Archive for the ‘Positioning’ category

What’s the Gang of Four (Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google) Really Up To?

September 29, 2011

All the talk in the past few days has been about Amazon’s Kindle Fire and how this will impact the Apple iPad and the 7 Dwarfs, which is what I call the other tablet products on the market (RIM Playbook, Motorola Xoom, Samsung Galaxy, HPTouchPad, etc.).

Media Focus.

Many have been focusing on the product features – what it has or doesn’t have. Others have been focusing on the Price – the fact that the Kindle Fire is being listed at $199 – $300 below most of the others (with the exception of the Best Buy fire sale price of $99 on the HP TouchPad).

What is Amazon Really Doing?

However, the real issue is the fact that Amazon seems to be employing the Gillette product strategy of giving away the razor and selling the blades. In this case, the real objective is not the product or the price. It is distribution. The Kindle Fire is a device to drive business to Amazon’s store and away from other online stores, such as iTunes/iBooks, Google, etc. Of course there are differences in the stores. Amazon sells just about everything and Apple is more focused on digital entertainment and education (books, movies, TV shows, …). The Kindle fire is also not positioned directly at the iPad (at least for now) since just about everyone that has tried to overtake the iPad has gone down in flames, with the iPad taking about 80% of the market. Instead, the Kindle Fire is both an offensive and defensive move to drive digital business away from other stores and toward Amazon. Every purchase on iTunes and iBooks is a sale that Amazon does not get. Conversely, every sale on Amazon is money that does not go to Amazon’s competitors.

The Real Objective of the Gang of Four.

Eric Schmidt, Google’s Chairman, coined the phrase the Gang of Four in reference to Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google – the companies he believes will define the Internet economy from now into the future. Notice the word “economy” is used. If you really read between the lines, it appears that this “Gang” is really striving to turn themselves into a bank as Warren Buffet and IBM did with their businesses. Once you have a bank, you have the cash on which you can earn interest, invest, and do all sorts of wonderful things. This seems to be the real focus of these titans, and it will be interesting to observe all the moves they make to move toward this goal. Watch out Paypal. You had a good idea, but you don’t seem to have the content or the scale of the Gang of Four.

What do you think? What marketing and business strategies can you employ to turn your business into a bank?

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 60 published articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. Various media frequently interview him for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

image courtesy of flickr users, Claudio Andres + zolierdos.


That’s the Way the Cookie Crumbles: How Better Marketing Trumps a “Better Product”

September 18, 2011

Sunshine Biscuit, Inc. introduced the Hydrox cookie in 1908. Nabisco copied the idea and introduced the Oreo cookie in 1912. Those that knew Hydrox preferred it to the Oreo. It tasted crisper, was a little less sweet, and was made with vegetable shortening rather than animal fat (Note: Due to health concerns, at some point, Nabisco stopped using animal fat). Nabisco’s superior distribution and promotion gave it a far greater fan base, and turned the Oreo into an American cultural icon. In fact, their pervasive marketing gave most the notion that Oreo was the original and Hydrox was the copy. How did Nabisco do better marketing?

Corporate Image

Nabisco started in 1898 as the National Biscuit Company. A former member of Nabisco’s board, Joseph Loose, started Sunshine Biscuit, Inc. in 1902 with two others. From the start, Nabisco had the name advantage since it is sounds more descriptive and substantial.


Since the Hydrox cookie predates the Oreo, it had the advantage of being uniquely first to the position – a cookie sandwich formed by two chocolate biscuits and white icing in the middle. However, Sunshine lost this positioning advantage because Nabisco spent much more on promotion to get into the minds of the buyers. Research shows that even though Sunshine later reminded the marketplace they were first, buyers did not believe it because Nabisco got into their minds first with more pervasive and superior promotion and distribution. This is reminiscent of IBM and Univac. Univac made the first computer, but IBM was first to get into the minds of the greater public as “The Computer Company.”

Already with a weaker corporate name, Sunshine further eroded its first mover positioning advantage by creating a weaker product brand name. The founders came up with the name Hydrox using some flawed product-driven thinking. They wanted the product to evoke goodness and purity, and water was the purest substance that came to mind.  So they combined the names of water components – hydrogen and oxygen – to form Hydrox. Many years later, when market research was used to test the name, most associated the name with a cleaning fluid rather than a cookie.


