Building an ecosystem with brand

  Building appropriate brand is important to gain customers’ support. It depends on the features of customers. Some people would prefer reliable, durable goods even their appearance is not appealing, while others would prefer appearance. Same situation happened in professional tradesmen industry of power tools. For the tradesmen, the power tools are like another themselves, not just consumable goods. The brand like B&D established for consumers and professional industrial segments is matched with majority who tends to pay attention to popularity, but not matched with tradesmen’s perception. On the other hand, Makita carefully build its brand with high quality products appealing to tradesmen, which leads it to success in the professional tradesmen segment.
Building brand also depends on products. Differentiated products attract customers. In this case, product color is one of key attributes in purchase decision. Considering its market share, simply imitating the color would be an effective strategy for the time being like cafe industry, followed by creating a new color for the tradesmen.

  B&D should set a distinct strategy on the professional tradesmen industry. First, a new brand should be established for the professional tradesmen segment, since it is quite different from the other markets. The brand of B&D is regarded as the one for consumers and industries, not for expertise, and a new brand for the professionals is required. We can use existing powerful resource, the brand of DeWalt, which already receives high awareness rating and one of the best agreement from tradesmen.

  Second, B&D should improve its products. The color should be changed because current color is relatively somber to appeal to customers. For example, yellow is favorable because it is bright and impressive, and implies high safety and uniqueness from competitors’ color. Maintaining high quality, durable aspects which make tradesmen be proud to own, B&D can attract them as obsessive customers.

 Third, home center should be focused as a distribution channel. To gain satisfaction of tradesmen, hiring and training talented people is important, since they can communicate the firm’s value to tradesmen, which is evaluated good in the research, and get feedback from them for the next development and improvement.

 Making community would work well. Utilizing membership club is one option. The other option is to create online social network, allowing them to share their idea and rating each other to extract their motivation.

 Not only branding, but also the harmony and combination of all factors such as identity, resource, marketing position, created value, delivering value, coalition and customers’ preference is significant for the success.

Singapore Airlines: Headwinds from the Middle East

The airline industry is fiercely competitive. Price competition is intense, fixed costs are high, and new carriers from Asia and the Middle East are emerging regularly (some of whom are heavily subsidized by wealthy states). It’s not surprising that there have been a string of high profile bankruptcies in the last decade, including leading carriers such as American Airlines, Delta, US Airways and Air Canada.

Singapore Airlines’ success

Remarkably, Singapore Airlines (SIA) has managed not only to survive, but to thrive in this cutthroat environment. Singapore has profited by building and maintaining a brand that is synonymous with exceptional customer service. Its culture of exceptional service, together with a commitment to maintaining the youngest fleet of planes in the sky, enabled SIA to differentiate its product, charge a premium price, and create customer loyalty in what was (and is) largely a commoditized market. SIA’s iconic “Singapore Girl” ads helped to cultivate an image of style and sophistication for the airline that was consistent with its premium in-flight experience.

SIA benefited from its focus on long-haul flights, where travelers were more willing to pay a premium for the superior service, in-flight innovations, and new planes that Singapore offered. Singapore was especially successful in attracting premium business travelers, a lucrative segment that could often account for 50% of the revenue of a given flight.

Challenges from the Middle East

However, Singapore Airlines’ success did not go unnoticed and it now faces a real threat from emerging Middle Eastern carriers, many of whom have sought to establish a premium brand by replicating two of the pillars of Singapore’s successful model: superior in-flight service and a modern fleet of planes.

In terms of in-flight service, Middle Eastern carriers are looking to Singapore Airlines as a model of best practice. For example, Emirates has launched the Emirates Aviation College in Dubai and now provides its cabin crew members with seven weeks of in-depth training. This initiative appears to be modeled similarly to Singapore’s Service Quality Center. Emirates has also sought to follow SIA’s lead of making their flight attendants a highly visible and essential element of their brand image, similar to the “Singapore Girl” campaigns.

Emirates flight attendants presenting winners’ medals at the 2014 FIFA World Cup

Middle Eastern carriers are also gaining ground in other elements of their in-flight offerings, such as product innovation. For example, although a recent Flightfox survey ranked Singapore Suites as the #1 first class product, the first class offerings of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar were close behind at #3, #4 and #7 respectively (see

Middle Eastern carriers also possess some of the youngest fleets in the sky. While Singapore used to have the youngest fleet in the industry (6 years in 2001), this has now stretched to 7.7 years, while Qatar’s fleet has an average age of only 5.4 years.

Prepared using data from

Going forward, how should Singapore respond to the threat posed by challengers from the Middle East? It is clear that simply having the newest planes, the most comfortable seats and the finest French Champagne will not be enough. In my opinion, Singapore’s key source of differentiation and competitive advantage will be its people and its culture of exceptional customer service. Singapore Airlines’ “software” - its service culture reinforced through recruitment, training and incentives - sets it apart and is far more difficult to replicate than other elements of its strategy. Continuing to foster a culture of service excellence, particularly through its rigorous selection and training programs, should help to ensure that Singapore remains the preferred brand of discerning travelers in the future. 

