Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: One Brand Good, Two Brands Better

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: One Brand Good, Two Brands Better

Article excerpt

Too often marketers confuse big, famous brands with brilliant brand strategies.

Many of the most iconic brands were built decades ago and their approach to brand-building can be average at best. By the same token, sometimes the most boring and indistinct companies are building their brands right now with strategies that are deserving of our attention and emulation.

So in a break from the norm, I'm going to ignore big brand cliches such as Manchester United, Disney and Coca-Cola and tell you about a little-known company with a very successful branding strategy. Carl Zeiss is a German optico-electronic supplier. It generates global sales of more than pounds 3bn from a presence in industries ranging from semi-conductors and consumer optics to microscopy. Its corporate brand positioning is unsophisticated and blunt. No wheels, pyramids or complex Venn diagrams for Zeiss - just four words: 'We make it visible'.

Zeiss' brand-building began because of its expertise in lens production.

Throughout the history of camera manufacturing Zeiss has provided, on a very selective basis, the lenses for some of the world's most advanced cameras. In 1995, Sony was engaged in a major strategic push into the camera market. As cameras began to shrink, the demands on the lenses were rising and Sony made Zeiss a key component supplier for its cameras. Soon this relationship evolved in a manner entirely consistent with the German company's brand positioning. Rather than simply being a Sony component, the Zeiss name began to appear on all of its cameras. Co-branding had begun.

Co-branding describes the strategic combination of different brand equities to generate synergies. The permutations and motivations for co-branding are potentially endless. For example, an older brand often partners with a younger, more fashionable one. The older brand gains notoriety and access to a more youthful market, the younger brand gains status and general market share. In the case of Zeiss and Sony, both partners had much to gain. Sony bolstered its brand associations of technical legitimacy and specialist expertise from Zeiss, while Zeiss gained brand awareness and customer-centricity from appearing on more than 10m Sony cameras around the world.

Zeiss was not finished there. In April, Nokia announced that its cameraphones would feature Zeiss lenses, and that the Zeiss brand would appear on every handset. …

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