With both a lead in the Corporate Image and Positioning, Nabisco’s Oreo because such as successful brand that it is now given iconic status along with Coca Cola as part of the cultural fabric of America.


Once the brand is firmly implanted in the brain of a far greater number of buyers, the product is perceived to be better. For example, by 1998 sales of Oreo had grown to $374 million compared with only $16 million for Hydrox. In 1996, Keebler (the company whose mascot is a bunch of elves) acquired Sunshine, and in 1999, renamed Hydrox “Droxies.” Kellogg’s acquired Keebler in 2001, and took Droxies off the market in 2003. As a result of thousands of petitions and phone calls to bring the product back, Kellogg’s brought back Hydrox under the Sunshine label in 2008 for the product’s 100th anniversary (using a separation strategy since they did not want to risk any damage to their corporate image). Within a year, due to insufficient sales, Hydrox was removed from Kellogg’s product line.

Price and Distribution

Given the much smaller numbers, Hydrox did not have the economies of scale to enable any price advantage. Faced with much smaller demand, resellers in distribution channels with limited shelf space were less inclined to carry the brand that consumers believed to be the copy (even though it was the original). Therefore Hydrox and Droxy numbers slowly disappeared, and were eventually eliminated from even the Kellogg’s web site.


Without the scale and demand, it becomes harder and harder for both the manufacturer and resellers to justify large promotion budgets to reverse the decline. When companies don’t spend sufficient resources to promote the product, the sales and profit numbers erode further.

Marketing Information System

With dwindling numbers, both the manufacturer and resellers looked at their return on investment and eliminated the product even though those that know the product believe it to be superior to the market leader – Oreo.

What Marketers Can Learn

This is how the cookie crumbles and how a superior product (in the view of those that tried both) loses to the product that was better marketed. Inside-out, product-driven thinking can greatly limit the sales and profit potential of high-tech products. With consumer packaged goods, such as cookies, such thinking is usually devastating as it was with Hydrox. Other examples: Nike versus ASICS; Windows versus Mac; IBM versus Univac.

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 60 published articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. Various media frequently interview him for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

images courtesy of flickr users, Like the Grand Canyon and basykes

Nokia’s Sinking Brand: A Nasty Side Effect of Being Product-Driven

September 6, 2011

Nokia announced it is slashing 7,000 jobs or 12 percent of its workforce, to trim operating costs by $1.47 billion while competitors, such as Ericsson and Apple, have seen their sales and profits climb. Nokia plans to increase the cuts to 17% by the end of 2012. The reason given is that Nokia failed to capitalize on the smartphone boom. That is only a very small part of a bigger problem – Nokia’s unwillingness or inability to do effective marketing.

Hired their first CMO in 146 years

While Nokia has been in business since 1865 and making portable phones since 1984, the Company hired its first Chief Marketing Officer, Jerri DeVard, on January 1st of this year. Surprisingly, Jerri’s background is primarily with consumer brands. Why is that a problem? Consumer brand marketers have had less than a stellar record after they joined high-tech companies. John Sculley (from Pepsi to Apple 1983-1993) and Cammie Dunnaway (from Frito-Lay to Yahoo! 2003-2007 and Nintendo 2007-2010) come first to mind. Nokia’s hope is that Jerri’s past position with Verizon Communications and her familiarity with U.S. wireless carriers will help Nokia to re-establish meaningful distribution in the U.S., where it has little if any presence in the smartphone market. With Verizon’s acquisition of the iPhone and continuing sales of Android-platform phones, Nokia is going to have to do a lot more than hire a former Verizon marketer and partner with Microsoft to get U.S. cell carriers to focus on its smartphone products.

