Magazine article Marketing

Distinct or Extinct

Magazine article Marketing

Distinct or Extinct

Article excerpt

In an increasingly competitive environment, if you brand isn't unique, chances are it will die. Robert Dwek talks to leading brand specialists about the 'core-full', the 'core-less' and the world of brand protection

It's a story that's set to run and run. Reports of the death of the brand have dominated the headlines for much of the 90s. Initially, it was all tied up with recession and price-busting new competition. But, as the R-word recedes, a less hysterical appraisal of the situation is possible. The new reality is that brands are living in a more competitive environment. To survive, their owners must continuously reassess what it is about their brands that makes them unique.

Design consultancy Butcher & Gundersen has been on the road preaching the gospel of good brand management to marketing departments up and down the land.

"We've been overwhelmed by the level of the response," says B&G account director Leo Beaumont. "The issue of brand protection has rapidly become the issue of our times and clients are desperate to hear good advice on the subject."

B&G's advice is based on ten group discussions carried out towards the end of last year with married women consumers (working and non-working) whose collective shopping takes in all the major supermarkets.

The research revealed a confirmation of the importance of brand equities (or "assets") and the ability to pinpoint which aspects of a brand are fundamental to its identity and which can be discarded (or copied) without sacrificing its uniqueness. What also emerged was the vulnerability of many apparently well-established brands.

In B&G's view, a brand's assets, the things which define its uniqueness, can be broken down into three types: instant recognition; specific product attributes; and specific imagery.

All three are strengths because they show that the brand is valuable, they reassure the consumer and they are consistent. Good examples of asset-rich brands would be Toilet Duck, with its unique pack shape, and Homepride flour with its image-rich crossover from TV to pack of the famous baker character.

Things which undermine a brand, its weaknesses, are rarely ownable, are easily transferable from one brand to another, and often come to be seen as sector rather than brand equities. An example here would be McVitie's Digestives, with its prominent use of red laying it open to attack from copycats. Beaumont sums up: "A brand core is essential for self-protection."

The following are some B&G examples of core-full and core-less branding:

Kellogg's Corn Flakes: Core-full. …

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