its own.

Next, there is the linked name strategy where the endorser uses naming to create the endorsement. For instance, think about McDonald's and the BigMac, McNuggets, McSwiss, McMuffins, McRib, etc. McDonald's lends the Mac or Mc to their naming system to establish an endorsed relationship.

Subbrands. Subbrands can allow companies with too broad of an appeal to target niche markets. They also can stretch the master brand into new areas of emphasis and signal a new offering. A downside to this strategy can come from the close proximity to the master brand and the inherent risk of associations. Additionally, such close proximity can also restrain the subbrand's development.

Branded house. A branded house moves the master brand from the primary driver role to the dominant driver role. The branded house strategy leverages an established brand and minimizes the investment required for each product. There are economies of scale. While this strategy can provide synergy and maximize clarity, it can also limit niche opportunities and adversely effect the whole staple of products when the brand falters.

How do you choose what strategy to employ. Aaker's suggests that these three questions are answered:
1. Will the existing brand enhance the offering?
2. Will the offering enhance the brands that define the offering?
3. Is there a compelling reason to generate a new brand (whether stand-alone, endorsed or a subbrand?
If the answers to the first two questions are "yes" and the third question is "no", then you should lean toward the branded house side of the spectrum. If the answers to the first two questions are "no" and the the third question is "yes", then you should lean toward the house of brands side of the spectrum.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The Disney Brand

Let's talk about Disney.

According to Young & Rubicam's measurements of key brand dimensions (differentiation, relevance, esteem and knowledge), Disney is a super brand. What's a super brand? It's a brand that scores over 80% on each dimension. In Disney's case, they actually scored over 90% on each dimension.

Here's a question for you: What can a brand be worth? According to the Business Week 2002 Interbrand study of brand values, over 50% of Walt Disney Company's value was attributable to the Disney brand. The Disney brand itself was valued at $29 billion dollars.

Disney's brand portfolio includes the corporate brand, master brands like ESPN and ABC, product brands like Disneyland and Walt Disney Pictures and property like The Lion King.

Here are two great points from the book:
1) One characteristic of good extensions is that the parent brand brings something to the party.
2) An extension should also support and enhance the parent brand.
Disney illustrates the above perfectly. The Disney brand brings expectations of magical family entertainment to each extension. Like the book says, if you had never been on a Disney cruise, wouldn't you immediately have an idea of what to expect? Of course. At the same time, Disney's extensions have been wildly successful at supporting and enhancing the Disney brand. Aaker's suggests that Disneyland Park has had more brand impact than nearly any brand building initiative in business history. It's easy to see where he's coming from given that Disneyland took magical family entertainment to a whole new level. Disneyland lets the audience interact and experience Mickey Mouse, Snow White and Fantasia in person. These experiences at Disneyland are the Disney brand.

Lastly for today, I want to discuss something that I should have discussed yesterday. We know a portfolio is a collection of assets. But what's the significant of the portfolio in brand strategy? The whole idea about approaching brand strategy from a portfolio perspective comes down the belief that the value derived from the collection of brands is greater than the sum of the individual brands.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Brand Portfolio Strategy - The Foundation

Today I'm going to start off by doing something way out of the norm. I'm going to offer a few definitions.

Master brand. The top billing and primary indicator of the offering. Ex - 3M in the brand 3M Accuribbon.
Endorser brand. Serves to provide credibility to the offering. Ex - General Mills endorses Cheerios.
Subbrand. Augments or modifies the masterbrand in a specific product-market context. Ex - Porsche Carrera.
Descriptors. Describe the offering in functional terms.
Product Brand. A product offering consisting of the master brand and the subbrand. Ex - Honda Civic.
Umbrella Brand. A grouping of product offerings under a common brand. Ex - Microsoft Office.
Driver Role. The degree to which a brand drives the consumer purchasing decision or defines the user experience. Ex - Honda plays more of the driver role than Civic but they both have influence.

Yes, definitions are boring but I felt these were critical to our dialog as we move forward. Today's post largely provides a foundation that we'll build upon.

