Brand Portfolio Management: How to Make More (Money) with Less (Brands)

How do you know when you have too many brands and variants? In my opinion the answer is that you have too many when you can’t answer the question! A couple of months ago I wrote a very popular piece called “ A Beginners Guide to Brand Portfolio Management”. This week I’d like to take it a little further and speak about some of the reasons brand portfolio management is so important.

 

Br and portfolio management

Brand management is essential to a healthy business, but marketing has one of the quickest promotion ladders of many professions. That’s great news for marketers, less so for brands. Why? Well because marketers want to make an impression and get that promotion as quickly as possible. And one of the easiest ways is by launching a new brand or variant.

 

I believe this is one of the main reasons why we poor consumers often end up NOT buying something, because we just can’t make our minds up between the vast choice of flavours, packs and sizes on display in some large hypermarkets. More is most definitely not always better when it comes to retailing! (>>Tweet this<<)

Does a brand really need tens of flavours / aromas and hundreds of variants? I decided to take a look at the leading global brands to help answer this. According to Interbrand, these are the top 10 most valuable global brands:

                1. Apple
                2. Google
                3. Coca-Cola
                4. IBM
                5. Microsoft
                6. General Electric
                7. McDonald’s
                8. Samsung
                9. Intel
                10. Toyota

Now most of these brands certainly don’t have hundreds of variants from which to choose and therefore final selection is relatively easy. However, interestingly only one of these is a CPG (consumer packaged goods) brand, so I decided to look at the sub-category of consumer brands (Interbrand separates Food and Beverage brands from other consumer brands, don’t ask me why, especially when many make both! The four beverage brands in the top 100 – Coca-Cola (3), Pepsi (22), Nescafe (37), Sprite (69) – would all fall into the top ten consumer brands):

                1. Gillette (16)
                2. Pampers (29)
                3. Kellogg’s (30)
                4. L’Oreal (39)
                5. Danone (49)
                6. Colgate (50)
                7. Heinz (53)
                8. Nestle (56)
                9. Johnson & Johnson (81)
                10. Duracell (85)

As Elan Cole from Interbrand says in the summary of this category

“Consumer brands bank on their unique versions of these products to generate and grow value. But as soon as one br and patents a technology, competitors ( and the retailer that sells it) race to copy it, one-up it, or make it in strawberry flavor. The advantage that technology brings to a br and is only as valuable as the window of time that the br and controls the manufacturing and access to it. For consumer brands, that window is narrow.”

This might explain why consumer brands tend to have far more variants than some of the other leading br ands and categories mentioned above, whose technical advances often last longer.

Two of the leaders in CPG (Unilever and P&G) both culled the number of their brands’ SKUs about 15 years ago from thousands down to “mere” hundreds and continue to do so on a regular basis. Continue Reading

Beginners Guide to Brand Portfolio Management

This week I want to share some ideas with you that were prompted by a client’s question. I was recently asked about brand portfolio management and what to do to ensure that a company is correctly differentiating its offers. This question was in reference to the service industry, which is arguably more challenging since there are no physical products, but the basic requirements remain the same.

Brand portfolio strategies are an essential prerequisite for the long-term success of multi-brand companies. It is vital for these organisations to consider not only external but also internal competitors.

According to marketing theory, there are two types of brand portfolio models, the house of brands and branded property. The House of Brands model refers to a portfolio where brands have different names across categories. Most of the major consumer goods companies use this model. The advantage of this model is that since the brands are independent, the failure of any single one of them has little impact on the others.

The Branded Property model uses one brand across all categories. Virgin is a good example of this, with its airline, media and train companies all being similarly identified. The advantage of this model is that positive images of one benefit all categories; however a negative publicity or event will also have a direct impact on all brands within the family.

Interestingly, both Unilever and P&G have been placing more emphasis on the company brand associated with their brands in recent years. This move followed a ruthless culling of both their portfolios of brands, from thous ands down to mere hundreds. The addition of the corporate name has come at a time of decreasing consumer trust in brands, which is certainly not helped by the growing adoption of private label, including those from discounters such as Lidl and Aldi.

Even though these two portfolio models exist, in reality firms tend to use components of both models together in their brand portfolio strategy.

