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Managing Brands

Have you ever stopped to consider why some brands have cult following while others competing in the same segment have none? Why are Starbucks and Krispy Kreme brands gaining such strong consumer preference while others competing in the same category foster very little consumer loyalty? Do you ever wonder why such brands such as Tide and Tetley dominate their respective categories, year over year, irrespective of the competitive environment? It is important now more than ever to develop an integrated brand strategy, i.e., a clear brand identity that is consistent across all consumer touch-points.
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Managing Brands

  1. 1. white paper | September 2009 Managing Brands getting the most out of branding
  2. 2. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 1 Shikatani Lacroix is a leading branding and design firm located in Toronto, Canada. The company commissions assignments from all around the world, across CPG, retail and service industries, helping clients achieve success within their operating markets. It does this by enabling its clients’ brands to better connect with their consumers through a variety of core services including corporate identity and communication, brand experience design, packaging, naming and product design. About the Author Jean-Pierre Lacroix, R.G.D., President and Founder of Shikatani Lacroix Jean-Pierre (JP) Lacroix provides leadership and direction to his firm, which was founded in 1990. He has spent the last 30 years helping organizations better connect their brands with consumers in ways that impact the overall performance of their business. Mr. Lacroix was the first to coin and trademark the statement “The Blink Factor” in 1990, which today is a cornerstone principle to how brands succeed in the marketplace. JP has authored several papers, has been quoted in numerous branding and design articles and, in 2001 he co-authored the book “The Business of Graphic Design” which has sold over 10,000 copies. JP can be reached at and you can follow his blog at: & Other Articles and Books The Belonging Experience Not all Moments of Truth are Equal Business of Graphic Design
  3. 3. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 2 Introduction Have you ever stopped to consider why some brands have cult following while others competing in the same segment have none? Why are Starbucks and Krispy Kreme brands gaining such strong consumer preference while others competing in the same category foster very little consumer loyalty? Do you ever wonder why such brands such as Tide and Tetley dominate their respective categories, year over year, irrespective of the competitive environment? It is important now more than ever to develop an integrated brand strategy, i.e., a clear brand identity that is consistent across all consumer touch-points. The real challenge is to have a clear understanding on why a consistent brand image and message is critical to how consumers perceive your products or services and how this consistency leads to purchase intent. In the following page, we will cover the importance of a consistent brand, how to ensure this consistency across every consumer touch point, how the branding process works and to leverage this strategic to leverage the full impact of your brand. Therefore, the following topics will be covered: 1. The Competitive Brand Landscape 2. The Importance of Brand Consistency 3. Understanding Brand Style Elements 4. Brand Change 5. Evaluating the Need for Change
  4. 4. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 3 The Competitive Brand Landscape Current marketplace conditions have become increasingly competitive as consumers are faced with more and more product choice. Every year, companies’ rollout product line-extensions and new products that compete with rivals for a share of consumers’ wallets. In a world of visual clutter and confusion, companies with strong brand position will stand out. Meanwhile, ineffective brand strategies will serve as a textural backdrop that allows great brands to succeed. An effective brand strategy helps consumers navigate through the brand clutter and defines a brand’s fit and differentiation from competitors. Out of competitive necessity, retailers have had to scrutinize individual product performance in year over year sales, and contributing margins. If products under-perform in sales volume or sales frequency, they risk losing their shelf space placement. Private label products, with higher contributing margins, have put additional pressure on companies to develop their brand strategy. If brand clutter and competitive retailer strategies aren’t enough, consumers are becoming better informed and aware of their purchasing decisions. The competitive landscape has shifted away from value and quality marketing strategies to creating an emotional link with consumers. Companies need to understand the image that their brand conveys and draw an emotional appeal to consumers based on the image. An effective brand strategy helps define where a product brand fits and its differentiation among competitors.