Brand Outside Grand Inside

It was quite interesting reading about the branding strategy that went into something that is not even visible for the customer. The branding that indicated world class performance and reliability were guaranteed with the Intel product. The jingle accompanying the advertisements almost gave customers a feeling of comfort knowing that they had the fastest processors and highest quality computing power. This non-physical comfort can be similar in a car. Though car wants are thought to be mostly based on the aesthetic, there are more factors that are invisible to the consumer that they want to be able to trust is present. Factors like safety, environmental friendliness that do not necessarily affect the performance of the car. But we find these factors making a large difference in the cars that customers buy.

I have done some research into my project Volvo and found that a number of secondary sources which indicate consumer insights into how consumers perceive the Volvo automotive brand. I found that Volvo is very appealing for those who prioritize safety, furthermore those who want a car that is environmentally friendly. This brand is a generally for upper middle-class and at the low-end of luxury. Based on this initial data, what is left to do is to get deeper consumer insights as primary data. In order to do this, I will be visiting a Volvo deanship in Boston. I will be asking questions such as: How do you pitch Volvos to potential customers? Why do people choose station wagons in general? What we want to get out of this Why people are loyal to Volvo? When people come, why don’t they choose Volvo?

Getting answers to these questions will certainly be beneficial in designing surveys for consumers and asking the correct questions to obtain the proper analytics to supply present to Volvo. Ultimately, it will shape the direction of the proposed branding strategy of the new V90 Volvo Model.

Tesla Model 3: 5 Factors

After the long awaited announcement of the Tesla Model 3, technologists and car enthusiasts are extremely excited about the $35,000 price point on Elon Musk’s product 10 years in the making. To think through the innovation diffusion of this product, I will utilize Roger’s Five Factors:

Relative Advantage - Given the context of a traditional car, the Tesla Model 3 has significant environmental and cost savings compared to the traditional gas fueled car on the market today. The Tesla Model 3 does not sacrifice performance and actually out-performs most cars in the $35,000 sedan segment. One limitation that needs to be taken into account though is that there is not a robust network of electric car chargers across the US or the world to recharge the cars on longer distance journeys, unlike the gas station network. With a range of at least 215 miles per charge, this will be sufficient for many car owners that use it for the typical daily commute, but may require a second car for longer distances or car share service subscriptions.

Compatibility - If someone knows how to operate a gas fueled car, the Model 3 will have a smooth transition. The easy to use user interface that is similar to Apple products will likely be easier for new users to adjust.

Complexity - The product itself will not suffer from a large increase in complexity and certain aspects of the software will actually make driving easier, such as autopilot and automated parking, which have already been rolled out on existing Teslas. One increase in complexity could come from planning out longer distance trips as well as dealing with an emergency when the battery runs out of charge. However, maintenance and adjustments should be easier for owners, since virtual software updates can be sent to the Tesla 3 remotely.

Trialability - While there currently is no plan to give significant trialability, users can take test drives with the Tesla Model 3 and if Tesla wanted to push this further, they could create their own temporary ride share service where you could test out the product. 

Observability - Cars are incredibly visible and serve as a status symbol, so observability will be high. Likewise, if a charging station is installed at an owner’s household, then the charger will also be visible to neighbors and those that drive by.

Overall, given the high demand and excited around the Tesla Model 3 at a much more affordable $35,000 as opposed to previous models at $100,000 even after tax incentives, it can be expected for a relatively quick diffusion. Two key limitations that may slow diffusion will be the potential for Tesla to not meet production demand from consumers and too slow of growth in the electric car charger network.

Applying Rogers’ Five Factors to Echo Labs

During the “Silicon Valley Study Trek” last month, we visited Echo Labs, a startup that produces and commercializes a unique wearable technology that measures and analyzes cardiovascular, respiratory, and metabolic functions continuously and non-invasively. Since the day we met one of the two founders, I was very impressed with their work, and I kept thinking whether this idea would be one of the ones that “would make it.”

So when reading about Roger’s Five Factors, I decided to see how they applied to Echo Labs.

1.       Relative Advantage (medium/low): The product clearly has an edge over comparable wearables in the healthcare segment (e.g. non-intrusive, precision, etc.). However, the question is whether the general public will perceive these differences to be significant. In the end, as mentioned in the case, it’s mostly about perception, not just the actual product features. This might be the aspects where I’m more skeptic..

2.       Compatibility (medium/high): People are getting more and more used to wearables. For this reason I believe that Echo Labs can be perceived consistent with existing values and beliefs

3.       Complexity (low): One of the main advantages of this technology is that it is not intrusive, and very easy to understand and interpret by the general public

4.       Trialability (high): Given the size and weight of the wearable it should be relatively easy to get a large mass of people try the product (e.g. booths in malls, in hospitals, etc.)

