Thursday, October 24, 2013

Brand Success = Customer Focus + Brand Essence

With consumers becoming less brand loyal, it is more important now that brands understand their consumers and what the consumers believe those brands mean to them. Sadly, the day when a brand was able to determine its meaning has passed, making it important to understand why consumers use a given brand. In these examples, Hershey an Absolut, they demonstrate what happens when a brand understands how it fits into its consumer’s world and what consumers relate to and continue to buy said brand. These examples provide lessons for other brands to follow not by trying to be everything for everyone, but rather understanding what they are for those who want them and where they started.

How Hershey Brand Got Its Start in China –But Don’t Call It an Import” by E.J. Schultz, shows how for the first time, Hershey launched a new product, a new type of caramel candies, first in China before the United States. The composition of these candies show the research and understanding that went into the creation of these candies while demonstrating that Hershey understands the important differences between the United States candies and the China candies, along with the different consumers. By creating these products concurrently, Hershey focused on gaining efficiencies through selling these products. Additionally, these products exist in different categories in each country; in China they fall into the “milk candy” category, whereas in the United States they are more traditionally caramels.
 “Absolut’s Iconic Bottle Is Its Ticket toYounger Consumers: Staying competitive in a market flooded with new spirits” by Joan Voight: since 1986, the Absolut bottle shape has remained consistent and been a place for artists to test out their art. While there are certain aspects about Absolut that keep it from being a craft vodka, by maintaining its deep connection to the artistic community and the care with which it fills every bottle, Absolut knows how to keep its loyal consumers returning time and time again.
Based on my work at the Medill program and analysis of these articles, these are three things that you need to do:
  1.  Understand what your brand means to others – this is different from understanding what the brand meaning/promise is, rather it is looking at the brand through the lens of the consumer. Ask your consumer what your brands meant to them and why they bought it. (Look at how Hershey understood what different markets wanted from seemingly similar products).
  2. Conduct market research – use this to determine who your consumers are and how your brand connects to them. (Look at how Absolut connects with its artist community)
  3. Find a path to follow and stay with it – do not be afraid to stick with what made you famous (i.e. Absolut and its iconic bottle along with its connection to the artistic community) or pick a new path and fully embrace it (Hershey's dual product launch).     
In a time when competition within the food and alcohol industry is fierce, the brands are showing how they can continue to innovate based on their understanding of their product, brand and consumer. These examples show brand managers and marketers what they need to best understand about their product, especially in the food and alcohol/spirits industries, to maximize acceptance and maintain a position in its consumer circle. To say relevant and front of mind with consumers, it is necessary to follow these steps as these are examples of how Hershey and Absolut have remained connected to their consumers and strong contenders in their markets.

    ·      Marti Lauer is a graduate Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) student at Northwestern University’s Medill School. Her interests lie in the food and beverage industry and CPG along with understanding how consumer experiences and insights shape attitudes and actions. She can be reached at @MartiLauer on Twitter


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