Ben Schlappig doesn’t have a home. He lives on planes and in hotel rooms. And he’s a big reason why Chase’s new credit card has generated unprecedented hysteria.
The credit card business is not where you go to get a brand fix. Most of the brands in this category tread water in the sea of sameness, inspiring little passion and much aggravation by inundating mailboxes with junk mail. And then there's the new Chase Sapphire Reserve:
The card was so wildly popular that, upon launch, Chase ran through 12 months of metal stock in three weeks.
Unboxing videos popped up all over YouTube, clocking tens of thousands of views (yes you read that right, the nail-biting action of a credit card reveal).
Chase reported an unexpectedly large number of applications from millennials, a group that so far has been generally indifferent about card brands.
Bloomberg Business Week put the new Chase Sapphire Reserve on its cover.
Here’s why this should have never happened:
As an extension of the existing Sapphire franchise, there was a fairly docile product extension
At a $450 annual fee, it severely limited relevance in a category awash with no-fee cards
The card sweetened, but did not fundamentally alter the basic formula of perks and points. Nothing earth-shatteringly innovative here.
Advertising and promotion leading up to the launch? Zero.
This general election season, as the two major candidates for the United States presidency vie for supremacy in the Rust Belt, the rhetoric on job growth is hot and heavy. Much of the polemic is directed against corporations fleeing offshore in search of cheaper labor, and remedies lean toward cracking down on these companies, penalizing them for leaving. What if, instead, companies wanted to manufacture in the US? What if companies built strong American brands that commanded premium pricing to offset the cost disadvantage? What if branding could make America great again?
Baseball and Apple Pie Never Looked This Good Before
The best brands create and sustain themes of resonance. There is no one-size-fits-all panacea; some of the best emerging brands have dramtically changed the conversation between brands and their audiences. One of the shifts in the conversation has been from bigger is better to small is beautiful. The hipster holy trinity of local, artisanal, and small batch has gone mainstream. Take beer for example – local microbrews now proliferate grocery and convenience store shelves, forcing an embittered Budweiser to launch a baffling campaign lauding itself as a “macro beer.”
Here are three brands that trumpet their made-in-America story as vital ingredients of their brand personality:
Allen Edmonds couples a rich heritage with an updated offering that is as relevant to millennials as it is to “suits.” 100 sets of American hands caress the leather on its 212-step journey to footwear bliss.
American Giant makes what Slate calls “the greatest sweatshirt known to man” in the United States, choosing to limit spend on distribution and marketing and focusing on the product. The result: "Great product, made here, sold at prices that make sense."
Wally Ollins, of Wolf Ollins fame and a legend of sorts in the branding world, didn’t look too kindly upon brand measurement. "There are too many people," he said "... who are fed the rubbish that if you can't analyze it - if you can't chew it up into numbers - it doesn't exist." Not one to mince words, he continued, "I deeply reject all that and find it to be a contemporary version of witchcraft." It's hard to argue with Wally; somewhere along the way doctrine and data have dulled the notion that brand is, to quote JetBlue's CEO, "the way we feel."
The Inevitability Of Measurement
David Aaker is a legend of sorts as well in the branding world, and a lot of his work centers on brand equity. David writes of brand as an asset. And as an asset, it is must withstand financial scrutiny and ROI justification. CMOs may know it in their hearts, but CEOs and CFOs must see it on paper. That leaves us with the unenviable task of calculating the incalculable. Many have rushed forward to meet this challenge. I describe various measurement techniques in detail in my new report for Forrester clients: Branding Never Sleeps; a brief summary appears below.
Four Measurement Streams
The nitty gritty of brand performance is relatively easy to measure using survey, operational, and transactional data
Near-real time brandsentiment can be captured by social listening, although skewed samples and lack of established frameworks muddy the water
Perception can be surveyed, but traditional ask-and-tell tracking of emotions is fraught with problems; neuromarketing offers some emerging and exciting avenues
It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.
Twilight Of The Brands
In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.
In The Pink Of Health
Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:
More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike.
As all organizations operating in Australia understand, the line between brand, marketing, and customer experience (CX) disciplines has blurred as people gain access to companies, services and products on their own terms. How can you thrive in this dynamic environment? Start by effectively coordinating between brand, CX, and marketing teams.