5.       Observability (high): Echo Labs produces a wearable device, which people will constantly carry on their bodies. For such reason the observability could be quite high

I believe Echo Lab could be successful and develop at a high pace. The main barrier I see is whether people will truly perceive its benefits vs. the other wearables out there… We’ll see!!!

Why the MIT Sloan Brand Remains Weak

To be honest I’d never heard of MIT Sloan until a year before I applied. I’d heard of HBS, Stanford, and Wharton, I’d even heard of Tuck, Kellogg, Booth, and Darden, but I didn’t know MIT had a business school. This is odd, I worked in investment banking in NYC, had gone to college in MA, and studied for the GMAT. However, despite all this I had either never heard of Sloan or I heard of it but didn’t remember it despite the fact that I am part of the “in group” they want to reach. 

In branding, if you want to create a luxury or aspirational brand it is important that existing and potential customers know what you stand for and ascribe embodied meaning to your brand. One key way of creating embodied values is the use of myth making. These myths must be consistent with the values of your brand and must be felt and lived by people inside and outside the company. The second is to have a brand strategy that is simple enough that people know exactly what you stand for and what makes you different from other options. If customers don’t know why you’re different they are unlikely to ascribe a premium to your product.

MIT Sloan is a fantastic example of bad branding because we don’t create myths and our message is vague and muddled. First, myths: exactly what is the relationship to Alfed P. Sloan and our school? I’ve gotten different answers from different people over my two years here? Beyond founding myths, in the popular press I’ve never come across stories about unique things happening at Sloan that later went on to impact society in the way you read about startups coming our of garages or MIT undergrads assembling cars on the dome. 

The second failure is that we don’t have have a crisp and clearly articulated message around what makes us different or special. If I look at the admissions website I don’t really know what we stand for or how we are any different than any other top business school. After 3 paragraphs saying we have a great community (don’t all business schools?), there is next a section on “personalized curriculum” (great I can get that on courersa), and it ends with “ A Realm of Possibility, a World of Opportunity” (what does that even mean?). You can’t be all things to all people - that is a recipe for mediocrity and obscurity.

Ultimately Sloan’s official marketing materials didn’t convince me to come to here. I came to because I did the extra work of talking to alumni and current students, visited classes, and went to a conference. These experiences with people helped me discover how special Sloan is. I wish that we could create a brand strategy that could also communicate that to the broader world who will not be as lucky or have as much time as I did to do that in person research. Ultimately, it would make all of our degrees worth more. However, that won’t happen until the school takes a more active role in creating mythology consistent with our culture, and highlighting in a concise but memorable way what actually makes us better than any other business school out there.

Sloan Fellows Program - who am I?

“The Executive Development Program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology was originally established with the support of Alfred Sloan and five of his industry colleagues. Mr. Sloan was especially concerned that participants have an opportunity to understand the “broad social and economic aspects of managerial problems faced by industry.” It was expected that this program would broaden the knowledge and management skills of the executives and increase their ability to move up to more responsible managerial positions.”

78 years later, this program continues to exist as the Sloan Fellows Program. Whilst it has changed with the times, the description above from 1938 is still true to the program today. However, a lot has happened since. In 1952, MIT got it’s own business school - again, by a large grant from the Sloan Foundation. In 2008, the MFin program was launched and in 2010, the EMBA began. This year, the Business Analytics program kicks off. Amidst this portfolio of programs, where does the Sloan Fellows Program stand? And in the broader world of Management Education, how does one describe it? An EMBA? An MBA? An Executive Program? 

Our group decided to take a look at some of these questions, as part of the Branding Lab. What we realized very quickly was that this is a very very hard problem. So, the focus of our efforts so far, has been to define the problem! In order to do this, we began with a series of interviews - existing Sloan Fellows, Alumni, & also faculty. Over the last week we have identified 3 broad areas where challenges exist - awareness, positioning & communication. 

Awareness is a tough problem. There is an aspect of internal awareness (within MIT), and one of awareness within the external community (potential applicants & potential recruiters). 

Positioning - MBA / EMBA / Executive Education? How do rankings matter? Should the program align to one of these aspects in order to have a clearer message? 

Communication - this aspect relates closest to the learning from the Branding class. What are we currently communicating through our website, brochures & also in the way current students & alumni describe the program? We believe there is a disconnect here - when viewed using Keller’s brand pyramid model. 

We’re building a survey to narrow down the ‘problem’ to one of these issues - realizing that an effective project will need a very specific issue to address. Starting with a broad overview has made the problem tougher, but we hope it has also given us a stronger understanding of how to approach a broad problem from a branding viewpoint. More to follow…

How Honest is Honest Tea?

