mit sloan branding: around the world & back again

Threats to 5-Hour Focus

By introducing 5-Hour Focus, we are creating a sub-brand of 5-Hour to appeal to and build trust in a new customer segment. However, the introduction of a new brand does not come without its threats. The threats to the 5-Hour brand (5-Hour Focus & 5-Hour Energy) are listed below:

  • Customers react negatively to consuming the same ingredients in both product (Focus and Energy), resulting in negative word of mouth
  • Loyal 5-Hour Energy customers feel betrayed by the introduction of a new brand with a more professional image
  • "Safer," "healthier," energy shot disrupts the market
  • Health scares are publicized, harming the energy drink category as a whole
  • Red Bull (leading competitor) responds similarly by refining the image of the Red Bull energy shot
  • Starbucks (or another leading coffee company) comes out with a portable, small, convenient caffeinated “shot.” This could be particularly threatening due to Starbucks’ positive brand image with professionals.
  • New retailers refuse to sell 5-Hour Focus because it contains the same ingredients as 5-Hour Energy

During my first week at work, a communications professor from Brown spoke to my team about the importance of body language. She told us that women are likely to find themselves nodding while listening to a speaker not because they agree, but because they want to acknowledge that they are listening. She told us to be cognizant of this nodding, as it becomes such a habit that you often will “agree” with something that is very much against what you believe - your personal brand. Her advice really resonated with me, and I now find myself much more aware of how I communicate through body language. Amy Cuddy’s talk is a must watch for everyone when considering how you are perceived not only by others, but also by yourself. If you haven’t yet seen it, do take a look - you will become a stronger, more confident communicator, speaker and leader as a result!

My Friend's Perfect Boyfriend (Hint: He's on Snapchat)

We’ve all heard about the power of social media in spreading your message. Facebook lets you update your (thousands of) friends about your latest vacation, relationship status, and professional accomplishments. Twitter allows you to quickly send and receive the latest news from your rather extended social circle. Instagram provides a platform for sharing your favorite photos with the perfect filter.

And then there’s Snapchat. Snapchat is supposed to let you send photos for your friends’ enjoyment for a mere matter of seconds. Unless you’re Molly, and your Snapchats must be screenshotted for the world to see.

A former colleague created the perfect boyfriend and snapped images of the two of them to entertain her friends. It didn’t take long for her snaps to go viral, eliciting comments such as “Girl’s Snapchat boyfriend is so perfect he can’t be real” and “Loneliest girl in the world [she’s not] creates the perfect boyfriend on Snaptchat.” 

Check out Molly’s hilarious montage of her and her “boifriend.” For more snaps, follow @meandmyboifriend on Instagram.

marketr:

No one ever stops to consider the consequences of running a successful brand Tumblr. Followers. Engagement. Riches. Anyway, here are a few simple tips from the experts at americanexpress.

Just as it’s important for brands to strategically create an image online, people, too, must be careful about how they are perceived. Here are a few tips for both individuals and brands to create, defend, and maintain their online image.

marketr:

No one ever stops to consider the consequences of running a successful brand Tumblr. Followers. Engagement. Riches. Anyway, here are a few simple tips from the experts at americanexpress.

Just as it’s important for brands to strategically create an image online, people, too, must be careful about how they are perceived. Here are a few tips for both individuals and brands to create, defend, and maintain their online image.

