Why is Brand Focus Crucial?

By 20th April 2012blog

“You can’t been all things to all people or you’ll be nothing to anyone” or “Jack of all trades. Master of none.”

Commonly used marketing expressions.  Commonly ignored marketing expressions.

Two global brands have recently highlighted how a lack of focus is bad news for brand performance.

BlackBerry has realised it needs to stick to its B2B market knitting. Its performance was going south.  We’ve covered this in a previous blog.  Tesco’s recent poor Q4 2011 performance has forced the organisation to reconsider its strategy and focus its value proposition. Store redesign and a “click and pick-up” service are being touted as the salvation.

People used to go to Tesco to buy food.  Now you can buy pretty much anything there  (with the exception of a Ferrari – but you can probably buy this as a day experience or  Corgi car). This gets you thinking “what do I go there for?” “everything?” This generates the response of “Can you be good at everything?” The response is “no”. People stay away. Historically, Woolworths provides a pertinent example. Beyond Pick n’ Mix for a long car journey people didn’t know what to go Woolworth for.  Other brands did a better job of selling toys e.g. Toys R Us, stationery e.g. Ryman etc., and “Woolies” lost its focus. Again, it didn’t stick to its (or even have) knitting.

Why does this happen? BlackBerry and Tesco have struggled with brand essence definition.  This has muddled their primary brand association. A strong, favourable and unique brand association lies at the heart of brand equity. Brand equity drives brand performance.

Sure, it’s a good idea for brands to grow via diversification, stretching and / or expansion. Virgin is an exemplar. The challenge is to ensure such strategic decisions are aligned with your brand’s essence (and its values, promise, positioning etc,. for that matter).  If they don’t the primary association is adversely affected. This causes consumer confusion. Confusion adversely affects confidence and purchase intention. Bad times.

It seems counterintuitive to focus on less to get more. You have to know who your customer is and who your customer is not. Both can be deceptively difficult to define. If you go after everyone you’ll get no one.  Brand marketing is about making decisions.

So what can be done to prevent your brand from ending up in the pickle BlackBerry and Tesco are in? Amongst others, these are a few pointers:

  • Revisit your brand values, essence, promise, positioning etc., to ensure the decision aligns with these. If it doesn’t don’t do it. Be rigorous and ruthless.
  • Make decisions based on insight. Sound obvious? If I had £10 for every time I’ve heard a senior brand marketer or CMO say “well I’d buy it” when they’re not representative of the target market I would be typing this blog from a villa in the Maldives. Make customer driven decisions.
  • Consider your overall brand architecture. How does the new proposition fit? Do you need to create a new brand (expensive and time consuming) to prevent other brands from being adversely affected? Toyota understood this. They created the Lexus brand. A premium brand wouldn’t fit within the existing Toyota architecture. They also knew Toyota’s brand equity could not be leveraged to help establish Lexus as a premium brand.  Focused brand strategy.
  • Understand your target customer intimately. Uncover their emotions and profile them psychographically. This will provide revealing insights as to whether your proposition will deliver value for them. It will also help you decide where and how to deliver your proposition.
  • Be realistic.  Take your brand into markets that are plausible.  Make sure your eyes aren’t bigger than your belly. A big appetite could be costly.

These are just a few of our thoughts on how your brand could avoid the challenges BlackBerry and Tesco are facing.  Brand essence definition lies at the heart of our view. We’d welcome yours…….

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