Sunday, 3 December 2006

----personalising the brand...

Here are some questions i am grappling with-

Why are some brands ‘cult’/ ‘cool’/ ‘sexy’ and other not so? What can I expect of my brand? Are there limits to what it can achieve? How do I measure this limit?

What makes an ipod or Nokia so cool and talked about. And a Michelin, that for a 120 years, has been chugging along never thought of as a great brand?

Is it the quality of brand management?
Or is it the category?

Perhaps it is just that miniaturisation and technology has opened up categories like the telephone and music player into things that are carried around and that are useful today in expressing one’s own personality- like a hairdo…or nail coloring or a can of Coke or a pack of cigarettes was in the past. To be a ‘killer brand’, the brand must participate in the consumer making a personal expression.

Within this constraint, the marketing elements can be mixed for enhancing the impact:
- The Ipod has a fixed form- it then uses other marketing elements to create an image that is aspirational and invites participation.
- Nokia- the form changes frequently- the brand uses form innovation to create participation.
- Question- What should Google be doing?

Does this mean then , that for a brand to be cool today, it must necessarily extend itself to this ‘personal extension’ category to develop its ‘coolness’. Then use the Halo effect to the other categories of the brand? Eg – Michelin uses its lifestyle products to become ‘cult’, and have this effect rub off on its primary business of tyres. Or HP using the line “making the PC more personal” establishing more intimacy with the consumer?

In the 60s, consumer brands high on quality became well known.

Then, with time, quality was no longer a differentiator- so quality along with Innovation was key to build a brand.

Today, quality and innovation are both not enough. The brand must make a personal expression of the user. Otherwise, strong as it may be, it can never become cult.

Does this explain why cola brand got so well established years ago. Because in a bottle, they could always be carried around. People expressed their choices and their personalities with Coke? Or Marlboro. Something they could not do with a Sony TV, but got around to with a walkman.

Question: Is the portable Play Station therefore a great platform to develop the PS brand as cult among gamers?

With the advent of miniaturisation, we carry a lot of accessories/ electronics/ that we could not have. Personal expression finds its way into a lot of things now.

Implication :

Michelin can be the benchmark among tyre brands/ car brands and other purchases with a similar purchase window/ industry promise (quality and innovation every few years).

But it cannot be as chic as an LVMH or iPod.

The other problem likely is that as more cateories are personalised, consumer spending will be diverted there. Consumers will likely be more brand aware in these categories, diverting money away from say a Sony notebook and settling for a Dell - using the difference to fund ‘personalised categories’ such as newer models of phones/ music and video players/ gaming devices.

- to continue. 1/12/2006.

Saturday, 2 December 2006


What’s in this name?

This brand is a contradiction to me. Each time I think of Sony ,I am reminded of its high quality and success as a consumer brand. Led by the category of TVs. But then , more with the Walkman- it was the ‘must have’ brand of the 80s.

And to me, it has since failed. It missed some key emerging categories- mp3 players/ mobile phones…all that could have gained from its expertise in miniaturisation. Categories that are so personal, so important in the expression of individuality. Brands that help me express myself/ create my personal space/ even as I participate in a busy life- those are the brands I stick with. And here, Sony is missing.

Sony has instead placed its bets on notebooks. On Play Stations. On a new DVD format. But Sony operates in consumer goods categories where it is getting out manoeuvred in the ‘cool factor’. In an ‘open standards’ world, LG/ Samsung and Philips have all achieved the level of quality Sony promises. The ‘wow’ that Sony achieved with its Walkman is missing now from its offerings.

I would still be very happy to receive a Sony as a gift. But would I want to spend my own money on it?


The brand name itself, while sounding exotic, is abstract. The font Nokia as it appears in advertising, is solid, appears dependable and to the point. Nothing frivolous about it.

Not so long ago, the brand was the category. And because the category of cell phones was so novel and sexy, Nokia became the epitome of cool. It helps that among all the phones I have tried, a Nokia phone remains the easiest to navigate and use.

In my view Nokia suffered a double blow with the advent of the ‘clam’ shaped phones from Sansung and the Motorola Razr. Nokia was ‘out-cool’ed. It was not the benchmark in design.

But moving quickly, Nokia now offers eye catching phones; phones for the business user (competing more directly with the Blackberry) and is attempting to catch the mass market in India/ Chine with cheaper/ more robust designs. The brand is spreading its appeal, yet remaining at cutting edge of cool.

This is interesting for me. A Nokia Sirocco range which is clearly great design/ exclusive and looks ‘aspirational’. A Nokia for business which crams business utility on a phone. And the more ‘mass market ‘options, which continue to offer great value and feed off the ‘aspirational’ top end range.

A cell phone helps make a personal point. My Nokia is different from your Nokia. But that’s because I am different from you. Nokia has made it easy for us to accept that difference and flaunt it proudly. Is that then the key to establishing a brand today?