Anyhow, to make definitions a little more fun, I thought we might apply the terms above. For instance, check out this example from the book:
Venus Shaving System from Gillette for Women, with aloe and the DCL Blade edge.
What do we have here? We have a master brand (Venue), a product brand (Venus Shaving System), and endorser (Gillette for Women), and two branded differentiators (aloe and DCL Blade edge).

Next, I wanted to discuss what exactly is Brand Portfolio Strategy? There's not a simple, easy definition here that I've found. But, my understanding at this point is that brand portfolio strategy largely attempts to address the structure of the brand portfolio and leverage "the scope, roles and interrelationships of the portfolio brands."

Moving on... I wanted to list the objectives of Brand Portfolio Strategy. They are 1) foster portfolio synergy, 2) leverage brand assets, 3) create and maintain relevance, 4) develop and enhance strong brands, 5) achieve clarity of product offerings.

Lastly, what can we expect in the coming blogs? Well, Aaker appears to have organized the book based upon his contention that the development of a brand portfolio strategy involves six dimensions: 1) the brand portfolio itself, 2) product defining roles, 3) portfolio roles, 4) brand scope, 5) portfolio structure, 6) portfolio graphics. I'm not going to go into any more depth about these dimensions because it looks like we'll be taking a closer look at each as we move along in the book.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Moving On... Brand Portfolio Strategy

I started this semester a little earlier than most and with this extra time I've been able to finish reading Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler rather quickly. As such, I'm going to move on and start reading Brand Portfolio Strategy by David A. Aaker.

I thought
Designing Brand Identity was a pretty good book. It was a great look at the actual process and was delivered more like an executive summary... highlighting topics without going into too much detail. As for Aaker's book, I'm excited to get started and would expect that we'll get into more conceptual details.

Anyhow, I'm going to start using Aaker's book as the reference to guide the majority of future blogs. I'll also try and plan on taking a look at a few more case studies from
Designing Brand Identity.

Speaking of case studies...

Aaker begins with a solid look at the evolution of the Intel brand and subbrands. Intel's brand story really takes off in the spring of 1991 when Intel began a company defining brand identity program. The "Intel Inside" program was implemented to differentiate Intel's processors from increased competition and to clear up lingering consumer confusion that had arisen from the perception that competitors could "clone" Intel's products. A year later, Intel would would build upon "Intel Inside" and rebrand its processors with the Pentium subbrand. Given the nature of rapid change in the processor business, each time a substantial change in the product was released, the Pentium subbrand was given an update - Pentium Pro, Pentium II, Pentium III, Pentium 4. In addition to the Pentium brand, Intel also introduced market specific subbrands. The Xeon was developed to differentiate higher end servers and workstations. Celeron was introduced to the value segment of the market. The Centrino was developed for mobile processing.

There are several really good topics that arise from the Intel case study. Real quickly here are three:

What's interesting about the "Intel Inside" brand is that it has resonated with the public and built up strong brand equity despite the fact that most consumers have no idea what a processor really is.
2. How enormous are the implications of rapid product change? Wow. Every time Intel releases a new product they negate the market for their older product. I mean... who wants a Pentium II when you release the Pentium III? No one.
3. Managing the brand portfolio is critical. For instance, when you release a new product, do you brand the new features (Pentium II vs. Pentium II MMX), brand a new generation (Pentium II to Pentium III) or do you introduce a whole new brand (replacing X86 with Pentium)? Also, at what point is it necessary to introduce subbrands targeted at your distinct markets (budget, wireless)?

Lastly, I wanted to provide one quote from the preface of the book:
"There are no cookbook-style rules that are guaranteed to produce perfect strategies. The purpose of the book is to introduce options and issues, rather than easy answers."

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Protecting an Identity from Worm Poop?

In the June 6th blog about touchpoints, I cited the following quote:
"A distinctive identity is worth nothing unless you can protect it."
I'm going to follow up on this quote with today's blog about the article Legal Lemons, PR Lemonade by Mike Hofman that was published in Inc. Magazine's June 2007 issue.

