3 Rules For Brand Survival

Mark RitsonAugust 26, 20153 min

1. Don’t Be Afraid To Kill Weaker Brands

Capitalism rests on simple, predatory logic – weak brands must die and strong brands must kill them. Only then will the consumer be served and the market improve or progress.

Unfortunately, many marketers find this sharp end of capitalism unpalatable. We’re happy with the idea of deriving success from “delighting” customers but shy away from the side of that equation in which we “destroy” the competition.

In Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple exemplifies the killer spirit when he proclaims he will spend “every penny of Apple’s $40bn in the bank” to destroy Android. Be aggressive.

2. Create An Open Innovation Culture

It has been a tradition within marketing to regard the creative teams at major ad agencies as the zenith of innovation. But stand even the most lauded agency creative up against the real innovation auteurs who inhabit the worlds of design, fashion and art and their creative capacity pales into insignificance.

Within the corporate world, however, the name Coca-Cola keeps cropping up when you mention innovation. I love, for example, the Asian strategy of creating a Coke can that can be twisted into halves and shared with a friend. It’s a simple but entrancing idea and turns the constraint of product packaging on its head.

My favorite innovation, however, has to be Coke’s ‘Small World Machine’ strategy. You may have seen it, but it’s worth taking another look. Coca-Cola installed hi-tech vending machines in a pair of shopping malls: one in New Delhi, India and the other in Lahore, Pakistan. These so-called Small World Machines linked strangers from the divided nations in the hope of promoting cultural understanding and connection via a Coke vending machine. It may sound slightly idealistic but the video of the activity is that rarest of things, a genuinely moving marketing moment.

Coke seems to have cracked the challenge of ‘open innovation’ – ideas don’t come from one place, they can come from anywhere. Coke has created a systematic, global innovation machine, one that should inspire all brands that are fighting to build bigger futures.

3. Remember The Brand’s Origins

In the antiseptic world of strategic brand management, we often forget about the importance of founders. Most marketers will never create a brand, they will simply manage a pre-existing one. They will use research to assess the brand’s health, positioning to guide its strategy, and an annual marketing plan to come up with its tactics.

But brands aren’t born this way. They come from the fire of being forged by a founder. Brands flow through PowerPoint decks for marketers, but for founders they flow through the blood. They don’t use research, positioning or marketing to build brands – they invest their own identity and experiences into their company to create something special and different. Occasionally, they create something truly distinctive and these are the brands that we marketers get to manage in the years that follow.

In this age of big data and real-time marketing it’s important for brand managers to remember that the best insights usually come from a sample of one – the founder – and from events that happened half a lifetime ago. Use the spark that ignited the flame as your guide.

This thought piece is featured courtesy of Marketing Week, the United Kingdom’s leading marketing publication.

The Blake Project Can Help: The Brand Positioning Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

Mark Ritson

Connect With Us