The Honest Tea Company was founded by Seth Goldman, an active person in search for the perfect beverage. At the core of the company’s branding philosophy is passion towards health, the environment and social responsibility. One can find everything from the company’s original business plan (no joke) to the company’s tea sweetening and sourcing process on the company’s website. Very honest, if you ask me.  The company regularly engages its customers (instead of selling, selling, and more selling) in creative ways that bring the customer’s back to the company’s mission. The Honest Tea truly understands that core values cannot be faked and is very transparent about its genuine purpose. Even the Honest Tea office (pictured below) is in sync with Honest Tea’s branding and advertisement. It is an open are workspace converted from a mortgage broker’s office with access to lots of natural light and incorporates lightly used furniture and other upcycled items.
The Most Ridiculous "Berberry" Items, Ever
Certain fashion items have become easily recognized global phenomena over the years: Louis Vuitton's signature LV monogram; Chanel's interlocking C's; Burberry's tan, black, and red tartan, of course. The British heritage brand's "Haymarket Check," as it's formally referred to, has become one of

Check pattern is Burberry’s blessing and a curse. Blessing because it is simple, direct and clean way to link the product with the brand. Curse because it is so easy to copy and to associate with non-target audiences. While fake Louis Vuitton and Nike dominate in world’s $600bn counterfeit fashion market (according to this article ->, I am sure that fake Burberry goods also have a big share in it. It is no surprise that company decided to reduce the amount of goods with check pattern on them and to distinguish its products in some other way. 

Transforming a station wagon into a luxury brand

For our branding lab project, we are creating a unique positioning strategy for the new V90. The V90 is a luxury, wagon with futuristic design elements. When you hear “luxury” and “wagon” those are often contradictory.  You think of an 80’s style station wagon that is totally lacking in style. Instead, we need to go back to the drawing board and consider the basic terms we use to describe this vehicle—nothing is off limits!

I have thought of a few tag lines I want to explore…

“From board room to weekend getaway.”

“SUV, luxury sedan, and sports car all in one.”

“Room for working hard and playing even harder.”

In order to find the best strategy, we need to understand what customers value in a luxury car and what attributes differentiate the V90. Also, we need to get into the psyche of the consumers and understand what a car signals and how they want to feel in their car. Here are some high level questions I want to understand from customers:

· How do you use your car? What are common daily activities? Weekend activities?

· What are the top attributes you look for in a car?

· What image do you want your car to project?

· How do you want to feel when you drive your car?

· What words come to mind when you hear “Volvo”?

· Show them an image of the V90 and ask them do describe the vehicle.

In future Tumblr’s, I will explore how we can ask these through primary research. 

The Brand Architecture of Harvard

“Harvard” means something in higher education. Like MIT, the Harvard brand is associated with quality education, capable leaders and great wisdom. Today, Harvard University actually consists 12 degree-granting schools, all carrying the Harvard linked name. Amongst these schools, there are the high profile schools like Harvard College and Harvard Business School and the less high profile schools like Harvard Division of Continuing Education. Like Virgin’s branded house architecture, the “Harvard” name acts as the dominant brand from which many of the schools benefit. In turn, the success of each school feed back into building up Harvard brand. 

Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) actually provides an interesting case study in branding. When it was first founded, the original name for the school was Harvard Graduate School of Public Administration (GSPA). To commemorate President John F. Kennedy, the school was renamed the Kennedy School of Government (KSG). Notice here that the Harvard name was dropped entirely. The branding team at Harvard later realized that in order to have more synergy with the other Harvard schools and to benefit from the Harvard brand name, it was important that “Harvard” had to be included back into the school’s name. Hence, while the school is technically still called the “John F. Kennedy School of Government”, the branding team created the new term “Harvard Kennedy School” (HKS) and has dropped all usage of the old acronym (KSG). 

Interestingly, more Harvard schools experienced naming changes just last year. The Harvard School of Public Health was renamed the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in honor of the father of a donor who gave $350 million to Harvard. Following that, the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences was renamed the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences for John Paulson’s $400 million contribution. Thankfully in both cases, they have made an intentional effort to keep retain “Harvard” in the school name. Nevertheless, it remains to be seen if this would have any impact in the future. Particularly because of the lengthy names that both schools now have, one wonders if the interpreters of the brand would simply ignore the donor names or if the names would be integrated as part of the school identity.

Cimarron by Cadillac - A Brand Endorsement Cautionary Tale

A revolutionary entry level luxury car.  With an advanced and unique engine. Created by one of the most revered car companies in the industry.  What car is it?  The Tesla Model 3?  BMW i3?  Audi A1?  Nope.  “Cimarron by Cadillac.” You are forgiven if you have never heard of it - but the story of the Cimarron by Cadillac illustrates one of the worst brand endorsements ever performed.  

Origin of the Cimarron by Cadillac

In the late 1970s/early 1980s, fuel economy was everything.  Car companies were scrambling to build small, efficient cars.  Vehicles such as the Honda Civic and Accord were rapidly gaining market share.  Legacy automakers such as Cadillac noticed this trend and wondered what to do about their lineup which primarily consisted of large, gas guzzling cars.