Basically, the article is about Tom Szaky and TerraCycle's battle with Scotts Miracle-Gro. Those of us that read Inc. regularly know Tom and his company TerraCycle from a previous Inc. feature article. Cool company. They make organic fertilizer from worm poop. Yep. That's right. Worm poop. On top of that, their packaging comes from your old, discarded 20 oz soda bottles. Needless to say, they've positioned themselves as a green company and they've found some real traction - including the shelves of WalMart and HomeDepot.

The problem; however, is that TerraCycle has found a little undesirable traction. They're being sued by Scotts Miracle-Gro, their largest competitor. Scotts is alleging false advertising and trade dress violations. The false advertising allegations stem from TerraCycle's claim that its product "outgrows the leading synthetic fertilizer." The trade dress violations stem from TerraCycle's packaging. Scotts feels the yellow and green bottle that TerraCycle uses infringes on its registered trade dress.

While the merits of Scotts lawsuit seem a little fishy to me, this situation does a great job of illustrating the quote I started this blog with. Scotts has an identity that they've spent countless years and significant resources building. They've also taken the necessary step of protecting that identity. Now they would simply say that they're in the process of protecting that identity.

Tom Szaky definitely calls b.s. on the Scotts lawsuit (I think most of us are inclined to believe that Scotts is really attempting to derail a small but presumably viable competitor.) but another interesting aspect of this situation is that Scotts may actually be helping TerraCycle. In many ways, TerraCycle benefits from this lawsuit. Scotts is giving TerraCycle big time publicity. TerraCycle gets to cast itself in a David vs. Goliath role and also gets to use the issue in its guerrilla marketing efforts. Check out www.suedbyscotts.com. Aditionally, Scotts futher enhances TerraCycle's image of being the rebel in the industry - the anti-Miracle Gro.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Amazon.com and the ACLU

In the last section of the book, we turn to take a look at some case studies and best practices. I'm not going to repeat the book and I'm probably not going to offer much of a summary. But what I do want to do is take a look at a few topics presented.

Amazon.com. Turner Duckworth was retained to redesign Amazon.com's brand identity with specific attention paid to packaging.There are several things interesting about the move from the old logo to the new logo.

First, one of the challenges was how do you create a new identity but retain the brand equity of the previous logo. Obviously, the new logo doesn't overhaul the old identity. What it does though is smile from "A to Z". The smile represents Amazon's personality and the "A to Z" communicates that Amazon is the web's largest retailer selling everything from "A to Z". Pretty neat.

Another topic I found interesting was that Amazon didn't do a big launch. They did a soft launch. They didn't announce the new brand identity. They didn't notify the press and the new identity wasn't even mentioned on the web site. Amazon merely implemented the switch. Why the soft launch? Amazon didn't want to give the perception to customers and investors that they were a "different" company.

ACLU. The ACLU rebranding project completed by the Fo Wilson Group illustrates how a national organization has to properly manage its assets. As part of the identity audit, the ACLU discovered that every affiliate in each of the 50 states had their own unique logo, website design and architecture. There was no standardization and brand assets were being diluted. In response, Flo Wilson revitalized the ACLU's original symbol from the 1930's, the Statue of Liberty. Additionally, FO Wilson provided the ACLU with the all important means to manage its new identity - a successful role out, an Identity Guidelines website, etc.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Managing Assets

As we've worked out way through the brand identity process, we've identified several phases. First, we conducting research. Then we clarified strategy, designed the identity and created touchpoints. Today, we'll look at the last phase - managing assets.

Brand identity doesn't simply end once the identity is created. In fact, creating the identity was probably the easy part. Once an identity is created it has to be managed.
"The brand is a living animate object. It needs to be continually monitored, ensuring differentiation and relevance." - Clay Timon
How is the brand managed? It's managed through standardization, guidelines, implementation, and measurement.

