The great Al Ries recently wrote a piece for Advertising Age titled “Big Marketing Mistakes Are More Likely Than Small Ones”, which laid out the importance of brand strategy. Sharing several well-known examples from the world of technology marketing, he makes the well-supported argument that companies almost always want to use their established brand names on new category entries, and as history has shown us, that’s not always the best bet.
Having worked at Intel myself, and being lucky enough to have worked in the Trademarks and Branding group, I have a strong interest in branding, especially brand extension strategy. Intel is very consistent in their brand strategy – the company brand stands for innovation, safety and excellence, while the individual products, each enjoy their own brand (Pentium, Itanium, Xeon, Celeron, etc.) and personality. Apple, with Mac, iPhone, iPad, etc. has taken a similar route, as has Coke with various brands for their related categories, such as bottled water, with Dasani. I doubt they never once thought of calling it “Coke Water”.
Intel, Apple and Coke are all great examples of strong multi-brand companies. As strong as the company brands are, it’s incredibly impressive that each is able to maintain brand families so well, considering the scale and reach of those brands. How do they do that?
Not a news alert: You can’t have an effective brand strategy without consistency. Inconsistencies betray the brand promise – the expectation of consistent quality of goods and services (the same reason you go to Starbucks in any city other than your own – you know what you’re going to get, every time). Inconsistencies – in quality, in tone of voice, in presentation of the brand, where it’s expected to be seen, etc.) are what quickly dilute a brand.
Consistency, being an absolute requirement for amassing brand equity, is the underlying premise of why we develop Xink for marketers. While the employee email signature block may have a low priority in your brand strategy, the ubiquitous communication medium of email, especially the peer-to-peer email we send every day, means that the employee email signature plays a starring role in your company’s brand strategy, with each and every message.
According to Ries, “the future belongs to multiple-brand companies like Apple, Procter & Gamble, Coca-Cola and many others.” If this is true – and really, there’s not a lot of evidence of Ries not knowing what he’s talking about – that means that brand consistency is a key to the success of those companies being able to support growing brand families.
You can check out Ries’ article here: http://adage.com/article/al-ries/big-marketing-mistakes-small/294442/.
Let us know, in the comments below, what you think about this post and Ries’ article. Do you have an example of here an established brand was extended successfully, or regrettably? Let’s hear it!