The answer was simple.  Take an existing small GM car and bring it up to Cadillac standards.  But what car should be used?  After considerable debate, GM decided to use the Chevrolet Cavalier - one of their entry, level economy cars.

GM quickly did a light redesign of the front and rear of the car.  A few comforts such as power equipment and leather was added to the vehicle.  The end result was a car which was barely distinguishable from the Cavalier.

Branding the Cimarron

GM was aware that customers could easily tell the link between the high priced Cimarron and the economy Cavalier on which the car was based.  This posed a problem for the company.  How should the car be branded?  Should it be branded as a Cadillac as originally planned?  Cadillac stood for unique designed, premium luxury, world standard cars. However, it was clear that the Cimarron did not live up to these standards.  The answer of how to position the car was unclear.

The compromise which GM arrived at was to use brand endorsement.  The final agreement was to brand the car as “Cimarron by Cadillac” and minimize the presence of Cadillac logos and symbols. This seemed like a good compromise to the GM executives - the car would receive the prestige of the Cadillac brand, but it would not be specifically branded as a Cadillac vehicle. The car was launched in May 1981 with high expectations.

Market Reaction and Brand Impact

Quite simply, the Cimarron did not attract customers.  Customers easily determined that the car was a re-badged Cavalier.  As a result, just over 25,000 units were sold in 1982 - just 1/3 of expectations.  

However, the impact to the Cadillac brand was much more severe.  Although Cadillac used brand endorsement to try and gain the positive associations of the Cadillac brand while not completely claiming the car to be a “true Cadillac”, consumers readily identified the car as a Cadillac.  The existence of the car in the Cadillac portfolio had a large detrimental impact on the rest of the lineup and the perceived brand image of the entire company.  Consumers began to question the quality of the entire lineup due to the existence of this one model. Over the coming years, the share of Cadillac declined rapidly - a result which many automotive historians attribute to the brand dilution that was caused by the Cimarron.


By misunderstanding Cadillac’s brand manifold - that Cadillacs had to be uniquely designed, premium cars - Cadillac severely damaged its brand with the brand endorsement strategy of the Cimarron. The company misread the importance of the gas economy improvements, although the customers wanted improvements in fuel economy, they still wanted a “Cadillac”.  

Since the Cimarron was not a true “Cadillac”, the car did not fit into the company’s portfolio and the existence of the car within the brand ecosystem brought down the entire level of the brand.  This should serve as a cautionary tale for any company which is considering using brand endorsement as a way to lightly endorse a product which does not completely match the brand’s position.

Singapore Airlines: Perfect English, No Singlish Please - It’s the small details that make giants in the sky!

Singapore Airlines (SIA) has built its brand over the years through its razor sharp focus on customer service. The company has taken many strategic decisions to position itself differently from competition. 

The following are some of the key actions the company took to create an image of service excellence! 

1. Perfect English, No Singlish: Attention to detail is SIA’s forte and for this reason one won’t hear phrases like “Wa Lao”,  “I fly SQ lah”, “Kiasu” from a flight attendant on an SIA flight, well atleast while they are performing their service duties as the airline places a special emphasis on communication skills and ensuring a universally understood language is spoken by its staff to build strong relationships with customers. But that doesn’t mean you can’t learn the beautiful Singlish language if you want to on the flight, because the flight staff is more than friendly and ready to teach you! 

2. The Singapore Girl: Even though SIA is trying to move away from the Singapore Girl image, it is what established its brand of excellent service in the first place. A happy, smiling, cheerful girl wearing a traditional dress became a symbol of the airline in the air for many years and the face of its ad campaigns. 

3. Investment on Recruitment & Employee behaviors: A very selective recruitment strategy and a very rigorous training program ensured that the quality of service remained high. The level of detail given to constructing a positive image extended beyond the presence in an aircraft where a Singapore Girl was encouraged to not do things in public that would affect the image of the airlines detrimentally e.g. smoking etc. 

4. Faster Aircraft Upgrades: SIA is known to depreciate its aircraft much faster on its books and also to replace them with the 6 year period, which is much faster than most of the competition (with the exception of Emirates). With newer aircrafts and SIA’s ability to save money by being first trial user of new aircrafts the airline not only improves customer satisfaction as passengers enjoy traveling on newer, safer and more modern planes but also reduces costs of aircraft acquisition resulting in higher profitability while driving up customer retention.  

5. Premium Travel Experience: Another decision that helps SIA maintain a high level of customer satisfaction and keep existing customers coming back is its ability to offer a premium experience to even economy class passengers through attention to small details e.g. additional meal selection choices, customizable service and exclusive priviliges not available on other airlines. 