As I've done in previous blogs, I wanted to take a look at a few topics of interest that stuck out to me.
"In the UK, over 70% of what was paid in the acquisition of companies was for the goodwill from intangibles including corporate brand value." - Turnbridge Consulting
Wow. That's an interesting quantification. If you've read my paper about Federated's national Macy's strategy, you'll know that one of my concerns with the strategy was the loss of the regionals' brand value. Now think about... If the quote I've provided above is at all representative of corporate acquisition valuations as related to brand value, then how much did Federated gamble and stand to loose by doing away with the May Department Store, Foley's, Marshall Field's brands?

Metrics and measurements are a pretty big topic in this Managing Assets phase. By isolating touchpoints, you can measure the success of branding efforts. For example, you measure advertising by quantifying awareness or conversions. Or, you can measure public relations by quantifying buzz and awareness. With that in mind, what are the best metrics for measuring a website? I'll build on what the book suggests and say that metrics for the web are specific to the goals of an initiative. If you are purely interested in a branding initiative, impressions or page views may suffice. However, if you are interested in direct response leading to conversions, cost per click, cost per action, conversions and return on investment are solid metrics.
"If employees are excited and mobilized, then more than half the branding battle has been won. Employees carry the company's culture and character into the marketplace." - Bruce Berkowitz
I can't agree more. Exployees are often the human face of a brand.

The last topic I wanted to look at today was the concept that the web can provide a means to facilitate an identity. Yes, websites are definitely touchpoints. But, the web and websites can also be used as tools to facilitate that brand identity. For instance, standards and guidelines can be consolidated in a single, easy to access website for use both internally and externally. Employees can access and download files, templates and imagery. Companies can also provide media/press kits online (Honda, VH1, Vouge) as well as marketing and sales toolkits (Denon USA, KUMHO Tire, OnStar).

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Creating Touchpoints Part 2

Let's cut the chase and pick up right where we left off yesterday - creating touchpoints. I split this phase into two blogs because there are so many touchpoints covered.

Signage and Vehicles. I've already gushed over Apple's iPod campaigns. They're so recognizable and as a part of building that brand, Apple certainly leveraged signage and signage on vehicles.

You've gotta love the train advertising. That's so cool and very memorable.

Otherwise, while we're on the subject using vehicles in branding efforts, I've got to say that vehicles don't necessarily provide a good touchpoint. Sure, the Goodyear Blimp or UPS using its fleet is one thing. But, how do you feel when that idiot driving the company truck cuts you off in traffic? Does a bad driver with a company vehicle create a positive brand impression? Probably not.

Environment. Its such a powerful part of the brand experience. Like the book points out - how many people go to a restaurant for the environment as opposed to the culinary offerings? A lot.

New media. Wouldn't you know it... the book devotes a good bit of attention to the favicon. In an earlier blog, I pointed out the fact that still in 2007 so many companies fail to utilize this touchpoint. Otherwise, I love new media. Search engines are considered new media and at one point in time they really were. Search of today has been a little saturated by the entrance of interactive agencies and even your old school agencies. In my opinion, the new media of today and tomorrow is based on the convergence of media and includes opportunities like cell phone advertising, online video marketing, etc.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Creating Touchpoints Part 1

Once the client has approved the identity design concept, you can move forward with design and development to create touchpoints. The book covers creating several touchpoints so I'm going to break them into two different blogs.

One of the first important topics covered is the trademark process. Basically, the importance of trademarks, service marks and registered marks is that these efforts help secure identity assets. Roberta Jacobs-Meadway offers a good quote:
"A distinctive identity is worth nothing unless you can protect it."
Business cards. Yea, I know business cards are sorta lame in the context of so many other hipper touchpoints. Anyways, the only reason why I mentioned business cards is that printing services like VistaPrint make solid quality print materials like business cards super affordable for small businesses.

Next, let's ask a question: How do you stand out when 30,000 products are vying for attention? Packaging. In the average half-hour trip to the grocery store, shoppers will have 30,000 products vying for their attention according to Thomas Hine, author of The Total Package. Wow.