We’ve filled our agenda with senior CX and Marketing professionals from leading organizations across Australia, and beyond. Key topics they’ll cover include:
Driving business results, competitive advantage, and growth by delivering the right customer experience.
Identifying the key practices and behaviours that fuel CX innovation.
Building and maintaining a brand in a digital world.
Instilling an understanding of customer emotions into design experiences and branding strategy.
Systematically improving CX through effective measurement.
Whether you’ve been naughty or nice this year, you probably have a wishlist for your business. We thought it would be fun and interesting to find out what some of your wishes are, so the Digital Banking Strategy team at Forrester reached out to some of our eBusiness clients at banks and asked them “What one ‘wish’ do you have for your team’s digital banking efforts or strategy in 2013?”
Here are some of the answers we got back:
“We wish we could transform every branch and call center employee into an advocate for marketing and educating customers on our digital capabilities.”
“I wish that our execs would understand how understaffed we are.”
“I wish we had better live help for our digital banking customers.”
“I wish I knew which area of mobile payments to focus on and what is going to ‘shake out’ and actually ‘stick,’ so to speak.”
“We wish for a digitalized branch pilot that focuses on advice and guidance.”
“We wish all of our customers – including the most skittish and skeptical – would try out our digital banking capabilities (online, mobile, and tablet)… and those who already use them would do so even more regularly.”
“I wish I could spend 3 hours with our CMO – and have his full attention – to show him how much impact our online and mobile banking efforts have.”
“I wish we could sort through the clutter of mobile wallet vendors and offerings to know which will actually pan out.”
“I wish I could snap my fingers and have great secure site search and intelligent cross-selling on our secure site.”
We listened to marketers of the world’s biggest brands when they asked, “What’s the impact of Facebook on my brand?” and we decided to take a look for ourselves. We proudly present our latest research, “The Facebook Factor.” In the report, we answer the pressing question, “How much more likely are Facebook fans to purchase, consider, and recommend brands, compared with non-fans?” We used logistic regression modeling to find out. The impact? We call it the “Facebook factor,” and I urge you to read the report to find out how you can leverage our methodology to assess the Facebook factor for your brand.
In the report, we use four major brands as case studies to assess the Facebook factor for Coca-Cola, Walmart, Best Buy, and BlackBerry(Research In Motion [RIM]). Guess what? Facebook fans are much more likely to purchase, consider, and recommend the brands that they engage with on Facebook than non-fans. As the graphic below shows, Facebook fans of Best Buy are about twice as likely to purchase from and recommend Best Buy as non-fans.
"Branding & rebranding" is rising fast on the list of priorities for tech marketers in 2012.
Over the past few months, my colleagues and I in the Tech Marketing Council have been engaging in a rising number of client discussions around the topic of “brand.” These conversations with our CMO and VP of marketing clients have come in a few different flavors:
Branding for Emerging Firms. Small, but not startup, vendors seeking to create better brand position and differentiation to take on the established sector players. (e.g., David and Goliath)
Rebrand for Maturing Firms. Midsize growing tech companies ($250M+) with designs on being the next $1B+ firm in their sector. (e.g., “Good to Great”)
Post M&A Brand Integration. Both emerging and large tech firms are working to integrate newly acquired companies, personnel and products. (e.g., House of Many Brands)
Marketing planning has changed little in the past century. It's essentially a linear process built on the development of rigid 12-month plans built around brand and channel metrics. This approach is coming increasingly under strain as the combined effects of the growth of digital marketing platforms and a volatile economy demand marketing plans that deliver clear business outcomes and can adapt and improve to meet evolving market dynamics.
Over the past 12-18 months, we have come across several marketing organizations that have decided to do something about this situation and look for new ways to improve their approach to marketing planning by adopting some principles borrowed from a relatively new methodology originally conceived for software development efforts: agile development.
From the interviews that we did with marketers that are experimenting with this new approach, several of the key principles of "agile" development looked particularly relevant to innovating their approach to marketing planning:
A clear definition of business outcomes and associated business metrics