Source: Singapore Airlines Website 

6. Strong Customer Feedback Loop: SIA’s decision to not rest on its laurels was reflected by its ability to launch Silk Air when customers demanded cheaper budget flights for nearby locations like Malaysia, Thailand etc. Another important feedback mechanism that the company uses is the compliment and complaints ratios which is evaluated and treated with utmost importance. The company is transparent too as it shares this information with its customers too, both good and bad. This builds up trust and drives loyalty by attracting more members to the KrisFlyer program as well.

However, after building such a strong brand image and reputation for service, SIA faces many challenges too!

Brand Challenges: (1) SIA’s image as a premium service provider, means high investment is needed to marginally please customers and to ensure consistency e.g. customers may make complaints only on an SIA flight but not on another flight just because they are used to much higher standards. (2) As more and more competitors start operating on the routes SIA operates in, it will have to look to reduce costs to remain competitive and that means less cash on hand to replace inventory e.g. this was already reflected by SIA’s decision to change its depreciation model, even though it still depreciates planes faster than competition. Or SIA will need to partner with more airlines to operate newer routes and the quality of partners can negatively affect SIA’s brand. (3) There is a constant need to reinvent the brand to stay more relevant to the current generation and the Singapore Girl is effective but further brand identity is needed to identify with different customer groups as the world becomes more globalized.  

In summary, having lived in Singapore for 1/3 of my life, and having frequently used SIA and many other airlines, I still believe SIA is one of the best airlines out there just due to its ability to focus on the small details that make a huge difference! The ad below just shows how great an airline SIA is and how it uses a personal touch to empathize with different cultures: 

Source: Singapore Airlines - Youtube Channel


Like many of my classmates, my reaction to the peanut butter slice concept was somewhat visceral–it just seemed wrong. Another food product that just seems wrong to me? Soylent. So let’s take it through Rogers’ five factors.

Relative Advantage - debatable, in my view, though perhaps subjective is the better word. It definitely scores points in the convenience category and it claims to meet all our nutritional needs, but one could eat just as healthfully by eating normal foods. And personally, as a fan of chewing, liquid meals don’t really do it for me.

Compatibility - this is one of the forces I think Soylent will struggle with, and you can already see the dealing with it in this video. The opening scene of the video, the narrator flatly states “Soylent is food” and the visuals attempt to portray Soylent as being just as “social” as regular food. Later on, the narrator references three “familiar” macronutrients (though it’s questionable whether most people know what macronutrients are). From there, the video ping pongs back and forth between the familiar (Soy! Beets!) and the technical (Amino acid profile scores! Algae fermentation tanks!), seemingly trying to educate and make consumers feel comfortable at the same time.

Complexity - unlike traditional foods that we have come to recognize (when you see broccoli, you don’t really need someone to explain what’s in it), consumers need to be educated on what Soylent is. The company clearly recognizes this, opening the video with the line “What is Soylent?” After assuring viewers that Soylent is, indeed, food, the video gets into a fairly technical explanation of calorie counts, nutritional percentages, nutrient lists, and even an explanation of the bottling process. Toto, we’re not selling potato chips anymore.

Trialability - two words: free samples. Food products and consumer packaged goods are among the easiest for consumers to sample on a limited basis, especially if affordable, which is good for a product as unfamiliar and different as Soylent. Check.

Observability - it’s certainly not hard to see that someone is consuming Soylent if they’re in your line of sight, but it remains to be seen if observation will take place outside the realm of start-up focused millennials that seem to be talking the most about the product. The packaging is also pretty understated, so it may not even be clear to observers that the product they’re seeing is Soylent unless they get close or ask. Still, I give Soylent a check on observability.

Bottom line: Soylent wins in the trialability and observability categories, and perhaps in the relative advantage category (for some consumers). For now, however, my feeling towards Soylent is still: 

Fast but unsustainable diffusion

Have you ever felt like you were the last one to get your hands on a new viral product? I know when I was a kid, I was one of the last people to get a Tomagachi, the digital pet. What allowed this product to penetrate the tween market so quickly? Rogers’ Five Factors establishes a framework for analyzing the rate of diffusion for a new product. The framework looks at 5 characteristics:  relative advantage, compatibility, complexity, trialability, and observability. The stronger the product addresses each of these categories, the faster it is likely to diffuse in the market. In the case of the Tomagachi, I actually think observability was the biggest driver. There was extreme peer pressure and social credibility if you had one of these Tomagachi’s.

However, one important aspect that Rogers does not address, the sustainability of the diffusion. In the case of the Tomagachi, it did not really offer a clear benefit over time—it was entertainment. New toys came and went, including the Tomagachi. I believe that the advantage and compatibility are key attributes for establishing sustainable diffusion in the market. The telephone may have taken a long time to diffuse in the market, but once the hurdles were addressed, the relative advantage and compatibility factors dominated.