Using numbers instead of names confirms their brand immaturity

Instead of giving their phones names to help the brand identity, such as competitors iPhone, Android, and Blackberry, Nokia continues to number their phones. For example, Nokia’s flagship smartphone model is called N8. Catchy isn’t it? When asked, why they use numbers instead of names, Nokia executives have told me they do it because it is hard to create names that are not already taken. Apple doesn’t seem to have problems naming their products. They even named the cover of the iPad2. Even Google, in spite of their penchant for perpetual beta, was savvy enough to come up with a non-Google name for their smartphone OS platform. I think it is a lot harder to lose billions of dollars in market share and slash your work force by up to 17% than it is to come up with a decent brand-name platform.

Not listening to the marketplace

Good marketers have a marketing information system to monitor, analyze, report and take action on what is going in their marketplace. Research in Motion introduced the Blackberry in 1999. It was so popular with users that some jokingly called it the “Crackberry.” Apple introduced the iPhone in 2007. Its popularity skyrocketed. Don’t you think someone in Nokia’s marketing department would have taken notice and been more proactive about developing a competitive product?

Marketing communications

While traveling between London and Helsinki, Finland, I saw a Nokia ad in the British Air flight magazine. It was for the Nokia 9000. This was a great product that many friends in Finland owned and loved. It was an early smartphone that could access the Internet, send and receive e-mail, and send and receive faxes in addition to be a full-functioning phone. The headline of the ad was “Pocket Phone… Pocket Fax.” It did not have the company or product name in the headline and it did not tell you that it could do e-mail (which is more important to most than fax capability). Upon reading the body text of the ad, which data shows that no more than 1 out of 6 people read, it had a great line that read, “It’s an office in your pocket.” This marketing communication did not reach its potential because the most important part was buried in the body copy that most readers (83.3%) don’t read. Too bad that the person that approved the ad did not know this data.

Product-driven rather than market-driven

The tragedy of Nokia is that, like too many technology-focused companies, they were product-driven rather than market driven. Instead of listening to the marketplace and hiring people with sufficient marketing expertise to properly brand and communicate the benefits of their product, they focused on making a better mousetrap. They made great mousetraps, but the problem is that the market preferred mousetraps from others that knew how to market them.

The lesson here is that to be successful in an increasingly competitive marketplace, being customer focused, or market-driven, is likely to give you a big advantage over being an inside-out thinker that is product-driven.

What do you think is the reason Nokia has gone form the top cell-phone maker to a distant follower in the smartphone market?

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 60 published articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. Various media frequently interview him for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

image courtesy of flickr user, markomni

Has the World Gone Mad?

August 7, 2011

Psychology is an important component of marketing, and when the marketplace goes nuts, instability is sure to result. This seems to be what is happening now.

At least Rush Limbaugh told the truth when President Obama was elected. He said, “I want him to fail.” The problem with this logic is when the President (whoever he/she is) fails, the country and perhaps the world goes with it.

This seems to be the state that we are in now. Chicken Little might be deemed a realist given the current economic condition of the developed world.

Who’s to blame?

Perhaps the best answer is everyone, but certainly not equally. False equivalence does not solve any problems. Given Rush Limbaugh’s stated agenda, which the Tea Party and too many “conservative” republicans seem to be following, it seems that the right is wrong. Hiding under the banner of patriotism, which is too often disingenuous because people of different political beliefs can be just as patriotic, they have become doctrinaire and must have been absent from school when we learned that Americans are pragmatic and do not follow extreme doctrines. They also missed the lectures on macroeconomics. When monetary policy fails to get the economy going (interest rates are near zero now), fiscal policy (taxes and government spending) are most often required.

Americans have witnessed and been victims of extremism of all kinds, and have to date, rejected it in favor of the Constitution, which the founding fathers crafted with many checks and balances. Saying no to compromise is un-American. America has always been about pragmatism and compromise. Refusing to raise the debt ceiling to further an agenda that is not supported by the majority of the American Public, is un-American. Of course there is enough blame to go around.

