Archive for category Brand Management

Run your way to a Successful brand….

This week has been an exciting week for me having settled in my new home, ready to embrace the challenges and the joy that comes with it. And today I want to shed more light of what a successful brand is and how you can position yourself in a market that is marred by mediocrity and too much neck to neck competition as you run your way to greater heights of success.

What is a brand?

And this is one question that has been misconceived time and time again because of branding being associated with the visible aspect of a logo, a sign or any other visible media.

“I have a logo so I have a brand…I have a stand up banner in my office and this is my brand… etc ”

The logo and other visible media is part of the branding process that encompasses a bigger picture…which starts from the software –the strategy in itself all the way to the hardware –the visible media which includes the logo.

There have been various definitions of what a brand is from different respected authorities but personally I consider a brand as an identifiable identity that makes specific promises of value. I usually liken a brand to a person who can make a promise, converse with the environment and basically build a long lasting relationship. And for me that is what I look for in any brand.

What then is a successful brand?

A successful brand is: one that has the ability to sell more goods/services, to more people, at the right price, (creating a wonderful experience along the way), for a longer period of time.

Nothing more nothing less.

And this has to happen not in the business itself but around it, creating a memorable experience both in the hearts and minds of consumers, a story that will last for a very long time or even forever.

How do we achieve a successful brand ?

1.  Differentiation

“The greatest challenges for brands in today’s market is not that they won’t be heard; it’s that they will be met with great indifference”… Abbey Mokstwane.

And this tops my list. A successful brand is one which is highly differentiated not in the market but the consumers mind. The market as we know it has evolved so much in the last five years, bringing complexity along with it , complexity arising from the evolution of the average mind. This is partly due to the rise of the information age attributable to technology and the change in the Kenyan social set up , namely the Gen y, social media , politics ,globalization, the green factor and many other factors .

Hence brands need to be part of the change or face extinction. They actually need to own an idea in the consumers mind and not in the market creating what is called brand saliency “the ability of a brand to be embedded in the consumers mind and lifestyle”

Differentiation is nothing new and has been there for ages. The only reason that brand experts are being vocal about it is so that brands can have a better competitive age in a new playing field called the consumers mind.

2.  Innovation

“Products are made in the factory ,but great brands are made in the mind”…anonymous

Is your brand surviving or THRIVING? Are you avoiding a potential tragedy with a healthy brand STRATEGY? These are questions that can only be addressed when innovation becomes your main mantra.

Branding is giving consumers what they expect and Innovation is giving consumers what they don’t expect. Mixing the two you have an iconic brand.

Starbucks has been the main talk this month’s as regards to their new logo which has brought with it mixed reactions. Personally I liked the idea of the siren coming out of her ring; ready to take her world which denotes growth, as she eyes new business and fulfilling unmet customer needs.

The mixed reactions was not really Starbucks new image but the idea that Starbucks loyalists were to over protective of the brand they called their own, a brand journeying to an unknown business frontier.

If you ask me, as long as an idea makes business sense being informed with proper research, then the leap to the unknown MUST be encouraged and kudos to Starbucks.

People must realize that brand strategy is part of the overall business strategy and care must be taken when aligning the two. In this day age we must we need business leaders who maintain a leverage between brand and business strategy.

“When marketers rely on customers to tell them whether a new offering can fit within their understanding of the brand, we again fail to see what is possible and limit ourselves to what is probable”…Brand VanAuken, Brand strategist.

The bottom line is INNOVATE OR DIE.

Join me next week as I highlight three other main pointers of what makes a successful brand.

Have a fabulous weekend.

Yours in Branding



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The Two main Things to avoid this New Year.

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A happy new year to all my readers this 2011 and it’s my prayer that this year will be a year full of wonderful opportunities especially for us in the branding industry.

I must confess my conspicuous absence in the blogosphere for a couple of  few months and this was necessitated by a personal need to listen more and speak less  as I observe the goings on of an industry characterised  but a lot of developments during 2010.

Hence I have decided to break the silence and take a different route this month; to help you focus on what not to do this year, initiating you into a school of thought buoyed by more learning, more reflection as we break the conventional barrier of traditional branding techniques experienced over time.

And that will be my main area of focus today, the two simple brand habits killing our industry over the last three years.


Lets find out.


In Branding, consistency is King. Period.

Whether we are in 2011 or 2057, consistency is the currency that ushers richness to wealth.