Now let’s look at a few products in the case and analyze the expected penetration::

Slow, steady penetration but strong sustainability in the market: Satellite radio

Penetration for satellite radio is slow because of the difficulty in trying and observing. You can really only try it and observe it if you have a satellite capable radio. Satellite radio offered an advantage over traditional radio—less commercial, better sound quality, and consistent channels across the nation. However, once the satellite market penetrated the auto industry, the trail became very easy. Now I suspect that this market will be a sustainable product because there are advantages to the product and the trial hurdle has been significantly lowered.

Low penetration but sustainability possible: Silver bandages

I think the biggest issue is trialability due to customer education and the lack of awareness about the manufacturer. The bandage seems to offer improved healing, but how can you explain that to the customer who will spend a few minutes in the bandage aisle picking from hundreds of products? J&J has a clear advantage because they are a household name. If J&J acquires Westaim or the licensing rights for the product, then I would be more optimistic about the potential penetration. Since there is a clinical benefit, if the customers takes the time to research the product, I expect the bandage can carve out a place in the market. 

No Penetration: Sliced Peanut Butter

I consider this an epic fail. Consumers love the soft, creamy peanut butter you can just eat out of the jar. You often want to eat it with a banana or spread it on a piece of bread. The slice looks like the peanut butter is 20 years old and became stale. Also, how do you get it to form a slice? Must be a lot of chemicals! In terms of Rogers’ Five Factors, this sliced bread did not align with the compatibility of the market. It also was offering no real advantage over regular peanut butter. Yes, sometimes you rip the bread when you spread peanut butter, but how are you supposed to spread the firm slice of plastic-like peanut butter? On the other hand, dried peanut butter was later launched for people that are looking for a lower calorie option and for a way to add the flavor to smoothies. That clearly offers an advantage.
How Mazda, Improbably, Is Leading The Field In Fuel Economy With Cars That Are Actually Fun
With a stunning fleet-wide rating of 42.3 mpg, Mazda has managed to pull off the greatest fuel economy heist in the industry without compromising power or performance, or adding expensive tech that would price their vehicles out of many buyers’ reach. Is this the year that Mazda gains the notoriety and customers it deserves?

Not only does Mazda have good fuel economy - but its also fun to drive! Miata branding has helped it differentiate it from competitors - Zoom Zoom  

What’s under the hood?

I’m originally from Texas, but after high school, I moved 1,500 miles away to attend college at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, NJ. When I moved off campus my sophomore year, I shipped my car up so that I could have a little more freedom. I love adventures, and it was great being able to explore areas of New Jersey, New York, or Pennsylvania that I had never been to before. As is typical with cars, I needed some routine maintenance and decided to head to the car shop down the street for an oil change and to make sure everything looked ok. I think that is probably exactly what I said to the employee sitting at the desk, “I need an oil change and can you just take a look and make sure everything looks ok?” Not one hour later, the mechanic working on my car brought me back and listed out every single thing that was wrong with my car. I can’t list the problems here because, honestly, I didn’t understand what he said in the first place, and he knew it. What was supposed to be a $45 oil change soon turned into $750 worth of maintenance and repairs that had to be done right away. I immediately called my dad, went through the list with him, and eventually just gave the mechanic my phone so that he and my dad could deal with the car situation. The picture below is not me, but it’s probably a pretty good representation of what I looked like when I called my dad. 

I am lucky I have my dad and can call him to ask for advice when I have absolutely no idea what people are talking about. I am not good with cars and I know it, but I also know that I can sometimes see a mechanic’s eyes flash dollar signs when I walk through the door. I am definitely not saying that mechanics are dishonest people by any means, but I do understand that it can be a little easier to sell me on maintenance when it may not be absolutely necessary because 1. I haven’t taken the time to learn about cars and 2. I am influenced by the bad things that could happen if I don’t have the repairs done, like getting stuck on the side of a highway. 

Intel has taken a similar approach when it comes to selling their microprocessors. Through consumer surveys and market research, the company realized that consumers did not know or understand what was under the “hood” of the desktop. As long as the computer worked, they were happy as could be. But through their Intel Inside Campaign, the company was able to influence their customers and have them believe that they needed the latest and greatest processor. I’m sure there were more than a few conversations that went something like, "The processor you have right now is old and needs to be replaced, but don’t worry, we have the brand new [insert model here] which is the most advanced processor on the market and twice as fast as the one you have here.” Consumers didn’t always know better, so they had to trust the experts. It’s really a genius campaign that has been hugely successful for the company. It just makes me wonder how many transactions occurred and how much money was spent when it was really unnecessary at the time. 

Case: Burberry

Speaking of heritage. Still at it almost two decades later: Burberry Creative Director Christopher Bailey, photographer Mario Testino (who photographed Will and Kate’s engagement…can’t get more “British + heritage” than that), and longtime English model Kate Moss. With the addition of English new superstar Cara Delevingne (11.3 million followers on Instagram). 

This quote, at the end of the case, struck a chord:

“Everyone is a competitor now. Even Target is a competitor. People shop everywhere; high income people shop at discount warehouses and middle-income people shop at luxury retailers.”