Republicans and the Right. They are for no taxes on wealthy corporations and Americans (GE paid zero tax on $14.2 billion in 2010 income), de-regulation, and smaller government. They left out apple pie and motherhood. In principle aren’t we all for that? Didn’t all the stories teachers read us when we were kids end with “everyone lives happily ever after?” However, as we grew up, we learned the harsh realities that such happy endings are not automatic and are, in fact, rare.  We got deregulation and tax cuts. Where did that get us? I got a $200 check so I could pay many thousands more to the oil industry via higher gas prices. Of course, these higher costs are not limited to the price at the pump. Since just about everything is made or transported by energy, the prices of everything have gone up, and many say this is one of the primary causes of the sluggish economy. As for deregulation, didn’t that bring us the financial meltdown in 2008 which cost us the largest tax of all – high unemployment and $17 to $19 trillion in lost wealth. Thanks to deregulation, every other week another food item is recalled because of a Salmonella outbreak or we learn than an agency, such as the FAA, does not have adequate funding to keep us safe.

Democrats and the Left. They had a majority in Congress during Obama’s first two years. What did they do with it? Not enough. They let Republicans set the agendas rather than focus on rebuilding the economy and job creation. They did get a significant amount of legislation done, but they also did not hold the bankers accountable for the meltdown or its aftermath. The Fed is loaning money to banks at near zero interest rates so the banks would lend money to qualified small businesses and individuals. Are the banks doing this? No. They are loaning the money back to the Government at a higher interest rate, taking profit on the spread, and awarding themselves for their “ingenuity and management prowess” with huge bonuses. And, as Democrats so often do, they allow the Republicans and the right to reposition them — Obamacare (even though it closely follows Mitt Romney’s plan when he was Governor of Massachusetts), “Tax and Spend” Liberals (Bush ran two hugely expensive wars off the Balance Sheet), Bail-Outs and Stimulus (even though both were originated by the Bush Administration). Even though it is difficult to understand why, Republicans seem to be much better at marketing than Democrats. About all the Democrats have been able to do is call Republicans the “Party of No.” And, when the debt ceiling issue came up, the Republican right continued to say no, and moved the Democrats far off their position. Democrats need to learn to get tough and not be “wimps” every time Tea Party Republicans call their bluff.

Credit Rating Agencies. These are the guys that rated toxic assets triple A — causing a lot of people to buy these pieces of junk and get burned during the financial meltdown. Even so, the “holier than though” Standard & Poors just downgraded the credit rating of the US Government, which will place another tax on Americans via higher interest rates and a further slowdown in our already anemic economy. What’s really ridiculous about this rating is that the chances of the US Government failing to pay its bills is as close as you can get to zero.

Chinese Government. Even though they own a lot of US debt, the Chinese Government should not be lecturing us. They are contributing a lot to the economic turmoil around the world by artificially controlling their currency to keep prices of Chinese products low. We are their biggest and best customer, and we have trained a lot of their people. You don’t talk that way to a customer or a teacher that has helped you. Respect has to be mutual, and people that live in glass houses should not throw stones.

Europeans. I hope my friends in Europe do not take offense, but Europeans need to stop blaming the US for their problems. It is true that our financial meltdown has had repercussions for them, but their problems with high-debt countries has bad effects on us too. Also, when Bosnia was a problem in Europe, Europeans wanted us to fix it. When we did, they blamed us for intervening. Rather than spending our wealth defending Europe, perhaps they can use their wealth to defend us so we can complain.

American Public. Too many view themselves as innocent by-standers in the financial and government messes in which we find ourselves. We are not innocent by-standers. Someone in our ancestral line took great risks to come to America to make a better life for us, and we need to take advantage of the opportunities they afforded us. Too many of us are letting those ancestors down by not educating ourselves on the issues and making wise choices when we vote. Many have died for the right to be free and vote. Too many of them would be shocked at how susceptible to sound bites and rhetoric many of us have become. We need to understand economics and history. The financial meltdown and the standoff in Congress on the debt ceiling should not have happened. It did, and we put the people in office that are responsible. We need to learn from that and take corrective action.

Yes, there is a lot of blame to go around, but real leaders do not point fingers, they identify and fix problems. That’s what we need, and that’s what we should be striving for. We should not be hoping that the President from whatever party should fail. We should be helping that President to succeed because we are in the boat that will sink if he doesn’t.

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 60 published articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. Various media frequently interview him for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

image courtesy of flickr user, KAZVorpal

Is Your Marketing Operating at Only 50% Effectiveness?