  5. 5. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 4 The Importance of Brand Consistency Overall customer impressions are the ultimate test of the quality of the brand identity and its effective management across all-of-the consumer brand touch-points. The overall impression of a brand is created through the comprehensive and systematic management of individual style attributes, and styles and themes inherent in branding elements. These elements, which consist of tone of communication, visual cues, colors, shapes and hierarchy of communication, together produce a coherent overall impression and image for any given brand. We have found that marketing expenditures are wasted when there is a perceived gap between the brand position and its consistent execution across the marketing mix. Effective brand consistency is based on ensuring that each of these consumer interactions with the brand build on a clear personality and positioning established by the brand’s style attributes. The brand style attributes are those elements that bind the brand impression with consumers, irrespective of the medium or brand touch point. However, when should a brand evolve and change, and to what degree of changes should be considered, are pivotal questions that most marketers are faced within their careers? The effective transition which is the result of a stronger alignment between the brand position and its personification is predicated by a wide range of factors, namely: level of change within the actual brand position, the competitive environment, the degree of innovation within the category, ingredient or performance improvements and the visibility the brand has in the marketplace, specifically within the retail sector, where actual purchase decisions are made. To better understand the need for change in packaging, consistently applied across the range of products, we need to have a better
  6. 6. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 5 understanding of the key elements of a brand’s style in addition to the key factors driving the need for change. Understanding Brand Style Elements The critical factor in making any packaging change is the importance of leveraging the brand’s strengths while minimizing its weaknesses. At Shikatani Lacroix, we group brand styles in three groups, namely: core, detractors and enhancers. Core elements of the brand consist of those key features that create a strong positive link with consumers. This may consist of a packaging format, a color or series of colors, style of imagery, typographical treatment or a given icon/wordmark. These elements either work as a group or as one dominate individual feature that retains strong equities between the brand and consumers. Color is one of the most important and strongest factor amongst these core elements since forty percent of all communication consumers absorb is visual, of which 80% is color and shape. As consumers browse the shelf, they are seeking a dominant color that links the brand to their emotional and rational perceptions. The intensity and hue of the color in addition to its dominance on the package help make that link between the consumer and their brands. You will note that all great brands own a dominate color; Tide owns Yellow, Tetley owns Blue, Delmonte owns Green, Campbell’s owns Red. It is interesting to note that in some cases, the actual color of the brand becomes its product name, as in the case of Labatt Blue, Canada’s leading pilsner beer. Another core element is shape that can be manifested in different approaches pending the brand’s product category or position in the marketplace. For the beverage sector, it can become the actual shape of the container such as the Absolute Vodka bottle were the advertising only features its shape while allowing consumers to easily connect
  7. 7. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 6 the shape with the brand due to its distinctiveness and consistent approach. I wonder how effective would Absolute’s advertising be if the bottle shape had not remained consistent over the life of the brand. Another approach in leveraging shape is the actual shape of the label. Heinz has done an excellent job at creating strong brand equity across all of its products by leveraging a distinctive shape, consistently over the years. Although the shape has evolved, it has retained a strong consistent element that has allowed consumers to easily identify the brand within the cluttered shelf environment. In some cases, the core element of a brand leverages both a color, a distinctive shape and wordmark application. The second style category for a brand is Detractors, also known as passengers. They are there for the ride but do not provide any value for the bran d. These may consist of design elements or claims that worked well as the brand was evolving but which today are not relevant or meaningful for consumers. These elements actually get in the way of the effective communication of the “Core” elements of the brand or the ability of fully leveraging the brand’s “Enhancers”.
  8. 8. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 7 Enhancers are elements that will take the brand to new heights. It maybe the result of a product improvement, a packaging structural change to allow better convenience or a usage change for ease of use. However, the critical importance is to ensure that these new features are properly communicated on the packaging. In the case of Tetley Orange Pekoe, it was the introduction of round tea bags that helped the brand grow its market share by 10 points and gain the leadership role in the marketplace within a year. Leveraging the fact that the tea bag format had changed was pivotal and communication on the packaging played a critical role. Most recently, the company has further leveraged the importance of “Round” by introducing a new line of canister packaging for its full line of herbal and specialty teas, allowing consumers with a storage device that leveraged the round tea bag while ensuring a high degree of freshness (specialty teas are less frequently consumed, hence the importance of freshness). The canisters were also easy to stack for the retailer and consumers, allowing better shelf and pantry management and in return greater penetration and facing at retail for Tetley. Evaluating the Need for Change As outlined in the process section, evaluating the need and degree of change is critical to the success of any re-branding program, irrespective of the level of risk. The goal of any re-branding exercise is to ensure that the packaging clearly communicates the right brand impression that the marketer desires to achieve. A lack of consideration of overall impressions may result in a misinterpretation of the brand’s perception. These, not properly aligned impressions might not make sense when scrutinized by the customer, or they may be seen as inconsistent, or as unattractive. Confusion could ensue (Is this my brand or a new one?) and negative impressions might arise (Does not reflect my self-image) which would lead to a sever equity erosion.