In addition to standing out from the pack, packaging is an important opportunity to enhance the brand experience - before, during and even after the sale. Obviously, when products are positioned on the shelf, packaging is a key to the purchasing decision. And, on the other end of the cycle, packaging is an important way to enhance the brand after the sale. For instance, read up about Turner Duckworth's work with Amazon.com. They designed Amazon's logo, featuring the ever so creative arrow from the "a" to the "z", with key consideration being paid to how it would work on packaging. Of course, you experience Amazon.com's packaging after the purchasing decision has been made and Amazon.com's packaging works to further enhance the brand experience.

The last topic probably deserves a blog to its own - the website. Geez. What can I say about the importance of a website in a paragraph or two? I don't know. The most important concepts that I'll offer are:
  • Just having a website isn't enough any more. You have to use that website.
  • Websites offer the opportunity for branding and direct response.
  • Site usability is more important that cool graphics and technology.
  • Designers should be judged just like marketers - on the basis of real measurables.
  • With multivariate analysis attainable at all levels of business, letting your visitors dictate your design has never been easier.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Design Phase

Previously, we've discussed research and strategy. The next phase in the brand identity process is the actual design. The book covers several elements of design - designing symbols, logotype, signature, color, typography, sound and motion. The design phase culminates in the presentation to the client.

The first topic I'd like to address is a quote by Steff Guissbuhler:
"The trademark, although a most important key element, can never tell the whole story. At best it conveys one or two notions or aspects of the business. The identity has to be supported by a visual language and vocabulary."
I like Steff's point of view a lot. The brand is more than the mark. The brand is the whole experience. It is the collection of all touchpoints.

Next, I wanted to discuss color. Wow. Read up about color theory. Phenomenal concepts. Color is incredibly powerful. It triggers emotion, expresses personality and creates brand associations. In the sequence of visual perception, people register color before content. The importance of color is quantified by the fact that sixty percent of the decision to buy a product is based on color.

My last topic for the evening is based on a Suzanne Young quote:
"Don't expect the work to speak for itself. Even the most ingenious solutions must be sold."
I can't agree more. Ultimately, communication is just as important if not more important than the solution. Yes, your work and the ideas behind it should be solid. But, at the same time, you have to be able to communicate to the client why that work is good. If the client doesn't understand what you've done for them, have you really done anything for them?

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Clarifying Strategy

Today I took a look at the second phase of the brand identity process, clarifying strategy. This phase builds upon our previously conducted research and culminates into both the brand brief and the creative brief.

At the conclusion of the research phase, there is a wealth of data available. Developing a strategy takes this research and puts the data into action. Strategy should narrow the focus but also look at the big picture. In many ways, strategy is an exercise of rational thinking and creativity.

On a practical level, the flow of the process should:

1. Provide an understanding of the vision, values, mission, value proposition, culture, target markets, segments, shareholder perceptions, services, products, infrastructure, marketing strategy, competition, trends, pricing, distribution, research, environment, economic, sociopolitical and SWOT.

2. Take the understanding and clarify core values, brand attributes, competitive advantages and brand strategy.

3. Determine the positioning based upon differentiation, the value proposition and business category.

4. Determine the brand essence. What is the central idea? The unifying concept? Key messages? Voice and tone?

5. Develop the big idea - a statement that conveys the essence of a brand.

6. Lead to the creation of a brand brief and a creative brief. The brand brief takes the information and ideas from the above process and puts them into written form so that senior management can sign off on a unified vision of the brand essence and its attributes. The creative brief provides an overview for the creative team, conveys the brand essence and provides goals and deliverables.

Lastly and for a little fun, what are some well known big ideas?

GE - Imagination at work.
Apple - Think Different.
Target - Expect more. Pay less.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Conducting Research

Today's reading was actually very impressive. The topic was the first phase in the brand identity process - conducting research.

The main activities associated with conducting research are:

1. Understanding the business. Requesting baseline information from the client and following up by interviewing key stakeholders.

2. Market research. Gathering, evaluation and interpretation of data affecting customer preferences for products, services and brands. Research includes activities like usability testing, surveys, focus groups, mystery shopping, etc.