For any company which has more than one or two brands, it is important to regularly review their portfolio strategy; here are some thoughts to help:

Two rules of portfolio creation

There are two basic principles for the design of a successful brand portfolio. The first is to maximise market coverage, so that no potential customers are being ignored. And second, to minimise the overlap between the company’s brands, so they aren’t directly competing with each other and trying to attract the same customers. If you can achieve both of these then your brand portfolio will have a solid foundation.

Identify the category

Surprisingly many don’t do this first essential step and end up with a sub-optimal strategy; let me explain why. Suppose you sell a carbonated soft drink and think you are in competition with other carbonated soft drinks. Consumers on the other h and see your brand as being in a larger category of soft drinks which also includes fresh fruit juices, because your product contains juice as well as being carbonated. Continue Reading

Reputation and Trust: Do you Have Both?

At the end of last year I asked readers to send me their biggest challenges for 2014. The winning question was related to innovation, which I wrote about last week: “This is why your new products crash & burn“.

Another of the questions I received was related to measuring equity and the relative importance of following the image of the br and or the corporation. I respond below to this interesting dilemma and propose some ideas about what you should be following.

The three essentials of br and valueLet me start by saying that I covered br and image metrics in some detail last year in a popular post  called “ How to Build Br and Reputation and Consumer Trust: And then Track it”. The article spoke about the three important areas that you need to measure in order to have a complete perspective of your br and image, namely Rational / Functional, Emotional / Subjective and Cultural / Relational.

Whilst this is the simplest method for measuring br and equity, it is said that there are in fact seven essential elements that make a business great in the eyes of the customer. These elements are a combination of product perceptions as above, together with those of the enterprise. Perhaps surprisingly, the latter actually trump the former in driving behaviours today, so corporate reputation is now essential to follow too. It also suggests that whilst product performance, services and innovation are important, it is the companies behind the br ands that influence a consumer’s trust and final choice. If you’d like to read more about this, please click on the above link where you can find more details.

Coca Cola logo

However, measuring br and image and corporate reputation is still not going to give you all the answers you need. One of the areas that few organisations study today, even when they measure both of these, is the relationship between the images of the br ands and the company.

Unilever AXE logoFor some br ands such as Coca Cola, the relationship is both obvious and strong, whereas for Pantene or Axe the link to P&G  and Unilever may be far less evident.

P&G Pantene logo

Despite an increasing effort by both companies to strengthen the association between their br ands and themselves as manufacturer, the connection remains tenuous at best.

So how do you measure this link and underst and what the br and brings to the corporation and vice versa? Read on for a simple process.

Following Br and & Corporate Reputations is a 3-step process

Step 1: Measure your br ands’ images

Hopefully you are already doing this on a regular basis. If not please start immediately since you cannot manage br ands without knowing where you are today, even if you have a clear idea planned for where you want to go. The post linked above gives you a start on getting this done.

The one addition that you may have to incorporate in your current questionnaire is to ensure that you clearly identify whether the respondent knows who makes each of the br ands. Continue Reading

Why Global Campaigns often Fail and What You Can Do So Yours Won’t

It’s been a while since we had a guest post so I am happy that this week Angelo Ponzi from C³Centricity partner PhaseOne, based in Los Angeles, has shared one of his most popular articles on taking local communications global.

If you’re a global advertiser or have done research on global advertising, you know it’s not easy to launch a global campaign.

Year after year, many br ands launch global campaigns only to have them fail.  Sometimes it’s the message that doesn’t translate.  Other times, a product name or slogan just doesn’t translate around the globe — or worse, it offends the target audience. Or, perhaps the behavior the br and is trying to influence just isn’t relevant.

What are the pitfalls that must be avoided and what strategies do you need to have in place in order to set the stage for a successful global campaign?

Benefit of a Global Campaign

Unilever Dove logoThere is a strong argument for implementing a creative campaign on a global scale.  When it works, it provides br and stewards with a high level of control.  It also ensures consistent implementation of a br and strategy, and it saves money — a lot of money.  When it works, it can work BIG.  Take for instance Unilever’s global work for their Dove br and and their Beauty campaign. This global work beat the odds, changed the way people think of beauty, and changed the way we as advertisers communicate about beauty.

