Take a moment to think about what brands today are currently making an impact in our society. Try to pick three or four that come to the top of your head… Now take a moment to reflect upon the great brands of yesteryear…
If you truly study what makes brands successful today, you will see a dramatically different picture of what made brands successful back then. Back in the day, the brands that may have come to mind were quite simply those who ran the most advertisements, or who had the most stores – wow have things changed! Cultural shifts change how we look at everything – it’s an all-encompassing change that some embrace and some fall victim to.
For many years, we defined stalwart brands as ‘institutions’ or ‘mega-brands’, but were they really brands? I guess if you defined them by size and revenue… then maybe they were. I guess we had no choice but to call them brands – after all we didn’t know any better because that’s all we knew. Big brands told us what to believe, and we believed it.
Well, those days are long gone. In fact, they have disappeared altogether. Brands like McDonald’s continues to struggle with the coveted Millennial market segment during this fast-moving shift because they are falling victim to what made them successful in the first place – scale, distribution, revenue… and by contrast the little guys (Chipotle, Smash Burger) are chipping away at them like piranhas in a feeding frenzy.
The Davids vs. The Goliaths
So the question becomes… how are the Davids standing toe-to-toe with the Goliaths?
They do so because they are a reflection of the cultural change in society today. They simply speak and deliver on the core values of their market place while the big brands continue to throw looping punches in a fight where speed, agility and integrity are the key skill-sets to creating a winning environment.
Note: For all the articles on this blog on branding and brand strategy, click how to brand a company.
Let’s take a look at the 3 brands below that understand the cultural shifts and deliver values that the marketplace actually cares about.
1) Tesla Motors
Electric cars of the past exuded a very uninspired design vision. They spoke to the cultural shift of energy efficient and clean technology driven products, but lacked the design aesthetics to really lift the category to it potential.
Tesla bridged these two ideas into a beautiful car that speaks to the ‘clean’ movement in society. Design is function, and Tesla’s effort has led to them to being far and above the category leader (full size luxury sedans). This category includes formidable brands with long heritages like – Mercedes, BMW and Lexus.
2) Whole Foods
If you were a betting person, you probably wouldn’t give many grocery entrants a chance among the giant retailers occupying that space – most notably Wal-Mart and host of other big grocery retailers. Wal-Mart is selling price, which is a big value to some, but not all.
Whole Foods understood the quality movement in society – not just in its products, but also in the entire process of bringing food and beverages to market. Health, responsibility and fairness are the cornerstones of their brand and their customers love them for it. They can tell a unique and inspiring story that’s hard to duplicate.
Does Wal-Mart speak to any of those values? A better question might be, Can they? Currently the answer is a resounding ‘No’, as their story is in direct contrast to Whole Foods – lower cost… at all costs.
There are two brands that tend to get overused when the discussion is about branding… Nike and Apple – but they get this notoriety because they have this ‘branding thing’ down better than most companies.
Nike has dominated the performance and active wear market since I was a little kid. They did, however, fall asleep at the wheel and Under Amour was able to penetrate the market in a very viable and relevant way.
What did they need to do to create distance and differentiation? They focused on consumers and community creation. The development of the FuelBand allowed them to connect products and services into a community of competition that joins people from all over the world. In short, they are selling products disguised as an integrated services offering.
Tesla, Wholefoods & Nike have done a great job in understanding the prevailing movements in our society, and have built products that align with these movements.
As you are building the next great idea, make sure that it’s relevant and useful, but most importantly reflects the culture you are seeking.