3. Marketing audit. Examining the client's communications and marketing tools. This involves getting your hands on all marketing communication and collateral.

4. Competitive audit. Examining the competition's brands, messages and identity.

5. Stakeholder audit. This was an interesting aspect. The stakeholder audit recognizes that the client's brand reaches beyond the client. The brand should reach all stakeholders. As such, a stakeholder audit targets key stakeholders to gain their insight into the brand, their needs, perceptions, etc.

6. Language audit. The book was sort of vague here and dismissed the language audit by saying "every organization aspires to conduct a language audit, but very few accomplish it." My understanding was that the language audit was a method to analyze what was the most desirable content.

7. Producing the audit readout. The audit readout is the formal presentation that helps the client take inventory and helps the agency have a baseline to build from.

One of the things that stuck out to me was the ACLU example cited. As part of conducting research, the ACLU was astonished to find out that over 50 different logos were being used at the national and affiliate level. There was no system in place to account for the use of their brandmarks and these different logos were causing serious brand confusion.

The ACLU example sounds so familiar. From 2001 to November 2004, my firm worked as the sole search engine marketing provider for one of the three approved lead agencies on the University of Phoenix account. We did an awesome job and worked seamlessly with their existing brand and message. However, one of the other lead agencies took a different route. Instead of doing the work in-house, this agency outsourced all of their search engine marketing to multiple rather unscrupulous vendors (quite literally anyone and everyone). As a result, lead quality and more importantly the University of Phoenix brand and the message were often seriously compromised. The University of Phoenix is ultimately responsible for the brand confusion. They entered into relationships with multiple agencies and provided little oversight. The University of Phoenix was only focused on their lead generation and neglected their brand in the process. The sad thing is that they still haven't learned their lesson. Just do a search on Google for "university of phoenix" and tell me what site is the official site. There are no less that 15 to 20 sites that appear official. University of Phoenix doesn't own these sites. Do you think they can control the message on all of these third party sites and third party advertisements? Nope. They didn't back in 2004 and I'm sure they don't today.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Brand Identity Process & Beyond Analytics

In moving into the second third of the book, we're now taking a look at what makes a good brand identity process. The book proposes five phases:

1. Conducting Research.
2. Clarifying Strategy.
3. Designing identity.
4. Creating touchpoints.
5. Managing assets.

Over the course of the next several reading, we'll look at each phase in more detail. Tomorrow I'll be reading about conducting research.

Otherwise, something that I found very interesting was this quote:
"Analytics are important, providing the data that allows marketers to stay focused and pragmatic, while also serving to set boundaries and provide the underlying rationale for making decisions. But analytics shouldn't be allowed to overwhelm the intuition that characterizes great marketers. It's the insight that the data leads to that results in breakthrough products and compelling new customer experiences." - Micheal Dunn
I've always been of the opinion that using your intuition gets you going in the right direction but I'd rather leverage the insight offered directly from the market. The beauty about online marketing is the real time analytics.

However, Dunn makes a good point. Analytics are only one tool of the marketer. The ability to understand, interpret and act on your analytics is just as important as the data itself.

Thursday, May 24, 2007


Today I finished up the first third of Designing Brand Identity and took a peek at what was to come next.

In this first third of the book, we’ve taken a look at brand identity ideals and brand identity fundamentals. My next bit of reading will take an in-depth look at the actual process involved in a successful brand identity initiative.

Anyhow, I’m going to keep it short today and just touch on one topic -brandmarks.

Let’s take a look at several different types of brandmarks. The book classifies brandmarks into several different groups: wordmarks, letterform marks, pictorial marks, abstract marks, emblems and characters.

To make things fun, I thought I’d list some brandmarks that have resonated with me.

Wordmarks. These seem the easiest to remember because the name of the company is right there in front of you.

Letterform Marks. I like letterform marks but my question is.... there's only so many characters in the alphabet. What happens when two companies use the same letter? For instance, take Honda and Hyundai... They both use the letter "H" and in my opinion there is brand confusion.

