Table of Contents
- Building the Brand in Relationship Era (Transition from Consumer Era)
- Maintaining Brand Identity versus Rebranding
- Viral Marketing and Word-of-Mouth Communication
- Under Armour’s Strategy for Female Marketing and the “What’s Beautiful” Campaign
- An Example of a Creative Advertisement
- Upscale Products in Home Shopping Channels
- Related Business essays
Building the Brand in Relationship Era (Transition from Consumer Era)
A consumer era in marketing, which supposedly started in 1960s, indicated the transition of marketing efforts in mass production from the product-centric to customer-centric approach. Currently, there is evidence that the consumer era was lately shifted by a new upcoming stage of marketing, namely the era of relationships. The shift to this new approach suggests a “decreasing reliance on the traditional use of mass media to influence and persuade a passive audience to buy more of whatever the marketer is trying to sell” (RelationshipEra). Companies need to define or redefine their brand purpose and to build sustainable and mutually beneficial relationships with their customers. Marketing in the relationship era is built via engagement, involvement, and treatment of customers with respect.
Brand management is influenced profoundly by the popularization of digital media and technology since companies cannot rely anymore on the measurement metrics, and customers are increasingly skillful at exchanging information and opinions. Garfield and Levy suggest a clever idea to detect the companies that invest in building relationships. “Type "I love Apple" into your Google search bar. You will get 3.27 million hits. If you type "I love Starbucks," 2.7 million hits. Zappos: 1.19 million.” (Garfield & Levy, 2012). At the moment of writing, it is the astonishing 434, 88.8 and 17.4 million hits respectively.
Apparently, the companies applied the approach of building relationships. Hereby, Zappos’ CEO emphasizes the need to find the purpose of the business, and it focuses on serving people, treating them accordingly and making them happy with what the business has to offer. “Emphasizing, determination, innovation, and fun, among other qualities, the company even devotes a section of its website to its values and culture” (Moran, 2013). The strategy is reflected in the extraordinarily high indicators of loyalty to the brand, both of Zappos’ customers and its employees.
Maintaining Brand Identity versus Rebranding
Rebranding represents changes in one or several brand elements such as company name, product name, logo, motto, and design among others. The main factors that raise the need to choose rebranding include changes of the mission or goals, differentiating from competitors, targeting new audiences, increasing brand awareness, and changing or refreshing the product perception.
Rebranding can be also caused by reactive factors, as in the case of Nike’s brand when they rebranded from Blue Ribbon Sports due to the fact that they changed the business from importing to manufacturing (Bradt, 2014). The other reactive factors for rebranding include mergers and acquisitions. The best examples are the case of Pixar merging with the Walt Disney studio, legal issues such as breach of trademark regulations, and negative publicity such as rebranding of ValuJet to AirTrans after the fatal crash (Gunelius, n. d.; Bradt, 2014).
In fact, virtually any established company has at least once performed changes in its brand elements at some stage. However, comprehensive efforts in rebranding are associated with high expenditures and high risks to brand equity; thus, “One thing is certain: execute poorly and suffer extreme consequences. There is simply no rebranding effort where the stakes are not extraordinarily high and the margin for error is slim at best” (Bradt, 2014). As old brands comprise many years of company’s relations with its customers and the history of product evolvement, there are things that cannot be changed without taking the risk of ruining the essence of the business. For instance, Coca-Cola failed dramatically in their effort to change the flagship brand name to ‘New Coke’ in 1985 since the old brand was so deeply associated with the customers’ memories that the effort was discarded, and the management had to restore the company to the previous state of things (Bradt, 2014). In the case of Pepsi, brand changes were frequent and seem to contribute well to the company’s effort to differentiate and gain a larger market share.
Apple, Inc. is known for the continuous drive for innovations since the brand logo coloring has changed several times from a rainbow to the current stylish black, which reflects the changes in its product line and brand positioning.
Another technological giant Google is fully aware of the brand equity. It does not rush to rebrand its numerous purchased companies as well. In 2014, the company has introduced changes to its logo with such minimal modifications that they mostly remained unnoticed (Casti, 2014). Costco Wholesale Corporation is an example of a well-known growing company that has been dependent on traditional marketing methods and kept the brand identity since the time it was founded in 1983. On the contrary to an effort to build additional momentum from rebranding, Costco’ purposeful conservatism serves as a way to promote the stability of its relationship to customers, suppliers, and employees, which is one of its largest competitive advantages.
Viral Marketing and Word-of-Mouth Communication
Viral marketing in its general meaning correlates with any strategy that prompts individuals to convey a marketing message to others, generating the potential for multiplicative exponential growth in the message’s exposure and influence (Wilson, 2012).
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The ‘viral marketing’ term specifically relates to online channels, whereas its traditional offline version is usually called ‘word of mouth’. In fact, successful viral marketing strategies are dependent on several elements, namely they should be based on common motivations and behavior and establish a connection to the company’s product or brand. Regarding the resources to run the campaign, they should be easily controlled without being dependent on company’s resources, namely there should be a simple way and a motivation for the customer to transfer the message via existing communication channels. While the idea that viral marketing requires virtually no effort is quite common, in reality, it takes much time, expertise and facilities to launch and promote a really successful viral campaign (Fox 2014).
Among the techniques to generate ‘buzz’ discussion for their brand, the companies exploit different channels. Among such channels are live events such as flash mobs or street stunts, social media communications based on techniques of active sharing, hashtags management, and digital media promotion such as interactive games, entertainment videos, and creative advertising. The effectiveness of the method chosen is largely dependent on its relevance to the target or prospective audience (for instance, there are limits in using digital media in working with specific age ranges and communities). Moreover, the content itself determines everything; thus, it should create real motivation and involvement and stimulate people to share the message, while it should always stay within socially permissible boundaries.