July 28, 2011

In my 38 years of practicing marketing and my 25 years of teaching it, I am amazed at the ineffectiveness of much of the marketing that is practiced. Of course, after thinking about why this might be, the reasons seem obvious. Most receive their marketing education from negative portrayals of marketing in movies and television or from professors that recycle the outdated concepts they have been taught using textbooks written by those that have little or no experience practicing marketing in the real world. In fact, there is a famous John Wannamaker quote in which he said, “Half of the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.” One important reason why half of it doesn’t work is that most marketers learn the 4P’s of Marketing. In my view, the Marketing Periodic Table of Elements has 7 fundamental building blocks. This means that most marketers are missing some of the essential tools they need to create effective marketing.

The 4P’s of Marketing

I have taught for business schools at six different universities around the world — four in the US (USC, UCLA, CSUN, and Pepperdine) and two from Europe (Aalto University in Finland and the Copenhagen Business School). Most marketing professors I know teach the 4P’s of Marketing because this is what they learned when they went to school. The marketing they teach is stuck in the 1940’s when the 4P’s were invented. It is no wonder that too many marketers are unable to do effective branding, have trouble determining if their marketing strategies are working, and are finding it difficult to incorporate social media into their marketing strategies. The 4P’s, which include product, price, place (distribution) and promotion, are essential. However, there are 3 important fundamental concepts that are missing from this list – corporate image (P&G calls this projection to make it a P), positioning, and the marketing information system.

To do branding properly, it is critical to understand corporate image and positioning and how these two building blocks interact with each other in order to develop effective branding strategies. Furthermore, running a company without an effective marketing information system is similar to flying a plane or driving a car blindfolded and in handcuffs.

The Seven Building Blocks of Marketing.

I contend that to do marketing properly, marketers need to expand their fundamental elements to the following seven building blocks. I present them in the typical order in which they should be conceived.

  1. Marketing Information System. A system to research, monitor, collect, analyze, report, and take action on information from the marketplace. This system should be on 24/7, collect and report information in real time, and be able to distinguish legitimate information, or signal, from propaganda, or noise. The starting point for effective marketing is to research the market.
  2. Corporate Image. This is the image of the organization, division, or inventor that develops the products (goods and services) to be sold. Key CI strategies involve Creating, Protecting, and Enhancing this Image.
  3. Positioning. Positioning is comprised of two sub components that I call the lock and key. (1) Lock: Identifying the market segment with an unfilled need, and (2) Key: Creating an image of the product to fill that need better than competitors.
  4. Product. Products are goods and services you develop to meet the needs of your market targets and to achieve the goals of your marketing plan.
  5. Price. Price is the amount of money buyers are willing to pay and for which sellers are willing to sell their products. Once your product is defined, you can determine the cost to make and distribute it and use this information to devise your pricing strategy.
  6. Distribution (aka Place). Distribution is the process of making it convenient for market targets to find, buy and use your products. Organizations distribute products via well-defined channels that may or may not include resellers known as Distributors (Wholesalers) or Dealers (Retailers).
  7. Promotion. Promotion is the process of communicating the benefits of your “complete” product to the marketplace to generate a buying action. A complete product is one that incorporates elements of the other building blocks.

Good marketers use these building blocks (and their sub-components) to create marketing strategies to achieve the goals of their marketing plans.

Effectively using the 7 Building Blocks.

To create effective marketing that works, good marketers need to understand these building blocks and how they interact in the marketing mix much the same way that a good chef knows how ingredients interact to make customers happy.

Future posts will delve into more detail and apply these building blocks to creating effective marketing strategies that work to achieve the goals set forth in the marketing plan.


Structure of a Successful Marketing Communication

10 Steps to Building Better Brands

Memorable Mascots Make Marketers More Money

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 70 published articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. Various media frequently interview him for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

image courtesy of Ira S. Kalb’s book Nuts & Bolts Marketing.