Pictorial Marks. I really like the pictorial marks but I think it would take a real investment to educate consumers about the mark such that they correlate the brandmark to the brand.

Abstract Marks. I don't particularly like the abstract mark because I would presume that it is very difficult to get consumers to make the connection between brand and brandmark. In fact, I actually had a real hard time thinking of any abstract marks off the top of my head.

Emblems. Emblems are okay but what happens when you have to condense the image for web or print? I think emblems would be hard to manage on small scale touchpoints due to image distortion.

Characters. Everyone knows Ronald McDonald and Mickey Mouse. But, as the case above, how much of an investment is necessary to educate consumers? I would think it would be rather hard to establish an instant connection. With that said, Geico seems to have had some success with their gecko and Alfac has had some success with that duck.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

On the Subject of Positioning

Positioning.... What an interesting topic. Positioning, of course, takes into account the mix of price, product, promotion and place to create openings in a continually changing market.

One of the examples cited in the reading was the positioning strategies of Wal-Mart and Target. Wal-Mart has traditionally positioned itself based upon being the lowest price. On the other hand, Target has positioned itself as a more upscale option that is competitively priced.

What’s interesting about Wal-Mart and Target is that Wal-Mart, the larger of the two companies, is actually repositioning itself to be more like Target. Wal-Mart is moving upscale. Stores are getting makeovers and higher end products are being introduced. When I was at West Texas A&M, we took a real in-depth look at Wal-Mart’s growth strategies. If you’re interested, take a look at this report my group put together.

Also, since we’re talking about positioning, another interesting example to look at is Federated Department Stores. I authored a really good look at the Macy’s brand and how Federated consolidated its retail assets (May Department Stores, Marshall Fields, Bloomingdale’s, etc.), with the exception of Bloomingdale’s, into the Macy’s brand. Why did Federated make this move? The truth is they had to do something to stay competitive. Their gamble was that positioning themselves around a national Macy’s brand was the right move.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Ideals That Advance the Top Brands

The reading today covered the ideals that characterize and advance the best brand identities. These ideals include: vision, meaning, authenticity, differentiation, sustainability, coherence, flexibility, commitment and value.

Without going into too much detail on each of these ideals, I would like to look at a couple topics of interest.

Steve Jobs and Apple were cited as examples of visionary leadership. I don’t know how much Jobs has to do with Apple’s current marketing initiatives; however, in my book the whole crew involved with Apple’s marketing has done a phenomenal job. To me Apple is the very definition of effective marketing. Just take a look at this image:

What does this image say? iPod. The digital media player field is so saturated; however, Apple created a must have iPod brand and differentiated itself through one of the most effective marketing campaigns I’ve ever seen. At some point in the future, I’m sure I’ll elaborate on my opinions of the iPod campaign.

The next thing that I wanted to talk about was the concept that the meaning of a brandmark often evolves over time. While I absolutely hate BP because of their unabashed pursuit to environmentally destroy the Four Corners, I can’t think of a better example than BP when it comes to the evolution of a brand. BP is British Petroleum. However, if you’ve tuned into their current marketing initiatives, you’d know that BP is now Beyond Petroleum. Just take a look at how they explain their brand:

'Beyond petroleum' is a summation of our brand promise and values. It's our way of expressing our brand to the world in the most succinct and focused way possible. It is both our philosophical ideal and a practical description of our work. - BP Website

While BP certainly deserves credit for evolving their brand, unfortunately Beyond Petroleum is a bunch of smoke and mirrors. BP is still the same dirty, ruthless oil company they have always been.

Lastly, I wanted to take a look at differentiation in the field of online search. I’ve been in the search engine marketing industry since 1998. Back then there were so many search options and a great deal of differentiation. Over the course of the last nine years, we’ve seen the monetization of search, consolidation beyond the wildest imagination and the emergence of the 10,000 lb gorilla, Google. As I recall, in about 2000, there were approximately 20 search engines that we really targeted. Nowadays, we target three main databases – Google, Yahoo and MSN. For fun, I thought I’d post an image of all the old school brandmarks to illustrate industry differentiation.

