Many brands have demonstrated that they can last forever. Examples are Sony, Xerox, American Express, Mercedes-Benz, Kellogg, Colgate, Ford, Goodyear, Gillette, Kleenex, Disney, Nokia, IBM, Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Pepsi, Rolex, BMW, Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar, Apple, Harley-Davidson, Volkswagen, Coca-Cola, Budweiser, Kraft, Hertz, IKEA, and so on. The reason they survive and thrive is that they have a clear vision, strategy, and right execution with continual innovation. Long-term success depends on the skill and insight of the marketers involved in managing the brand over time. Successful brands use a two-pronged strategy: a product-oriented approach and a market-oriented approach.
1. Product-oriented approach
A successful brand must have a superior product, a clear core value with a point of difference, and be built around emotion. To reach the target audience who live in a world saturated with brands, a successful brand includes the following steps:
(a) Its brand message is simple and clear. It speaks to the consumers clearly. For example, Kleenex’s identity is a “disposable handkerchief”.1
(b) It differentiates itself from its major competitors. For example, Apple creates products that look different, it has an operating system different from its competitor’s, and it advertises differently.2
(c) Its brand message is believable and it delivers what it promises. For example, the Slogan of FedEx, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight,” is a believable statement.3 It delivers its promise to its consumers.
(d) Its brand message is relevant to its target audience, who want to know what is in it for them. For example, Johnson & Johnson put customers’ safety first in its handling of the two Tylenol crises. Consumers know that the primary concern of the company is their safety and health.4
(e) Its brand message is consistent. For example, IKEA’s core value of “democratic Design” has remained the same over decades.5
2. Market-oriented approach
In the course of a brand’s existence, its positioning must change to keep pace with market development. A successful company knows that a market’s evolutionary path is affected by emerging needs, technology, channels, competitors and other factors. The company must continually utilize marketing research to help decide if it needs to add new product attributes.6
I will use American Express as an example to support my position. American Express was founded in 1850 and began as an express freight company. In the 1880s, it moved into finance, transferring funds from the European settlers in America to their families back home. In 1891, it launched its first innovation– traveler’s checks, revolutionizing both the travel and finance industries. In 1958, it launched its second innovation—the American Express card. For the past 50 years, the American Express card has been portrayed as a symbol of status. Its famous slogan is, “Membership has its privileges.” In recent years, it has changed from an exclusive to an inclusive brand.
People now use an American Express card to pay for their rent. Today, American Express is still the most respected service brand.7 American Express has a clear vision, strategy, and right execution with innovation. It utilizes the product-oriented approach to demonstrate it has superior products and core values with a point of difference. Its brand message is clear, believable, relevant, and consistent. It also utilizes the market-oriented approach to position itself to keep pace with the market development and to add new attributes to its products and services. The example of American Express clearly demonstrates that brands can live forever.
1. Matt Haig, Brand Royalty (London: Kogan Page Press, 2004), 46.
2. Ibid., 191.
3. Ibid., 283.
4. Ibid., 158.
5. Ibid., 209.
6. Philip Kotler and Kevin Keller, Marketing Management, 12th ed. (Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Education, Inc., 2005), 331-35.
7. Haig, Brand Royalty, 17-18.