Regardless of the br and, all br ands — even regional or local ones — need to think globally. Why?  Because a br and’s image or reputation is only one post, tweet, blog, pin or share away from being talked about on a global basis.  Social media has changed the way we market, but more importantly, it has changed the way we need to think.

It’s difficult enough to create relevant communications that include a strategic message, strong theme and a br and story that appeals to the target audience in one market. Creating one that appeals to multiple cultures is extremely difficult. One size fits all does not apply here folks!

Important Considerations:  A Common Voice Spoken in Many Languages

What are some of the important considerations when beginning to think about a global approach?  Certainly, humor or the use of slang when trying to establish a br and across borders does not always work.  For example, humorous TV spots that aired in the UK didn’t make audiences giggle as it traveled across borders to other English and non-English-speaking countries.   Keep in mind, the joke or “shtick” doesn’t always travel well from country to country.  The use of humor may also be impacted by cultural values, etiquette, language and dialects, as well as social economics of the audiences.  Individually, these are all important considerations to be researched when developing campaign strategies and creative executions. Br ands must learn to have a common voice that can be spoken in many languages.

Campaigns need to consider the four elements of the br and

In addition, you should take into consideration your international competition, since they are most likely exploring global and local (“glocal”) approaches as well.   Continue Reading

Walking the Talk of Customer Centricity

Do you ever get frustrated that although everyone in your organisation claims to underst and the importance of placing the customer at the heart of the business, nobody seems to be really “walking the talk” of customer centricity? If so, then this post is for you.

Thanks to Stan Knoops from Unilever, I recently came across a great video produced by their Insight Team. It is part of a series of Unilever consumer connect programs and presents a new way for connecting their R&D people at Unilever Vlaardingen to consumers. It shows how to engage and inspire a complete organisation of R&D with consumer insights and is a highly inspirational film.

This got me thinking about the problems that many- or should I say most? – organisations have to get all employees engaged and interested in better underst anding their customers. To help get them started on this essential road to customer centricity, I came up with these 6 points:

#1. Put customer connection in everyone’s annual objectives

This can be left open, or specified such as watching a certain number of focus groups or in-depth interviews, accompanying a certain number of customers whilst they shop for or use your product or service, or listening – and why not also manning, after training? – your care centres or websites.

#2. Conduct co-creation or co-elaboration sessions

Whilst it is good to get people close to your customers, you can also help the company with the development of new products, services or communications, by inviting your customers to join meetings and planning sessions. This is both fun and exciting for your customers and inspiring for company employees. And don’t forget the positive publicity and word of mouth you additionally get, since the participants will certainly talk about their experience to their friends and colleagues

#3. Work on the front line

If marketing, sales, supply chain or another department is struggling to find a solution or new development idea, put them on the front line, to talk to customers directly. If you have your own retail outlets this can be relatively easy to organise. However, even if you don’t it can still be done, with a little planning.

I remember when I first started working at Philip Morris International, I spent a week on the road with a sales representative. Not only did I see first h and some of the issues he faced in selling in his stock, but also learnt a lot from the retailers with whom we discussed. I also began to underst and consumers’ mentally whether smokers or non-smokers, when we were offering free samples in bars and cafés (not sure this goes on today, as I am speaking about 30+ years ago!) Being on the front line is both an inspiring and humbling experience and I just wish that more organisations gave this training, both to new hires, as well as all employees on a regular basis.

#4. Get out of the office

When I worked for Gillette many years ago, all br and managers had to spend one day every two weeks in the field, watching. Continue Reading

How to Turn your Br and Issue into a Competitive Advantage

Most companies have issues with their products at times. Usually they don’t correct them unless they are considered to be significant and could have a direct negative impact on sales.

You could argue that this will always be the case sooner or later, so better resolve them as soon as they are discovered. Some companies however are creative enough to turn what others might see as an issue into a competitive advantage. Let me give you a couple of examples.

 

Pringles Freshness Seal

Most consumers associate bulging lids and packs with a product that has deteriorated in some way. This is not at all the case of Pringles, for which a bulging seal under the plastic cap is a sign of freshness apparently, or at least is a normal phenomenon.

