Simplify, simplify, simplify…….

To really cut through the faff, brand marketers need to subject their brand strategies to some stern tests. Let’s look at a few examples.

Twitter is a great platform to sharpen your writing skills. The 140 characters limit (even with recent relaxations) forces you to cut out verbose, makes your thought process focussed and helps you in conveying your thoughts with the right choice of words. So does your brand’s core positioning statement pass this 140 character test?

When you personalise an invitation to connect on LinkedIn, you have a 300 character limit to communicate precisely why you want to connect with a complete stranger. Can your brand’s vision pass this 300 character test?

These are some examples of digital content sharing guidelines that any brand builder can adopt to test his / her brand’s clarity in terms of what it stands for (vision) and how it chooses to be different in the consumers’ eyes.

Why is this important you may ask? In all honesty, clarity and sharpness are going to be the defining characteristics of successful brand strategies in today’s time. In its recent earnings reports and shareholders announcements, Nike is showing a resurgence in revenues (and in some of the biggest markets in the world).

Sometime back, pessimists predicted a difficult future for Nike with Under Armour clipping at its heels, the constant competition with Adidas and the emergence of niche, disruptive and category creators like Lululemon Athletica.

This post is not a critical analysis of Nike’s global brand strategy but it is important to understand the simplicity of its positioning statement ( Just Do It) and its ability to build a brand with a simple yet powerful set of values. Of late, the signature slogan has completely disappeared from its advertising campaigns. The powerful storytelling is accompanied just by the ‘Swoosh’.

The fact that the brand does not rest on its laurels and understands the differences between its key consumer groups is exemplified by the launch of ‘Better for It’ campaign aimed at women:

http://www.adweek.com/news/advertising-branding/nikes-better-it-womens-campaign-gets-brands-first-ever-scripted-youtube-series-169245

Any brand which has been a global success, has used clear and compelling storytelling to build its global ambitions. Take for example Nivea, which has successfully expanded its reach from being a women and baby care solution to one that can appeal to men’s skincare needs. Unilever’s Surf has been able to transform into an experimental brand in the laundry care segment by redefining the concept of washing. It has been able to influence consumers to think differently about laundry – from a meaningless, cumbersome, irritating chore to a being a part of productive & active life and an essential element of a child’s growing up process.

A critical analysis of successful global brands reveals some common and powerful characteristics:

  • Simplicity of positioning: The positioning platforms are simple yet they are powerful. They influence adoption by aiming to serve existing needs in a more empowered and engaged manner
  • Brand assets are aligned and consistent: Assets used in advertising (brand name, logo, slogan, visual identity elements etc.) are consistent. More importantly they are aligned with the simple positioning platforms. Simplicity is the common threat running throughout
  • Brand portfolios are efficient: Portfolios are tightly managed. There is clarity of brand architecture around masterbrand and sub-brand alignment. Innovation has a focus of expanding the reach and influence of the core brand rather than innumerable launches. Even if sub-brands exist, they have a distinct identity of their own or if not, are strongly endorsed by the masterbrand
  • Strong focus on experience (communicating the performance of the product): There is relentless emphasis on the brand experience and its relevance in the consumer’s life. The objective is to ensure deep engagement as a genuine problem solver or as an agent for elevating the quality of life
  • Strategic focus on value (and not price): Because they are not discounters, there is emphasis on maximising the price-value equation for the consumer. This is delivered via genuine performance enhancement, relentless innovation and having the ability to stand the ‘test of time’

Nike and Surf are one of the few examples that exemplify the successful use of simplicity as a strategic differentiator. Any brand that achieved global success did so through the use of strong & simple positioning that led to strong & long lasting emotional connections. Any brand that wishes to follow the path of the Nikes and Surfs of the world, need to simplify the lives of its consumers (and not add to the complexity).

Building a strong brand requires reaching a state of effortless and almost unconscious decision making in the consumers’ minds. Strong brands reduce the number of decisions that a consumer needs to take on specific occasions. The lesser the need to take a decision, the stronger the loyalty. Simplicity of positioning is the key to achieving this form of brand loyalty.

Photo credit: 喵_比比 via Visualhunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

 

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