I was very excited for airtel when they came into our country with their winds of change freedom (or the lets feel free) gospel. And they never disappointed me since their concept was driven by freshness and the thinking out of the box idea, an idea I must say was well thought of. But what they should be very careful is consistency in their execution. Displaying on big bill boards of how they will de-congest us from congestion is one wrong route they should never have taken in the first place. Its one thing to de-congest us from congestion and its another thing to offer freedom.

And that is one mistake you should never do in branding; focusing on the means instead of the end. What they should now focus more is how they will articulate their freedom Gospel into the Kenyan populace with a step by step plan or furthermore show us how they will locally position such a big powerful global brand to fit the shoes of the average Kenyan while still maintaining their global appeal if they are to out stage big players like Safaricom.

And the same goes for social media and the excitement it brought along in 2010. A lot of brands are now focusing their energies on the medium instead of the message/objective in the first place. Being on face book, having a twitter account or being on LinkedIn will not do the trick.

The main question will be why should I adopt social media and for what objectives (or should I use social media in the first place), rather than adopting it as a means to an end which is not defined in the first place.

And that goes both ways. Even if you play bright and focus on the light , always know that a tunnel exists.


Predictably is what I saw when banks produced almost  one consistent message in an average of three years; what I call “the song of a Kenyan friend” initiated by the revolutionaries; Equity Bank.

Consider these taglines from the following banks:

  1. Equity Bank-Listening, Caring, Financial Partner
  2. Consolidated bank:-Growing with YOU.
  3. Credit Bank-My friend,My bank.
  4. Family- With YOU for life.

I like the idea of banks breaking away from their traditional serious image they have been associated with all along .But their evolvement shouldn’t be predictable for all of them at the same time.

“The song of a Kenyan friend ” , goes something like this ; “I’m a friend  who will grow with you, walk with you, listen to you ,be with you forever and ever, and this time for good”.

So please if you are another bank rebranding this year be aware that we know you want to be our friend hence do it with a touch of difference and don’t overate it.

To live a legacy in branding never be predictable. And history will love you forever.

(Read an article I wrote titled what I learn from the brand called Apple)

Kenyan Brands are undergoing a lot of metamorphosis over the last few years and its my prayer that both the big fish and the SME will raise the standards this 2011.

Any brand habits to avoid this year? Talk to me.

See you next week.

Yours in Branding.


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Brand Strategy: The Mercedes story!

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Hi! My name is Eric and I’m a Mercedes Benz Fanatic.

Yes I finally I admit it. Ever since I was young I have always been in love with the BRAND.

Right from the design, angles, stability, beauty, you name it… (oops, Sorry wifey for I have been meaning to tell you…), I totally have a weakness for the car I consider my  “ultimate driving Machine” (the famous tag line used for BMW). Mercedes has always been THE car for me. Don’t ask me which specific Class (though I have a weakness for their latest Mercedes Benz C200 Kompressor ), because these guys from Germany always unleash something new every month. And I know one day I will own a piece of that machine.

Did I hear “Yes you can…”

Thank you.

Any way back to serious business, what I love more is how the team in Germany strategically comes up with successful game plans of brand penetration which works globally. So today I will share with you a short story, of how they did it in North America with their Mercedes M-class off roader, which makes me appreciate why these guys are always a step ahead.

This case is taken from Romancing the Customer: maximizing brand value through powerful relationship management by Paul Temporal and Martin Trott (Wiley, 2001).

When Mercedes Benz decided to build its new M Class off-road vehicle, it decided to build it and launch it in the USA. The head of Mercedes USA knew that at its launch, it would be entering a crowded market, and that the mere fact that it was a Mercedes would not guarantee sales. They had to try something different.

In the USA it is still possible to obtain free access to data and they obtained details of all current owners of off-road vehicles and Mercedes cars. Mercedes then undertook a series of mail-outs to the names on the database.

It began with a personally addressed letter from the head of Mercedes USA. It said something along the lines of – “…we at Mercedes are in the process of designing a brand new off-road car and I would like to know if you would be prepared to help us…”

Now America is the land in which you receive probably more direct mail than any other country in the world, but it is not every day that the head of Mercedes writes and asks for your help. There was a significant, positive response. Those people who responded received a series of questionnaires that asked for guidance on design issues such as whether the spare wheel should be outside or inside the vehicle, desired engine sizes, exterior colours and interior designs.

What is interesting is that, along with the questionnaires, Mercedes began to also receive advance orders. What these customers were feeling was that Mercedes was custom building a car just for them. No other manufacturer had ever involved them in the design and build process in quite the same way.