A few months ago, I started primary market research for Bleums, and quickly noted that willingness to pay is not determined by a higher income bracket. Especially in NYC, where people are willing to wear Prada (or, Burberry) to save on cost of living in a rental apartment far far away from the island of Manhattan; it is no longer so easy to determine the appropriate market segment. Our persona for Bleums could be the 35+ year old female with a personal income of at least 150K, who beaches in Turks & Caicos and brunches at The Modern. But, it could just as easily be the 25-year-old who aspires to be the next Eva Chen, and invests in fancy floral gifts to build relationships. And who’s to say the former or latter can’t pick up bodega flowers, Whole Foods flowers, or flowers from a competitor with bottom of the barrel prices, to gift to others? Is there a stigma associated with gifting lower priced items if there’s value? Are luxury floral gifts still of value in a competitive landscape of cheaper options? Finding a target segment does not prove to be so easy after all.

Burberry, in smart fashion, notes this and has positioned the brand for several segments. Burberry’s head of menswear explains, “We’re very cross-generational. We want to appeal to the young, 25-year-old guy who’s on his first job - the guy who wants to wear something really hot, but we also want to appeal to a 60-year-old investment banker - the guy who wants great quality and a modern, classic look.“ Rather than pinpointing one beachhead, should Bleums do the same? Could we have cross generational appeal in product, packaging, and placement; cross gender appeal in shopping experience; and cross income appeal in price (low to high)? We have to consider the competition, and strategize on 2nd mover advantage, as a west coast VC-backed flower company segues into the NYC market next month. But we also have to position the brand specifically, and create a compelling value proposition, similar to how Burberry promoted “accessible luxury.” 

Quickly, in the news, Burberry’s recent misstep in China:

15.846 Branding Lab Progress Report - Mass Mutual

Team Brandonomics: Ramon Cerdeiras, Jose Pablo Fernández, Peter McCall (@pllm), Francisco Mejía, Natalie Pitcher (@natpitchbranding), Carlos Sánchez

Our understanding of the project set-up and scope

MassMutual is a leading financial services company, with products mainly focused around insurance (life, disability, long term care) and retirement. The Company is over 160 years old and is well positioned within Generation X. Millennials today, however, represent a population of 92 million Americans, about 30% of the population and more than 50% of the working force. MassMutual needs to refocus its brand strategy to attract and build relationships with these Millennials. MassMutual needs to understand what its value proposition, strengths and weakness to the new generation should be to best position the company for success.

Proposed methodology and progress to date

We expect to conduct an analysis focused on several axes:

- Understanding Millennial purchasing and behavioral habits (particularly in areas related to financial services)

- Understanding the relationship between Millennials and financial services

- Understanding where MassMutual stands today, its customers and the public’s perception of the company, as well as where it should position itself

- Benchmarking best practices among financial services providers (both incumbents and startups) in building successful relationships with Millennials

- Assessing options for MassMutual to reposition its brand - building brand awareness and authenticity with Millennials (based on team strategic assessment and survey results)

- Recommending a plan for MassMutual, including creative brief and promotion plan

- Highlighting risks and threats of the proposed approach

As of April 28th, we have started gaining a better understanding of Millennials’ habits and their relationship with financial services. In addition, we have started to collect information on best practices in the current competitive landscape. In particular, we are focusing our analysis on one of MassMutual’s competitors, Geico, and its successful marketing strategy.

In order to fulfill the project objectives, we have decided to proceed by using surveys as random experimental technique. Next steps include launching the survey to generate data, followed by data processing and analysis. Using the strategic information collected, we will develop the creative brief and assess the main risks and threats to the proposed approach.

Team responsible member per component

1. Problem set-up: Peter McCall

2. Consumer Insights/ Survey: Carlos Sanchez

3. Positioning Map: Jose Pablo Fernandez

4. Adoption assessment: Ramon Cerdeiras

5. Communications Strategy: Natalie Pitcher

6.  Risks and threats: Francisco Mejía

The power of a strong brand equity - the beyhive

After Beyonce released her visual album “Lemonade” and once again broke the internet, it seems as though social medias everywhere have been filled with talks about Beyonce: the brilliance, the wrongdoing, the conspiracy theories. I was struck by the reaction of the “Beyhive” toward a woman who is thought as being a Beyonce’s enemy. She has been treated extremely poorly by complete strangers, a behavior that is quite honestly close to bullying. As the Beyonce movement grows over the years, I am constantly amazed by how dedicated and loyal her fans are. They do not hesitate to go the extra length and defend her tooth and nails. As I read this class article about the power of brand equity and the consequences of the actions of people who love or hate your brand, I cannot think of a better example. Beyonce has developed an extremely strong brand equity over the years to the point where her fans now have their own brand and identity. Although this shows the brilliance of the Beyonce’s marketing team, is that positive or negative in the long term?