10-steps to Building Better Brands

July 10, 2011

Brief History

The concept of branding goes back to ancient times when people in positions of power, ownership, and commerce labeled their possessions, products, and documents to identify them and let others know that they owned or created them. For purposes of branding, a symbol or name, also known as a logo, was created. This was fashioned into a design on a stamp, seal, branding iron, or ring that was used to make an impression on people, cattle, goods, and documents to signify ownership, membership, or origination.

Step 1Define your marketplace. After doing a SWOT analysis that match up your strengths with opportunities, define the marketplace — the one that incorporates the most promising opportunities that your strengths allow you to pursue.

Step 2Identify company-wide locks. At the company level, identify the market segments that have needs your organization can fill better than your competitors.

Step 3Create corporate-level key. If you need to create a corporate image either because you are new or your existing image is not working, you first need to establish your mission statement. Your mission statement should do the following:

(1) Identify the most promising target market segments your strengths enable you to pursue.

(2) Make it clear to those segments what your company does in as few words as possible.

(3) Communicate clearly what is unique about your company and why they should do business with you.

Step 4 Create corporate identity tools. The tools typically used to implement corporate identity strategies include: Name, logo, slogan, colors, type fonts, mascots, and jingles. These tools are then used on letterhead, business cards, Web sites, and all other communications vehicles.

Step 5Identify the product locks. For each of your goods and services, identify the target market segments with unfilled needs that each product can fill.

Step 6AInclude your company image in your product image? A critical decision marketers need to make is whether or not to combine the image of the company with the image of each product.

  • Case for inclusion. If it is clear that product sales will benefit from the image of the company and the corporate image will benefit from the product, you should put the two images together. Some examples include: Diet Coke, Microsoft Word, and Sony Walkman.
  • Case for exclusion or separation. You should separate the image of each product under the following conditions:
  1. One image might hurt the sales of the other. The product is risky, the company image is fragile, or either one has a bad image (Example: Disney uses the corporate brand only on movies that are deemed wholesome for kids, and other corporate brands, such as Touchstone, Hollywoood, or Miramax, on movies that have sexual, violent, or other potentially objectionable content).
  2. Very strong identification with one type of product. The company is too-closely identified with one type of product (Example: IBM is known as a computer company, and in the 1970’s they made an excellent copy machine that many thought was better than competitors, but it did not sell because people associate IBM with computers and not copiers. Xerox developed a good computer in the 1980’s but it did not sell because Xerox is known as a copier company. Both might have been successful, if they launched these products under a separate brand identity).
  3. Lock and Key Mismatch. If the company wants to get into new product areas that are in conflict with established market segments, they need to create a new brand identities for these products (Example: The Japanese automobiles, Toyota, Honda, and Nissan, had images as being small, ugly, affordable and fuel efficient and that worked well for college students in the 1970’s, but as those students aged and became more affluent, many wanted luxury cars. The Japanese automakers knew they had to create new product images so they created Lexus, Acura, and Infiniti for these evolved segments).

Step 6BCreate product keys. Once the decision is made whether or not to use the company image in the image of the product, unique keys should be established for each product. Why do they need to be unique? Uniqueness minimizes competition and enables the company to charge whatever is necessary to satisfy the expectation created by the image and make money to stay in business.

Step 7Avoid cannibalization. In establishing unique keys, care must be taken to avoid having the image of one product overlap with the others in the product line. Overlap causes confusion, and takes business away from oneself rather than other competitors because confused buyers usually don’t buy. Alka Seltzer confused its audience by introducing a new cold medicine they called Alka Seltzer Plus. Alka Seltzer is a stomach medicine, but most thought Alka Seltzer Plus was just a better-working version of the original causing Alka Seltzer sales to drop and the new product to have disappointing sales.

Step 8Create positioning tools. The tools typically used to implement positioning strategies include: Name, Logo, and Corporate Slogan. Examples: Coca Cola ClassicIt’s the real thing. Diet CokeJust for the taste of it. When introduced, these slogans were used on all product labels and in all other communications.

Step 9Communicate. Once keys are created for the locks, it is time to execute the strategies in all marketing communications. The company has to have someone (inside or outside the company) that understands the branding process well enough to direct those who will be implementing communications strategies.