As a result, Mercedes pre-sold its first year sales target of 35,000 vehicles. It was expecting to spend some $70 million US marketing the car, but by using this CRM one to one approach, it only needed to spend $48 million saving $22 million. We have heard that this program was so successful that Mercedes is looking to use the same approach in the future with other model launches.”

“Brands remain a strong factor in individual consumers’ buying decisions. However, the sheer multitude of choices favors those brands that manage to establish an intrinsic, emotional bond with their customers…Consequently, successful brands will not only have to shape the firsthand experience, but also manage secondhand hearsay.” (Anders Sundt Jensen,Vice President Brand Communications Mercedes-Benz Cars)

That  my friends  is why I  simply love BRAND STRATEGY.(And the Car of course…)

Have a happy Mashujaa week .

Yours in branding,


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What I learn from The Brand called APPLE.

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I have always wanted to write an article on APPLE because personally, I believe it’s a brand that epitomizes success. Over the last few weeks, I have been doing my personal research about this iconic brand in terms of its success and failures. I must admit that some failures hold water for example their poor PR strategy on the handling of Steve Jobs sickness in 2008.The strategy was so undefined until Steve Jobs had to personally call a famous reporter to argue his case out. Then there is the glorification of “Steve Jobs” in such a cultic manner which personally is a big no-no. Well Steve Jobs at 53 is a necessary ingredient to APPLE’s success but personally as a leader it’s always wise to groom your successor for the sake of brand continuity. That is why Coca Cola is 124 years old and still going strong. But on average, APPLE as a brand hasn’t failed me yet. And personally, I look at Steve Jobs and APPLE as a great learning point. These are my two cents.

A –For “APPLE”

And its that simple. Steve jobs simply decided to call the brand APPLE computers because he was inspired when working in the community type farm in Oregon back in 1976. I must be convinced he loved APPLES. Funny huh? Probably so. But personally I think it was more of a strategy . Why? In the western world people thought that APPLE computers was the first personal computer in the late 70’s.But that was not the case. The first computer that led to the micro computer revolution was one called “MITS Altair 8800 computer”. With a name like that it’s always an uphill task marketing it. For me the name APPLE signified the thinking-out-of-the-box kind of feeling .It denotes fun, exciting, passion, bearing in mind he wanted to enter in the foray of the tech world surrounded by too much complexity.

So take a walk downturn Nairobi and see the brand names present and tell me why most firms still do not want a lesson or two on branding?

P- “POLE strategy”

This is a strategy I personally coined when working with my clients,i.e everything they do they should

1.Plan-Whether working for short or longterm gain.

Steve Jobs game plan is simple: embark on innovation, be consistent and stick to your brand promise. However much parameters change, your promise shouldn’t. But above all, understand what your consumer wants.

After his departure from APPLE in the 80’s courtesy of a sabotage from one John Scully (the person he fished from Pepsi to head his marketing department ,only for Scully to stab him in the back )APPLE suffered a series of setbacks with unworkable brand messaging strategies. When he come back he introduced a simple comeback plan with its tagline “think different” and that is where the journey started.

2. Organize– This is where the team comes in. Once you put the framework in place, look for the team that will reflect and help you achieve the plan. Right from the designers , marketers ,engineers you name it, organize “the” team and not just “a” team that will help you make a difference.

As Steve jobs came back to APPLE, he invited 3 ad agencies to develop an in-house concept that he had envisioned. And in 1997, with the guidance of the agencies, he presented the new slogan, aesthetic for APPLE ads, that totally changed the APPLE reputation:-the “think different” campaign.

3.Lead-Once you start rolling the frame work, be the person with the vision. It may sound obvious but that is what makes Steve Jobs click.

“I believe that Jobs’ greatest achievement as a visionary leader so far was  getting the employees of Apple to buy into his vision when the company was weeks away from bankruptcy. It’s difficult to imagine any other leader being so compelling that they could do these back-to-back and this is why we call this one the Steve Jobs attribute”.(

4.Evaluate-After doing all that, remember to do your SWOT and analyze whether you are making progress or not. And this is where I believe social media can play a pivotal role in monitoring what people say about you and your brand, whether good or bad.

When the antennagate issue did a massive negative PR on their latest Iphone4, Steve Jobs had no choice but to swallow his pride. He simply had to own up to the point that he even invited reporters to tour the testing rooms.

