Political advertising succeeds largely by attacking opponents’ weaknesses, rather than promoting candidates’ own strengths. For a hundred years and more, political operatives have been writing the book on the power of defining yourself by defining your competition. Think of Johnson’s “The Girl with the Daisy/Atomic Bomb” commercial, or the John Kerry “Swift Boat” ads, or more recently how President Obama is framing Mitt Romney as rich and insensitive to the needs of middle class Americans.
The accolades have been pouring in crediting Steve Jobs with being a master marketer. Indeed, his founding partner, Steve Wozniak claims that this was always his greatest strength.
The WSJ reported yesterday that Amazon’s strategy for competing against Apple’s iPad will be to position the Kindle e-reader as a reading only devise, and narrowly targeting it to “serious readers.”
We applaud Amazon’s focus, by choosing not to be all things to all people, Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s Chief Executive said, “ there are always ways to do the job better if you are will willing to focus in on arena.” Amen.
By targeting “serious readers’ the company concedes that it’s potentially appealing to only 10% of US households. Still, we suspect that when it comes to e-readers, the 80/20 Rule applies, suggesting that Amazon is smart to more narrowly target the Kindle to passionate readers.
While Amazon narrowly targets its Kindle device, it’s aiming wide with its e-books by focusing on providing the widest selection at the lowest prices, and offering apps for competitive e-reader devices, including Apple’s iPad and iPhone “which allow customers to read Amazon e-books without buying a Kindle device.” A lesson it no doubt learned from Apple’s mistake years ag
Loyalty to brands has been badly eroded by the recession. And some fear that there is no going back.
In category after category, customers have been forced to abandon habitual buying patterns to seek new alternatives. When they did, they discovered that the alternatives were much better than they thought. According to a recent Mckinsey study, 46% of customers who tried a cheaper product said they performed better than expected with a large majority of them saying it was “much better than expected” (see How the recession has changed US consumer behavior). Empowered by social media tools, this army of satisfied customers is spreading the word that these cheaper choices are just as good as the better known brands, further accelerating the shift in customer loyalty .
And this decline in brand loyalty is not a new phenomenon. Forrester has been tracking this decline for the past five years. The recession has only acclerated a long-term trend. The vast number of choices available to customers, the ability to learn more about these “untried” brands, thanks to the internet, and a growing rejection of big global brands that are trying to be all things to all people are coming together to weaken the hold brands have had on customers.
How should brand marketers respond? First, go back to the fundamentals- make sure your brand stands for something clear, important and differentiating. Second, invest to make sure you can deliver your Dominant Selling Idea, better than anyone else. This is how you will create the next wave of loyalty. This is what P&G is doing (see How Proctor and Gamble Plans to Clean Up) and while their brands may take their share of lumps in the recession- they will do just fine in the long run. And third, make sure your Dominant Selling Idea is being translated into meaningful customer experiences, that reinforce the purchase decision.
Customer loyalty is not gone forever. Brands just have to be more focused and deliver better.
Lots of books have been written, and continue to be written, about branding. Many of them good ones.
My partners and I sat around one day and tried to pick the three that were the most influential, the most seminal, in the area of brand strategy.
Here’s what we seemed to agree on:
Reality in Advertising by Rosser Reeves. In 1961, Reeves introduced the idea of brand positioning via what he called the Unique Selling Proposition.
Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind by Trout and Ries. This book advanced Reeve’s USP into something broader, more strategic, that extended well beyond advertising, into the very heart and soul of the brand.
Building Strong Brands by David Aaker. Aaker turned brand strategy into a science, gave it a roadmap, and codified for practical application.
If you have other thoughts, please let us know.