Friday, November 03, 2006

One Brand for everyone?

Over the last weeks I had several discussions with marketers from Fortune 50 companies - one challenge seems to occupy the minds of these leading marketers more and more: How can a brand have one positioning, one idea, one feeling, one thought when today’s consumer world is more and more dominated by stronger targeted and segmented marketing programs and when this world is driven by consumers who own the brand, and not vice versa? I didn’t have immediately an answer or solution because this is on the challenges that will keep us marketers sleepless for at least the next decade. But it kept me thinking.

So, what’s going on? I think we experience two diverging trends that need some reconciliation. One trend is the continuing power of simple brand ideas that stand out in the midst of an over-stimulated and ADD struck consumer. Only simple brand ideas that clearly stand for something unique (e.g., Apple for cool and functional design, BMW for engineer and performance driven auto experience) are getting any attention. On the other hand, marketers target more and more a wide array of segments with various communication concepts and messages that are barely linked by one brand idea. Additionally, marketers accept (though grudgingly) that the consumer takes over control of the brand and the brand experience, leaving less room for centrally defined, although potentially clear brand ideas and concepts.

What do we have to do? I have two suggestions; maybe they are more predictions than straightforward recommendations:
  • The segment specific differentiation of marketing strategies and tactics will only increase, thereby putting more pressure and confusion of what one particular brand can stand for. Result? The potential for more brand dilution is growing.
  • The power of simplicity becomes even stronger - Simple defined brands based on a key consumer insight or need will win. Any slight confusion in brand positioning and insight based need definition will deteriorate the value of any brand and ultimately destroy any brand

Only brands that can live and thrive in this tension field of segment differentiation and brand clarity will be powerful enough to generate long-term loyalty. Successful brands will use the power of a simple position idea that enables different consumers from a wide spectrum of emotional, geo-demographic and attitudinal worlds to create their own brand experience. But this brand experience will contain the one kernel of brand truth that pertains to everyone. It will definitely be harder and harder to create brands that can live in this tension. That’s why the tenure and survival of brands will get shorter and tougher. But the ones that are able to thrive in this tension will be as powerful as never before.


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