Brands Must Own A Meaningful Difference

Nigel HollisNovember 1, 20133 min

John Costello, president of global marketing and innovation for Dunkin’ Donuts, has not yet read my new book, The Meaningful Brand, but his comments at the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing conference (ANA), as reported by Karl Greenberg in the Media Daily News, certainly makes it sound like he has.

The idea at the heart of The Meaningful Brand is that marketers must know what it is about the experience of their brand that makes it different from the alternatives in the eyes of its consumers, otherwise they risk seeing the brand commoditized. It does not matter how salient your brand is if consumers do not appreciate what it does for them – functionally or emotionally – or cannot justify choosing it over the available alternatives. The more succinctly you can identify your brand’s meaningful difference the more effective your marketing is likely to be.

Costello seems to agree. Part of his message at the ANA was that if marketers can’t say what the brand is in a sentence or two, it will get lost. Costello states that Dunkin’ Donuts has a real clear point of differentiation which he sums up as, “how everyday folks who keep America running keep themselves running every day.” While Costello does not break down Dunkin’ Donuts meaningful difference his commentary lines up nicely with the framework detailed in the book.

The Meaningful Brand explores four component parts of a meaningfully different brand experience: purpose, delivery, resonance and difference.

Purpose is the difference that the brand intends to make in people’s lives. If it does not make a difference why are people going to pay for it? Dunkin’ Donuts sees that purpose as feeding the hard working American.

Delivery is how well the brand lives up to its purpose. Dunkin’ Donuts would not have hit record profits this year if it did not create a fast food experience people want to repeat.

Resonance is how much the brand is appreciated for what it does for people and how it makes them feel. Costello also suggests that a brand should resonate and that in order to do so it’s positioning must be authentic, relevant, distinctive, and aligned with its personality.

Last, but certainly not least, is the need to differentiate, to give people a reason to choose your brand and justify paying a premium for it. As Costello puts it, a brand must “differentiate or die” and to that end, Dunkin’ Donuts introduced 43 new products last year.

Of course, once you have identified what makes your brand’s experience meaningfully different, then you have to amplify it. Amplification involves building and maintaining the brand’s meaningful difference across all touch points. Referring to the challenge posed by a multi-screen world, Costello states:

We are finding that in a distracted world we really need to have consistency of message. We are finding a greater premium on making all of those screens consistent.

Ultimately successful brands make it simple for people to choose them and easy to justify paying the price asked. As Costello notes:

The reality is our customers don’t think about the brand every day the way we do. 

All the more reason to make sure you know what your brand stands for, keep it simple and keep it salient.

So what brands do you believe are meaningfully different? Please share your thoughts.

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