  9. 9. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 8 The need for change is predicated on the need for the packaging to effectively communicate a meaningful product message that can be classified in the following categories, in order of degree of change: • Legislative changes such as the new nutritional labeling act Ingredient changes such as the move away from transfat ingredients • Product improvements (performance, usage, application) • Revitalization (new photography, positioning alignment) • Line extension (ability to leverage equities of the existing brand in new directions) • Re-launch (brand is declining and needs significant improvements) • New Product Consumer research, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Treats) Analysis, Competitive Audit, Store Audits, Trends Analysis, Regulatory Review, Industry Trends, Packaging Manufacturing Trends, Consumer Segmentation Studies are all tools which will help define the rate and level of change for your brand’s packaging. 4 Steps to Developing a Winning Brand Strategy The following four steps outline the process to develop a winning brand strategy. Although the diagram below depicts a linear flow, the reality is that the process is circular, starting with Brand Discovery and ending back at the same stage once the program is rolled out. Since a brand identity reflects rational and emotional appeal, it is important to “tweak” your identity as trends, business, and social environments change. Step 1: Brand Discovery A successful brand is made up of a composite of six elements, all equally important. Although the six elements are not listed in any particular order of importance, it is important to review your brand
  10. 10. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 9 vis-à-vis all six and discover your brand’s strengths and areas for improvement. Every brand has a story behind it, a brand myth that creates visual imagery about the brand. Consumers have a tendency to remember stories about brands and can associate the story with the brand product. In the case of Starbucks, the brand myth is how the company was started. It all began when Howard Schultz was visiting sidewalk cafés in Europe, and subsequently envisioned a café concept for the North American market. Every company has a brand myth. Companies should leverage their brand myth and link their stories to their brand identities. When customers are asked to list three attributes of your product, do these attributes reflect your defined brand values? Are these the brand values you want your customers to think of when they think of your product? Understanding values that drive the category for your product and your product’s relative value position will reveal attribute gaps. An integrated brand strategy will link any attribute gaps and create a seamless brand value offering. Creating effective brand value is essential in ensuring the long-term vitality of your brand. In the blink of an eye, will your brand message stand out? Blink is a key concept that lays out the criteria for consumer interaction with brands, and a standard for measuring how well the brand is succeeding. Brand Perception is the first impression formed about a product or service. For example, perception will focus on the brand’s image, character and promise. Brand worth is the value that people see in the product or service, and the consideration they give to how it may add to their lives. If the brand perception and brand worth are properly crafted, both will grow over time, incrementally at first, then exponentially as exposure to the brand builds. The Blink Factor is the basis for developing an integrated brand strategy.
  11. 11. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 10 A great brand has emotional appeal – it reflects and mirrors the rational and emotional appeal of a product. Research has shown that nearly half of all consumer purchase decisions are emotionally driven. Emotional appeal is the deep-rooted connection between a brand and a consumer that marketers need to cater to while ensuring the brand delivers differentiated and meaningful fulfillment. Determining the emotional appeal of a brand is most likely the hardest thing to define. In most cases, the emotional appeal is driven by the consumers’ perception of an emotional fulfillment such as adding satisfaction, happiness, or comfort to one’s daily life. Effectively associating an emotional appeal with your brand will foster an integrated brand strategy. An effective brand strategy ensures that there is design consistency in the brand message. The goal is to be consistent in tone, brand personality, and consumer cues at every consumer touch-point. Evaluate your brand’s design consistency and ensure that advertising, communication and brand messaging is not fragmented. And finally, the sixth element in brand discovery is a defined brand position. The key is to define a clear and concise message reflecting your brand’s value. A clear position will assist your customers in differentiating your product from the competition. Step 2: Brand Development Brand Development is the exercise of putting your data together, doing the analysis, and visualizing potential brand directions. There are four steps involved in Brand Development. First, put together background data using SWOT Analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) and 360 Brand Report (evaluate your brand values among all levels of your organization, i.e., hiring practices are evaluated with your brand). Background analysis will provide a framework with information on competitors in your product category, information on indirect competitors, as well as analysis of your brand at all consumer touch-
  12. 12. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 11 points. Reviewing background information is essential in revealing all the possible options for brand development. Strategic Insight is the second step in Brand Development. Review your key findings from the Brand Discovery process to reveal your product’s opportunities. What are your brand’s differentiating values? Where are the brand gaps? Where does your product have the potential to grow forward? Strategic insight reveals your brand’s merits and unique positioning. Once you have discovered all there is to know about your brand and identity needs, the third step consists of putting your creative mind to work in brand ideation and brainstorming sessions. This Ideation Process may cover potential brand visions or positions for the organization, brand personality options, or potential names. Both obvious and revolutionary positions should be looked at to strike the right balance between innovation and risk. Developing brand mosaic boards will help visualize the rational, emotional, and cognitive elements of different brand options. Each mosaic board is created to convey a different positioning statement by using different themes, colors, texture, and words. Brand Development culminates with Consumer Insight: the quantitative and qualitative process of conducting consumer research. Research is a great tool to gain consumer insights and helps define brand identity and personification. Web research and consumer focus groups are two examples of consumer insight.