A ‘T-Mobile Dance’ with their motto ‘Life is for Sharing’ is a successful example of a carefully prepared campaign, as it promoted the idea of using camera phones spontaneously to share one’s events and emotions in an energetic, joyful and very engaging show. It was even more successful since it was a quite new and unfamiliar idea, yet obviously related to the T-Mobile brand. Furthermore, it was very authentic, as, at first, people did not suspect it was an advertisement and continued making pictures with their phones. Due to the fact it was played in London Underground, it captured attention of millions of users, and the message was further spread via Youtube and social media.
A similar idea to promote technology by Nokia failed with regard to its execution. Nokia tried to demonstrate the new optical image stabilization technology via a video, which was supposed to be recorded with a Nokia camera. However, the marketers’ effort was corrupt at the very core, as they used a professional camera to make the promotional clip, thereby approaching the customers with the downright lie (Plays, 2013). Therefore, this example illustrates a substantial drawback of the fast-to-spread communication strategies, as the multiplier often works in the opposite way and creates a reverse effect by promoting negative feedback and delivering substantial damage to the brand reputation.
Under Armour’s Strategy for Female Marketing and the “What’s Beautiful” Campaign
Under Armour (UA) is a strong athletic wear brand that showed several quarters of over-20% growth in net revenues and recently attained the second position in the market (after Nike), beating Adidas (Trefis Team, 2015a). The company showed stable growth in all product categories, in particular female apparel. The company first addressed women in 2003. Subsequently, the effort led to growth of rates over 30%, as reported by UA Senior VP Brand Creative (Belch & Belch, n. d.). After the initial idea to target women with softer communication proved to show weak performance, UA essentially mirrored their masculine strategy to create a confident position in athletic female segment since then. Hereby, they invested heavily “in the currency of time and energy to prove its dedication to the female consumer” (Wanek, 2011). However, the female strategy was strongly dependent on the communication via emotions and involvement.
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Specifically, ‘What’s Beautiful’ integrated marketing campaign was launched in 2012 to strengthen the awareness of female brand. It started in the social communities as a 9-week athletic competition for the one-year contract to represent the face of UA. It was based on digital as well as traditional media to get awareness and drive women to the ‘What’s Beautiful’ community, with multiple social media channels and various events (such as #SWEATADAY challenge) to get exposure.
As the campaign stimulated women to share their feelings and emotions during the performance in the contest, it created a powerful engagement tool and built the connection between the drive for achievement and recognition and the UA brand. The IMC approach was very effectively reinforcing the primary slogan of UA “I will” and providing continuous relevant experience for women. The evidence from the participants was compelling and created viral peer pressure to multiply the campaign effects.
An Example of a Creative Advertisement
A campaign ‘Be More Dog’, designed for O2 (Telefonica) in 2013 by VCCP agency and MCP animation team, can serve as a decisively winning example of a creative advertising campaign. It started with a TV spot and developed as a comprehensive communication campaign which based heavily on social and digital media (including videos, online games, mobile apps, quests), supported with TV commercials, print advertisements and outdoor advertising. The key objectives of the campaign were to change the consumer’s perception of O2 and increase the uptake of new products and services (Shorty Awards, 2014).
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The opening TV spot featured a cat that decides to change its life and become more like a dog (a print advertisement is presented in Appendix A). The idea is to show the real-time transformation of the cat, normally an inert, disinterested, and lazy animal, and to ‘infect’ the viewer with this energy, curiosity, and striving for adventures. The message is that O2 is ready to support its clients in their intention to live a better and more interesting life with the help of technology.
As VCCP’s executive creative director recalled, the idea initially shocked the customer so that “The team were almost kicked out of O2’s headquarters when they presented the idea” (Campaign Live, 2013). However, since it was bright and innovative, it inspired and virtually changed the mindset of the viewers. The voice-over, cat animation tricks, and the compact slogan ‘BeMoreDog’ made one impossible to forget or stay indifferent to the advertisement. The communication was funny and inspirational and captured the attention of the viewers within the first few days.
The campaign was highly effective in terms of views, discussions, and positive sentiment in social media. It diminished the price competition factor and secured the position of the O2 brand against competition. The campaign got the title ‘UK Campaign of the Year 2013’ and won the 6th Annual Shorty Awards in 2014 in New York.
Upscale Products in Home Shopping Channels
The idea to promote high-end products on the TV shopping channels is usually seen as controversial. Apparently, this is related largely to mass-market orientation and average value which are considered the inherent features of teleshopping image. However, there are benefits in this strategy for all parties involved, namely the channel, its customers, and manufacturers or retailers.
The customers get detailed presentation of the product and lower prices. The retailers or manufactures can get the increased reach of the audience, drive sales and build consistent customers relationships with a significant reduction of the advertising cost. “Home-shopping television is ultimately a branding strategy for most vendors. Think of it as your eight-minute commercial” (Grossman, 2012). Moreover, the channel image has been gradually changing as they have been transforming the approach. An exemplary success story was achieved by Mindy Grossman as she took the course for upscaling the channel positioning in her transformational strategy for Home Shopping Network. She used the example of fashion and lifestyle channels, changed the product mix and “stopped selling $150 million worth of brands that didn’t fit the new strategy” while introducing new high-end brands in consumer electronics, cosmetics, jewelry, and designer apparel (Grossman, 2011).
The director of a competitive QVC channel recognizes this opportunity as well by saying that “Over the last few years, the world of better brands woke up. We can do very significant volume” (Dickler, 2011).
As this strategy brought good results, it was increasingly popular in the industry. Nevertheless, there remain risks of ‘split image’, as the shopping channels retain the products from different price segments in their portfolio of offerings. However, the risks could be diminished by establishing separate brands for different value segments.