Step 10Measure and analyze results and take corrective action. Once implemented, results should be measured and analyzed to determine what is and is not working and why. Strategies should be modified and refined.

By following these steps and executing them properly, marketers can build better brands that have a greater chance for success in the marketplace.

Do you have a process that works reliable to create your brands? Is it similar to the steps delineated above?

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California (USC). He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and over 60 published articles, created marketing inventions that have made clients and students more successful. He is frequently interviewed by various media for his expertise in branding, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter.

image courtesy of flickr user, Svadilfari

Memorable Mascots Make Marketers More Money

July 10, 2011

Mascots, or spokescreatures, are branding elements that can help people better remember your company and products. Often based on people, animals, or objects, mascots enable your target audience to better identify, remember, and understand your company and products. Unlike spokespeople that age, die, have affairs and do other things that can damage your brand, mascots are ageless brand representatives that help your target audience develop a closer relationship with your products. They do not ask for raises, take vacations, get sick, or get you into trouble. In fact, mascots can actually make money for you when they are sold as collectibles or toys.

Helping to remember the name.

AFLAC began in 1955 as a small family insurance company in Columbus, Georgia. The name is an acronym for American Family Life Assurance Company. It does not roll off the tongue easily or make a very pleasing sound. As a result, people in their target audience were having trouble remembering the name. That is not good for business or for creating a positive word-of-mouth pyramid. People have to be able to remember the name to buy the product and tell others about it. To solve this problem, they decided to experiment using a duck as a mascot since the brand name sounds like the “quack quack” sound a duck makes. Upon investing in advertising to promote the duck and the business, the result has been phenomenal with name recognition and profits soaring. In fact, name recognition has been at 91% – higher than big insurance companies MetLife or Cigna and in the same ballpark as behemoths McDonald’s and Coca Cola. The Aflac duck is its own cost center and all proceeds from the sale of merchandise go to the AFLAC Cancer Center at Children’s Hospital in Atlanta.

GEICO, also an acronym for Government Employees Insurance Company, began using the Gecko in TV commercials in 2000. As with AFLAC, the spokescreature was created to get members of the target audience to remember the name of the company. It is used in combination with the slogan repeated in each TV commercial, “15-minutes could save you 15% or more on car insurance.” It worked. In the first two years, subscribers jumped 16.7% and Warren Buffet CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, which owns GEICO, has said that he loves the commercials. Being a shrewd businessman, the main reason for his love is the Gecko commercials have brought in a lot more business.

 Helping to understand the product benefit.

The Energizer Bunny was introduced in 1989 TV commercials as the mascot of Energizer Holdings Inc. And, it has kept going and going ever since. It does a great job of positioning Energizer batteries as longer lasting – perhaps the most important benefit to battery consumers. Energizer attributed 7% of its sales rise in 1992 to the bunny.

Snap, Crackle, and Pop are mascots created to reinforce the sound Kellogg’s Rice Krispies cereal makes in milk. The benefits these mascots reinforce are freshness and crispiness. They also help to give identity to the cereal that targets young kids.

M&Ms mascots were invented to show the unique benefit that the individual candies “melt in your mouth not in your hands” per their slogan.

While many companies do not break out specific ROI data, the product brands represented by these mascots have been very successful, in no small part, due to the introduction of these spokescreatures.


What kind of mascots tend to be the most successful

Mascots work together with such other branding elements as names, logos, slogans, and jingles to increase the success of a product or company brand. The ones that tend to be most successful are the ones that help people understand and remember the …

In Forbes, Manhasset, New York-based Marketing Evaluations shares the results of their research that identified America’s 10 “most-loved spokescreatures.”

How might you employ mascots in the marketing of your company or products?

Ira Kalb is president of Kalb & Associates, an international consulting and training firm, and professor of marketing at the Marshall School of Business at University of Southern California. He has won numerous awards for marketing and teaching, authored ten books and created marketing inventions that have helped clients and students to be more successful. He is frequently interviewed by various media for his expertise in branding, advertising, crisis management and strategic marketing. Follow him on Twitter at @irakalb.

image courtesy of flickr user, Beverly & Pack