For most people, when thinking about successful branding, examples such as Nike or Coca-Cola come to mind.  People think about expensive tv advertising, and the first immediate thought is that they don’t have millions in their advertising budget.  People often think that they need lots of money to successfully build a brand – and that’s a myth.  Here are a couple of examples:

  • Facebook released its first commercial in winter 2012, celebrating its 1 billion active monthly users.  By this time, Facebook was a $5 billion company, and after it already went public with a stock price that would put the company at a $104 billion valuation. 
  • Google ran its first commercial in February 2010, during the SuperBowl.  That commercial would have costs as much as $2.9 million dollars, according to Associated Press.  However, to put that into perspective, by end of 2009, Google was already a $23billion company, according to its financial records.  And Google would have already celebrated its eleventh birthday.
  • Starbucks ran its first commercial in winter 2007.  By end of 2007, Starbucks was a $9billion company.  And it was the first commercial in the company’s 36 years history, with over 15,000 stores in 43 countries. 

As these examples illustrated, expensive advertising is not necessary to build a multibillion-dollar brand.  These brands created a unique and memorable experience to their consumers.  This in turn brought these brands significant fan-followings.  These fans generated a high degree of word-of-mouth marketing that was more effective than any expensive advertising. 

  • In the case of Facebook, it created a new category.  Being first always has its advantages regarding publicity.  Nothing quite equals being first.  Facebook created the category of social networking.  The category itself generates a network of fans, and these networks grew.  As these networks grew, the Facebook brand was born.  Now, to be fair, networking always happened.  Facebook just redefined networking and enabled this social interaction to take place digitally. 
  • In the case of Google, Google wasn’t the first search engine.  Google launched at a time where there were numerous choices of search portals.  However, Google redefined the search experience.  At the time Google launched, search was done via search portals.  The screen was cluttered with various categories, links, and advertising.  While all the information may be readily available at the search portal, users were overwhelmed by the information.  The page sometimes loaded slowly.  The overall user experience was confusing.  Google eliminated all that clutter and presented a simplified search experience.  Google, at launch, did one thing and one thing only – search.  There was no mail.  There was no weather.  There was no news.  There was nothing that was commonly found on search portals, except search.  This made Google endearing to the many frustrated internet users, and they shared Google with the world.
  • Likewise for Starbucks, Starbucks redefined what a coffee shop should be.  A coffee shop wasn’t just a place that sells coffee.  Starbucks placed strong emphasis of making its coffee shops serve as a “third place” to its consumers.  A third place is a place outside work and home, and it’s a place for social gathering.  Starbucks focused on making its coffee shop a place for people to share a cup of coffee, and maybe chat about the day.  Starbucks wasn’t just selling coffee.  Starbucks was selling an experience. 

All these brands spent money, don’t get me wrong.  But these brands didn’t spend millions on advertising when they were starting.  They built their brands based on delivering a remarkable product.  These brands redefined what their category was supposed to be about.  In doing so, they created unique experiences that were differentiated, memorable, and worth sharing. 

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Have you ever wondered why top shelf liquor can command a premium price, when people can rarely tell the difference in a blind taste test? Well, as you may have guessed, that’s the power of branding. In this 4-module course, I will provide you with the key building blocks toward building a brand. Topics that will be covered include target consumer, benefit ladder, marketing mix, and more. This is a beginner’s class. (I’m working on a more advanced class for long-time readers of this blog.)

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Thinking about the active evaluation phase of the consumer decision journey, it gives context of the zero moment of truth.  Zero moment of truth (ZMOT) was coined and publicized by Google about three years ago.  Before Google coined this term, there was the first moment of truth – which is purchase.  Then, there is the second moment of truth is at use – whether the consumer enjoys the user experience or was left disappointed.  However, as the consumer decision journey showed, consumers go through a long journey of active evaluation before they arrive at that first moment of truth.  In eras past, consumers gather information via magazines, consumer reports, friends and families, etc.  In the digital age, consumers have in their disposal a lot more information sources.  Search became an important part of this consumer decision journey (hence why Google has a vested interest to ensure all marketers know about this ZMOT).  When a consumer is triggered, they usually don’t recall the whole story.  When they watch a commercial, they may not have perfect brand recall.  Search becomes an important engine toward discovery of your product.  So, investing against active evaluation, or ZMOT, is first ensuring that you’re found when people are looking for you.  Secondly, when they found you, you’re serving up content that pushes them down the funnel toward purchase of your brand.  That is winning the zero moment of truth!



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There are certain foundation to any marketing efforts.  When McKinsey debuted the concept of a Consumer Decision Journey that was anything but linear, it changed how marketers view the world.  Today, this framework serves to ensure that we spend efficiently and effectively in all phases of the consumer decision journey toward purchase.

The consumer decision journey starts with a trigger – this jolts the consumer into considering a purchase.  This moves him into initial consideration.  This is where he forms his consideration set.  Many brand spends in this phase in order to get into the consideration set.  But what brand sometimes neglect is that is only the beginning of the journey.  Then, he moves into active evaluation where he’s researching.  Depending on the category, this research may happen online or at the shelf.  Finally, the moment of truth – purchase.  This is the important phase where the deal is closed.  However, as this is the moment of truth, it is perhaps the most important moment as well.  Research suggests that the final brand choice is not made till this moment.  So, packaging, education at point of purchase, etc. can all influence this final decision.


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I don’t know how this happened.  Maybe a consultant start spewing that this is a good idea.  Or some article got published that this is a good idea.  Multibrand companies recently has started a huge effort toward building the equity of the parent brand.  For example, Nestle and Unilever had been tagging their commercials. 

If one were to examine the relationship of parent brand to its house of brands, one must look at P&G.  P&G with its house of brands is a powerhouse in the consumer goods space.  It also has a lot of advertising dollars.  This affords P&G to actually have commercials about P&G.  You’ve seen them say during Olympics. 

Recently, riding on New York subway, I notice another campaign by P&G that was actually designed to feature its house of brands.  The campaign centered around the idea that P&G brands are tougher. 


However, I still wondered, does this type of messaging works?  I think the idea of building the parent brand is to provide scale.  Like any operations, if the various child brands can share the assets of the parent brand, there is efficiency to be gained.  For example, if several brands can be manufactured in the same plant.  Or several brands can use the same research and development, but just put its own twists.  So, why not marketing?

I think scale can definitely be applied to marketing, but it’s not as easy as just putting a logo.  If the parent brand was to benefit the child brands, then the parent brand needs to add value.  A good example is SC Johnson.  SC Johnson has been building equity into the parent brand for years.  SC Johnson, a Family Company, is a tagline that has been used for years.  This parent brand execution adds value in telling consumers that no matter which brand we’re talking about, if it’s part of SC Johnson, it’s going to be about protecting your family, because SC Johnson is all about families. 



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