BTW - for those of you that notice.... Yes, this isn't all that old school. Overture's logo is there instead of GoTo. Northern Light's logo is missing. Etc.

Friday, May 18, 2007

What's Your Value Proposition?

In reading yesterday, I came across the buzz word “value proposition.” As a person from the school of direct response, it was refreshing to see that brand marketers actually know and use the concept of the value proposition.

Anyhow, let’s take a brief look at value propositions and I’ll chime in with my two cents.

First, what is a value proposition? A value proposition is simply a short statement or message that clearly communicates the benefits a potential client receives by using your product, service or idea. A value proposition takes all of the intricate details and complexities of the sales pitch and condenses them down to answer the question of “What are you going to do for me?”

With the question above in mind, just think about how many times people have attempted to sell you on the basis of “we’re the best” or “we’ve won these awards” or other non specific pitches. If you’re like most, you could care less about awards and claims of this and that. Bottom line… companies want to know “What are you going to do for them?”

And this is where the value proposition comes into play. Awards don’t provide value to a prospective client but tangible results specific to that prospective client do. A good marketer pitches ideas on the basis of solid measurables – increasing brand awareness, strengthening brand identity, delivering actionables, etc.

For instance, when I present to clients, I don’t go in and base my pitch solely on vague, conceptual ideas or past accolades. My value proposition is simple. I answer the question “What are you going to do for me?” based on real actionables and real numbers that can be expected at certain levels of commitment. In other words, my value proposition is that you can expect “X” number of actions (leads, sales, reservations, downloads, etc.) based upon a budget of “Y” dollars.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Touchpoints: Where’s the Favicon?

Since I didn’t touch on this in my first post, it’s probably important to let everyone know that I’m using Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler as my main reference for this independent study.

Anyhow, I tend to like her definition of “what is a brand?” According to Wheeler, a brand is the “promise, the big idea, and the expectations that reside in each customer’s mind about a product, service or company.” Unless and until I come to the conclusion that there is a better definition out there, we’ll use this when we refer to a brand.

Moving along… one of the first topics covered is “brand touchpoints.” Touchpoints are very simple to comprehend. A touchpoint is an opportunity in the process of conducting business to strengthen a brand and communicate its essence. For instance, a business card is a touch point. Billboards, websites, direct mail and proposals are all touch points. What about public affairs, advertising, packaging and networking? Yep. They’re all touchpoints. Any point of interaction with the customer – pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase – is a touchpoint that presents an opportunity to further a brand.

An interesting concept suggested by Guy Smith is that “your brand, as perceived by the only legitimate judges—your customers—is the sum of all their interactions with your company.”

With all of this talk about touchpoints, I wanted to take a look at touchpoints in the context of the web and ask why in 2007 don’t more organizations use the favicon?

The favicon, short for ‘favorites icon’, is the 16 X 16 pixel web site icon that is located in the url address bar of your browser. This icon is also present next to the corresponding bookmark in your favorites or bookmarks list. To take a look at some favicons, go to Google, Microsoft, CNN or IBM. What do you notice in the address bar? A favicon. For closer to home examples, take a look at New Mexico Highlands University or UNM. Again, both web sites utilize the favicon.

However, go to Coca Cola, General Electric or Phillip Morris. What don’t you find? A favicon.

How can some of the most recognizable brands in the world still fail to utilize the favicon touchpoint?


Smith, Guy. "A Brand is the Sum of All Touchpoints." MarketingProfs.Com. 28 Sept. 2004. 17 May 2007 .

Strategic Brand Management Intro

I should start this blog off by explaining why I’m authoring it. While my background is in interactive advertising and specifically search engine marketing, I’m currently working on my MBA at New Mexico Highlands. As part of my program, I’ve built an independent study that I’ve titled Strategic Brand Management and my goal is to learn about brand management. Hopefully, I can take these branding concepts and apply them to the interactive channel.