  13. 13. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 12 Step 3: Brand Creation From your research and analysis, you may have narrowed your brand option to 2 or 3 positions that can work well. Brand creation focuses on the challenge of personifying the brand – looking at how consumers would see the brand in the real world or the retail environment. Designing the logo, packaging configurations, web interface, and retail shopping environments are all examples of personifying packaging, web interface Brand personification continues to be modified through research in the retail environment until the range of brand options is narrowed into a final direction. The final brand position includes management and legal approvals and is endorsed by consumers. The amount of overall research on your product’s brand is in direct proportion to the risk or size of the challenge of the branding exercise. Step 4: Brand Validation The main emphasis of Brand Validation is to continuously refine and update a product’s brand strategy. There are four strategies to help measure the validity of your brand. The first, Market Launch, is reviewing a new brand’s performance upon entry into the marketplace. Brand Tune-up is another strategy that validates established brands. It is the ongoing process of modifying your brand’s personification, position, and architecture. A product brand is a living identity that interacts with people and mirrors their aspirations. A brand tune-up will enable brands to evolve as people’s preferences and tastes change and develop. Consumer Validation is a third validation strategy. Consumer Validation is a process that happens throughout the brand design exercise. Brand refinement can be triggered by customer feedback and data analysis. Compiling Branding Documents is the final step in the validation process. By assembling design specs, and standards at the end of a branding strategy exercise, it ensures there is design consistency across all platforms.
  14. 14. white paper | September 2009 | Managing Brands | 13 Other Measures - in addition to brand validation, a successful brand strategy should be continuously measured based on sales, purchase intent (consumer research), product preference (consumer research), shelf impact, and key attribute analysis and how these change over time. Performance measurement will provide additional insight for brand updates. Conclusion You have a split second to connect with consumers and deliver your brand message. Your product’s brand strategy is what will set your product apart in a relevant, meaningful, and differentiated way. Companies that fail to do this will eventually get lost in the clutter and serve as a backdrop to brands that stand out and succeed. The most important point to remember is to take the brand strategy process seriously. Make time commitments and resource allocations to review the relevance of your brand strategy on a yearly basis. Great marketing is not only about budgets and operating plans, but being focused on the big picture. Ensure you are constantly evaluating your brand’s position and asking a key question: Is my brand still connecting with my customers and why? For more information, contact: Jean-Pierre Lacroix, President Shikatani Lacroix 387 Richmond Street East Toronto, Ontario M5A 1P6 Telephone: 416-367-1999 Email:
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Have you ever stopped to consider why some brands have cult following while others competing in the same segment have none? Why are Starbucks and Krispy Kreme brands gaining such strong consumer preference while others competing in the same category foster very little consumer loyalty? Do you ever wonder why such brands such as Tide and Tetley dominate their respective categories, year over year, irrespective of the competitive environment? It is important now more than ever to develop an integrated brand strategy, i.e., a clear brand identity that is consistent across all consumer touch-points. For more white papers and webinars, go to Or visit us at


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