What I love about the br and is that whereas in the past the seal’s surface was used for communicating promotions and competitions, it is now used to send a positive message to their consumers about this situation.

On a pack I recently bought the seal was printed with the words “Bursting with flavour”. How is that for making a positive out of what might have been perceived as a negative? I love it! It adds to the br and’s image and also to the taste and pleasure expectations for the consumer who is about to open the pack. I can imagine that this came directly out of consumer insights, to answer a query about why the seal was always bulging, which as I already mentioned would usually be associated with a product that had “gone off”.

 

The strange taste of Marmite

Another well documented example of a product that converted an issue to its advantage, is that of Unilever’s Marmite. Marmite claims to be a nutritious savoury spread, although non-Brits would describe it more as a very strange tasting concoction. Even UK consumers are divided in their opinion of it; they either love it or hate and there is apparently no half-way sentiment here.

Marmite created a very successful campaign around this love / hate relationship with the product which has now become a social phenomenon, and this divide has even been emphasised in their advertising and on the web. In the UK they even sell Marmite flavoured food – chocolate and cashew nuts – as well as br anded T Shirts, Kitchenware, Books, Cooking, Merch andise and more. How would you like your consumers to pay their hard earned money not only for your products, but for br anded promotional goods too?

In 2011, Unilever took the love / hate relationship into the kitchen, by developing and sharing simple recipes using Marmite for people who hate to cook. Each commercial of the campaign, called “Haute Cuisine, Love Marmite Recipes” ends with the “u” in Haute being blocked by a jar of Marmite, making “Hate Cuisine” and continuing the love / hate theme with which Marmite has become associated. If you would like to see some of the ads from the campaign, you can find them here and their website is www.marmite.co.uk Continue Reading

New Year, New Challenges: 3 Helpful Ideas for Innovators

As we ramp up to face the economic, political and societal changes that will surely continue in 2012, many organisations are challenging their R&D and hopefully marketing departments too, to develop and launch new products and services.

With luck, these developments were already in their plans and pipeline for this year, but sometimes businesses are forced into going to market sooner than they would have liked, due to market circumstances or competitive activities.

An article in Marketing Week (read here) at the beginning of last year, mentioned that Unilever said that increased investment, as well as their “Bigger, Better, Faster” innovation initiative was the driving force behind its increased profit and sales in 2010.

As we are all only too aware, today’s customers are highly dem anding of novelty and each period of satisfaction becomes shorter and shorter, as they quickly get accustomed to the latest improvements.

In an earlier post (read here), I spoke of the research carried out by Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, a marketing professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler which showed that CPG / FMCG innovation needed to be one of the two extremes of “innovativeness” to succeed:

  • either a minor improvement, or renovation, such as a new flavour, size, colour, packaging, content …
  • or a radically new product that is significantly different from anything else on the market. These are of course more breakthrough and therefore more difficult to develop. Past examples have included microwave meals, Sony Walkman, Nespresso, iPhone, Ipad,

The interesting and perhaps disturbing thing about breakthrough innovation, is that timing is everything; bring it out too early and people won’t underst and or see the need; too late and competition might beat you. This is one of the reasons that IT companies quite often offer “beta versions” of their products or software before they are 100% ready and then quickly follow with a version 2 with corrected or improved functionalities.

Other br ands such as Nestlé’s Nespresso or even Gillette’s Silkience, the first shampoo with integrated conditioner, launched almost 40 years ago, were introduced ahead of the curve, before their consumers were ready for them. The companies then had to decide to either wait it out (Nespresso waited many years to become profitable) or relaunch at a later date, but then risk being pre-empted by competition, who then have the time to copy the new product.

So how can companies better underst and their consumers’ needs, desires, or even unarticulated and unknown needs, and launch just in time to benefit from them? Here are three ideas that I came up with, but I would welcome your input too:

1. Develop Future Scenarios

Most organisations today are following trends, but as competition is almost certainly following the same ones, there is no competitive advantage and little chance of benefiting from identified tendencies. It is only when the trends are turned into future scenarios that the real competitive advantage appears.

 

2. Identify lead countries

Most industries have markets where the consumers are more dem anding or more open to innovation in certain categories. Continue Reading

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