The brand gym


Thursday 13 October 2011

David Taylor

The brand gym: A brand leadership workout

Museum of London, London

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“Is it better to be a leader or a follower?” David Taylor asked the marketers gathered at the Museum of London for this branding workout. One of the world’s 50 leading marketing thinkers, David knows a thing or two about brand leadership – he’s worked with Tesco, Kraft, Mars and Unilever among others.

Being the “underdog” seems to have become glamorous but, Taylor asked the LBF, “Can it really be better to be smaller?” In answer to this question, he asked some more: “Who was the Obama’s running mate in the last presidential elections? Who got bronze in the last Olympic 100m? And, who was the third man on the moon?” Only a handful of the 100-strong audience could name Obama’s running mate, Joe Biden, but no one remembered the other two men in question.

“It is better to be a leader,” Taylor asserted. If you look at the return on investment (ROI) of different brands based on their relative market share, the leader brands have roughly twice the ROI than smaller brands. So, it’s better business to be a leader than a follower. Leader brands also benefit from economies of scale, they have a cost advantage and are a magnet for talent; the best people want to work for the best brands.

Taylor explained that to be a brand leader you don’t have to be a brand that leads in the market as a whole, brands can lead successfully in a certain market segment. Pepsi, for example, is not the overall leader in its particular market but its low sugar alternative for young teenage men, Pepsi Max, has four times the market share to Coca Cola’s alternative Coke Zero. Interestingly, Apple is often portrayed as a challenger brand. It does only have 10% of the market share for PC sales in the USA, but when it comes to PCs priced at over $1000, Apple have a 91% market share making them the clear leaders in that market segment.

What does it take to be a leader? The key is focussing on your core business, suggested Taylor. To illuminate his point, Taylor looked at Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs as an analogy. Snow White, he argued, is “the core product or service in your business, […] the part that made you famous” but often this is overlooked in favour of the dwarfs.

Stelios Haji-Ioannou, for example, has tried to expand the Easy brand beyond his very successful low-cost airline, creating Easy Pizza, Easy Cinema and even Easy men’s deodorant. Taylor believes that whilst these products may be fun and enjoyable, they steal away attention, time and talent from the core business. “Dopey,” he said, “has to die.”

He urged the LBF to do the Dragons’ Den test and behave like venture capitalists, ask the question: “Can we make money out of this category?” Ultimately, marketers must “follow the money”. It is possible to extend a brand within the core market and Gillette have proved this, expanding their range of razors and entering into the female shaving market instead of developing new products (e.g. deodorant) where they are not the market leader.

Brand leaders also create memory structure, hard wiring brand properties, “relevant imagery, benefits and attributes”, into the brains of the consumer. The James Bond brand is a good example of this; they have a clear brand story, James Bond beats the baddy to save the world and the girl.

It takes two to three years to create memory structure, Taylor told the LBF. However, the average marketing director’s tenure is only two and a half years: “Just as a brand is creating memory structure […] a new marketing director arrives, chucks out the old stuff, creates new stuff and hires a new agency.” This change damages brand consistency and prevents the creation of a memory structure in the consumer.

However, Taylor was careful to point out that being a leader is not “about mindless repetition.” Brand leaders are constantly thinking about how to keep the brand fresh. At the beginning of the Noughties brand Bond was under pressure from competitors, including The Bourne Trilogy, 24 and Austin Powers. As a result they updated the brand with great success; the new Bond films starring Daniel Craig had higher Box Office ratings than any of the films that preceded it. However, whilst the look and the feel had been freshened up the brand properties so strongly associated with James Bond were still there: the logo, the gadgets, the girl, the casino, the baddy and the Aston Martin. Even 40 years on they had created what Taylor called “fresh consistency.”

The advantages of being a leader brand are clear. Leadership though is not about role or job title, Taylor concluded, “It’s about behaviour, people will doubt what you say but they’ll believe what you do and I think that can come from anybody in your organisation.” He closed with the example of Brasso Gadgetcare, the first new product from Brasso in 110 years. This idea came from the fresh thinking of a brand assistant not a manager or director. A cleaning product, this is not a dwarf but part of Brasso’s core that is more relevant for now and will lead to brand growth.