P –icture

And this is what I really admire about APPLE, the picture they portray in all their visuals. There is an old saying I usually like quoting: “dress the way you want to be addressed”. If you want to be addressed with respect then conduct yourself in a manner that will earn you respect whether at home, with friends, at the work place, you name it.

Ask yourself a question; do you want to be associated as having a laptop or having a Mac? The latest APPLE logo is just something to behold. It simply paints the picture of transformation; from a failing company, to a company that is capable of churning cutting edge products.

L-ess is more.

My personal mantra in this day and age and what I always encourage. To simple put it “Synergy” is the word i.e. 1+1=3.What you can consider less can actually achieve more. Equity Bank looked at the small savings of the common mwananchi and visualized the multiplier effect it will have on their balance sheet. Safaricom strategy of per second billing was what outstaged Kencell in the first place.

You see it in all of APPLE’s interfaces. That “clean” look. Sure, the power is there, but wherever possible it’s hidden away. As for controls, there’s hardly a single button on an iPod. It seems counter-intuitive to the engineering mind. Less features and less controls appeal to people more. But it makes sense. With less, there’s less room to digest. Less to learn. In other words, a shorter path to enjoyment.


Yes I coined it on purpose and that is how I conclude my article, with an aura of “innovation” so to speak…( that Mercedes Kompressor kind of creativity…)

And that is what my lecturer really emphasized in my  entrepreneurship class “anything that you do don’t just innovate, go further and e-nnovate, so that your consumers know how much e-nergy, e-ffort and e-motion you put in …and you will be shocked by how your business will just e-levate.”

Apple has built an Innovation Factory – one that harnesses unbridled creativity from its people, stimulating bold & enterprising new ideas, and launching successful, profitable new innovations, time and again!

So if you are thinking of setting up your desired company, product or rekindling the fire you once had in your brand ,why not take an APPLE a day to achieve great BRAND success?

Yours in branding,


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I belong in the leadership of a vibrant Local Youth Group here in Nairobi called BEYOND (Beginning Your New Destiny).

One Sunday afternoon about two years ago in one of our youth meetings, our members decided that enough was enough:-we needed change. The need was necessitated by the fact that our presence wasn’t felt anymore within our community. The needs of the youth group had become very dynamic that we the leaders weren’t able to address some of the pertinent issues being raised. To make matters worse, we were loosing members at such a fast rate that we lost count and the programmes we had initiated to keep the youth in church were not bearing any fruits including the ones supposed to generate income for funding youth activities.

Being the Youth leader at that particular time I decided to write a letter to my church administration requesting the services of an additional pastor to help us sort out some of the challenges we were experiencing. However the church admitted that the primary school project they were engaged in had consumed most of the budget hence affording another pastor was a tall order.

I became frustrated.

This went on and on for a period of three to five months until it really hit me:-Was I practicing what I was preaching in the first place? Every day in my 8-5 day job I offered strategic advice to my clients but here I am totally forgetting that the youth needed a bit of revitalizing…abit of rebranding…abit of the principles I preach…the principles I write…the principles I live by…the principles of…BRANDING.

Did my youth group need abit of rebranding…YES…abit of brand management…YES…brand identity YES…elements of brand loyalty…YES…brand experience …YES…Is my Youth group…(YES you guessed it) a  BRAND……YES!!

Immediately without wasting any time I decided to form a subcommittee, to map the way to success.

In my two years in leadership I was surprised to find out;

  1. We were referred to as a “Youth group” but didn’t have a name to identify ourselves with.
  2. That indeed we have feed back forms for the visitors but we could actually use the same forms to get feed back from our members.
  3. We have an extra big hall behind the church to do our extra activities but we confined ourself to the main sanctuary…since all it took was for members to clean it up every Saturday.
  4. 60% of the members live within the vicinity hence convincing our community to embrace new income projects was not going to be that difficult.
  5. We have a car park that accommodates upto 70 cars…a place we could aptly use for nyama choma…woo our neighboring churches…build a basketball court and have our bi weekly fun days.

What happened a year later is what I classify as a total overhaul…a total success.

Then it really hit me; Branding is not only a career but a calling.

Why am I pointing out the obvious, you may ask?

(BEYOND team building at fourteen falls)

MY ANSWER: The country is in need of a generation that will bring new dimensions of thinking, modern brand management ways of doing things, change ideologies and paradigm shifts. This beloved country called Kenya needs people who not only discover a career but a calling.

And that is the whole essence of modern brand management, limited not only in creating strong brand value for companies or products but discovering purpose that leads companies to their destiny…a destiny mapped forward by those who have a true calling.

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