Brand Management Dilemma: Grow, But Don’t Kill the Core

I think, in retrospect, we may have tried too hard to attract new guests. That left some of our fans shaking their heads, asking ‘What happened to Applebee’s?’

Patrick Lenow (VP Communications and Public Affairs, DineEquity – August 10, 2017)


That’s an eye-opening, unusually direct assessment. There’s even more blunt analysis from Applebee’s president.

First, let’s set the stage with some framing thoughts on brand management.

A Quick Primer – What To Do and Not Do

It’s a constant dilemma and challenge: how to expand the appeal of brand x and/or position it for growth without alienating existing customers and destroying the core business.

Depending on the type of product or service, many actions can be implemented, such as: product upgrades, promoting secondary usage, launching new products, stimulating growth of the overall category, expanding distribution channels, developing brand refresh/renovation tactics, or even complete repositioning.

JCPenney failed.

Domino’s seems to have had success.

Hardees/Carl’s Jr. is trying to reboot their image and brand positioning.

Effective brand management requires smart discipline. To borrow from Ringo Starr, it don’t come easy.

► Building brands is a process, which requires steady, disciplined hands at the helm. It can take time and money. Unfortunately, steady discipline, time and money can be in short supply in CEO suites and boardrooms where results are measured short-term in weeks and quarters. Plus, marketing teams themselves can fall victim to a lack of steady discipline on occasion. Continue reading

Packaging Has Strategic Role in Brand Refresh/Renovation

There’s an old marketing adage: when a new brand manager arrives, get ready for a package design change.

While there may be some historical truth to that expression, its use typically conveyed a sarcastic, shallow and derogatory view of marketing. Hopefully, such thinking has dissipated, because packaging is a critical success factor to maintain brand health and relevance. And, those marketers and business leaders who take a disciplined, strategic approach with packaging have a distinct advantage.

This brings me to Arrowhead Mills, a brand of Hain Celestial.

While brand management personnel may have changed over the years, the company’s view of packaging as a strategic, brand-management driver has not. This year, Arrowhead Mills has been phasing-in a complete redesign across categories, including cold cereal.

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Don’t Retreat Marketers. Ben Franklin to the Rescue.

What the heck is going on in the business world?

Judging by all the negative stories, one would think that a plague of incompetence has afflicted commercial teams across the country.

However, beyond the obvious blunders (e.g., United and airport security personnel), some of the backlash is a bit perplexing.

Are corporations and their marketing teams failing at higher rates or is something else going on?

I suggest the latter. That’s partly because social media has, for better and for worse, totally disrupted the way so many now get and process their information.

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Gatorade’s High-Tech, Sweat-Reading Vending Machine Delivers Brand Positioning

For the Gatorade marketing team, the old adage “never let them see you sweat” does not apply.

Quite the opposite.

Credit: Gatorade.

Credit: Gatorade.

The Gatorade brand is all about sweat and countering its effects on the body. For the past three years, Gatorade has activated marketing around the “sweat it to get it” idea.

Now, Gatorade’s team in India has evolved the idea with a high-tech vending machine that dispenses free bottles of Gatorade to workout warriors. It’s technology powered marketing that delivers positioning and product benefits in a fun, content-friendly activity that’s well-suited for social media and mobile Internet sharing. Continue reading

Smart Differentiation Powers Wholesale Fish Purveyor

You wouldn’t expect to hear “differentiation” and “wholesale fish” in the same sentence.

Until now.

Credit: Red's Best.

Credit: Red’s Best.

Boston entrepreneur Jared Auerbach created a company that brands wholesale fish under the Red’s Best name. He’s combined brand management, technology, a keen understanding of end users and storytelling to craft his go-to-market business strategy: Continue reading