"As PCs become an integral part of the lives of even more people, it is incumbent upon us as marketers to to bridge the gap between the technical details and the emotional experience of using cutting-edge technology. This is why it’s important that we talk to consumers about what’s meaningful to them. Even in the PC market, our brand has to be breakthrough, relevant, innovative."
The above quote from the “Inside Intel Inside” case was particularly relevant to me as a marketer in the high-tech industry. While reading it, I couldn’t help but recall my introduction to a brand that has since become a hugely significant part of my life. When I was in sixth grade, my math teacher wrote the number “one” followed by 100 zeros on the board. He told us that the number he drew was a “googol” and that we would soon be hearing much more about the company that drew inspiration for its name from that number. That experience, I realized years later, was not only my introduction to the search engine, but also the beginning of my emotional connection with the company. It was the start of my Google “story” - an essential way that brands use their consumers to spread their messages.
Over a decade later, I began my first day as a Google employee. At orientation, we watched “Dear Sophie,” a Google Chrome commercial that highlighted the bond between a father and his daughter. The commercial appealed to viewers’ feelings, experiences, and emotions to show the power of the search engine. While it highlighted Chrome’s features by showing how Daniel Lee uses it, it didn’t flood the user with details about Chrome’s capabilities. Just as Intel developed creative that represented the brand as innovative, creative, and “the center of your digital world,” Google used warmth, love, and the importance of family to bridge the gap between the technical details and the emotional experience.

Elie Tahari: The Power of Strategic Licensing

Over the long weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the offices of Elie Tahari in NYC with the MIT Sloan Retail Club. One of the leaders with whom we spoke was Krystle, the VP of Licensing (women, men, children, and home). Krystle spoke about tapping into the potential of Tahari by strategically licensing products in categories such as sunglasses, bedding, and dinnerware. Krystle hopes that licensing will help make Tahari more of a lifestyle brand by “dressing her [the customer] head to toe.” 

At our visit, I asked Krystle how she plans to maintain Tahari’s identity and consistency when brands such as Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger have nearly been destroyed by over-licensing. Her response, noted below, really resonated with me and gave me a new appreciation for a brand’s growth strategy.
  • It is very easy for a brand with a famous logo (ex. Tommy Hilfiger) or print (ex. Burberry) to over-license by simply sticking the logo or print on an item. In this case, licensing is less about quality and more about the item as a recognizable status symbol. Brands with a logo or print can more easily fall into the trap of over-licensing. Tahari doesn’t mark its items with logos; rather, Tahari items are marked by quality. Consequently, maintaining the highest quality on licensed items is key.
  • Be picky! Don’t accept any item that Elie Tahari wouldn’t approve of. If a sunglasses bridge is too narrow or a sheet set isn’t the right shade of blue, send it back. The licensee can’t distribute anything that isn’t approved by Tahari.
  • Be strategic with your partners. Look for licensees with a large distribution network, but make sure you aren’t their lowest priority. Sometimes, it’s better to partner with a smaller company if it means that you will get personalized attention and support.
  • Manage the creative (to some extent) in-house. The advertising for licensed items should be consistent with the advertising for items designed and produced by the brand.
  • Choose your own prices. Look at your competitors’ prices, and price accordingly. Don’t let licensees under or overvalue your products, as you will either dampen the way your brand is perceived or isolate your customers.
  • Manage the expansion into new markets. Make sure that all licensed items are market appropriate before expanding just for the sake of increasing sales.
Krystle and her team have clearly developed a licensing strategy that will help the company grow and reach new markets while maintaining the Tahari essence. I am extremely impressed by Tahari’s commitment to quality and have high hopes for the future of the brand!

Unilever is a quintessential “house of brands”. The company attaches its brand name to hundreds of others; in doing so, Unilever endorses its brands - and all that they stand for. With its “real beauty” campaign, Dove is one of Unilever’s most famous brands. Dove’s worldwide marketing campaign aims to empower real women and make them more confident, as seen in “Onslaught,” which tells parents to “talk to your daughter before the beauty industry does.”

In another office at Unilever, however, teams work hard to market Axe by objectifying women and making them appear powerless against men. Axe has been criticized for being a brand that ”epitomizes the sexist and degrading marketing that can undermine girls’ healthy development.”

As a marketing professional, where do you draw the line? Can a brand manager move from Dove to Axe and still feel confident about the message that he/she is promoting? Unilever’s position as a house of brands rather than a branded house offers the company the luxury of representing hundreds of brands that may have competing messages. Had the company developed as a branded house, it would now be making more strategic decisions about what messages to associate with its brands.