Ben Wise on Branding

Watching the world through the lens of the brand

New Location

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After almost a year of blogging, I have decided to move to a self-hosted site allowing me more freedom to design the site to best meet the needs of my readers.

Please check us out here –

I will be continuing to work on the  design and features of the new site in the coming weeks, so please have a look and leave any feedback in the comments.


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September 20, 2010 at 9:33 pm

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Burger King Changes Course in the UK

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The Burger King 'King'For years, Burger King has played second fiddle to McDonald’s. Their response has been to try to entice users with promotional offers. Considering that a distressed Burger King was just sold to 3G Capital Management, the brand strategy based around promotional offers wasn’t a bit hit. In the year to June 30, sales fell by over 2% while their key competitors, McDonald’s and Subway, both grew sales. Under new management, the fast-food brand is changing course for the better.

The Problem with Promotions

Promotions are often a necessary part of brand marketing, which isn’t likely to change anytime soon. I can accept that. But a strategy based around promotions is inherently too short-term focused. Promotions might get customers in the door, but unless you have an amazing and differentiated product (something extremely difficult to do in the fast-food business), it will never garner the loyalty required to build a sustainable brand.

Burger King’s promotions could easily be matched or beaten by competitors and never created a lasting, emotional connection with customers.

The New Way

Burger King has launched a new campaign that is centered around their iconic King character. The campaign will be tied into Foursquare, as well as other social and digital ads promoting the same message. The obvious benefit of this campaign is the introduction of a brand character that has the potential to create an emotional connection with customers, something sorely lacking in their brand strategy. As well, it does a great job tying in multiple media channels to reach different customers in the manner best suited to them. This helps create an experience out of the campaign, another effective way of providing an emotional benefit.

Unfortunately, Burger King isn’t moving far enough from their old ways, as following the King will lead customers to discounts and special offers.

A move in the right direction, but still a few steps too short!

What do you think? Will the change help Burger King turn their sales around?

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September 14, 2010 at 10:07 am

Google’s All Encompassing Brand

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Google logoBrandChannel has an article explaining that Google is making more of an effort to monetize YouTube through advertising. To anyone familiar with Google, this should come as no surprise. While the company continues to add more products to their expanding empire, they are at heart an advertising company. Everything they create is done in an effort to sell more ads.

Somewhere north of 90% of Google’s revenues come from their highly successful AdWords program. While these often cost less than $1 per click, for a brand with Google’s reach, all of those individual clicks quickly add up to tens of billions of dollars a year.

The brand follows a fairly standard approach to new product lines.

  • Launch a cool product
  • Refine based on user feedback while you grow your user base
  • Collect as much data as possible from users
  • If the product is able to achieve a wide audience, put some ads on it

Search is the clearest example of this, but the same pattern was evident with gmail. More recently, Google has started placing logos on Google Maps.

The beauty of this business model is that, despite what their financial statements say, most people don’t view Google as an advertising brand. Google has managed to separate their product from their revenues in the eyes of most of their users. An advertising brand would be limited in what they could do, but Google is able  to extend their brand in all sorts of new and exciting ways.

What do you think? How tightly linked is your brand to your revenue streams?

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September 7, 2010 at 6:17 pm

Your Culture and Your Brand – A Vital Link

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Sorry for the long dry spell on this blog, but I have been travelling for the past 4 weeks and am just now returning to my regular routine.

While away, I read ‘Delivering Happiness’ by Tony Hsieh, the CEO of I would strongly recommend reading this book if you haven’t yet, but would like to elaborate on one key aspect that rings especially true for me.

Hsieh believes that the Zappos employee culture is one of the most important contributors to the company’s success and they go to great lengths to continually build upon and strengthen their culture. The amazing part of their culture is how well it aligns the company internally with their brand externally.

The company’s 10 core values, which dictate how employees should interact at work and in life, shine through vividly in any interaction that a customer or partner has with Zappos.

If you think about it, it is almost shocking that this isn’t the case at more companies. If you subscribe to the philosophy that your brand is your business system, then aligning your company culture to your external brand promise is one of the most important jobs for any organization. Your company’s culture will dictate how you operate on a day-to-day basis through all aspects of your operations. This in turn, will shape how you are viewed by everyone outside your company.

So if you are looking to build a powerful brand that resonates with customers, be sure to build an equally powerful culture to deliver that brand.

What do you think? Is your company’s culture aligned to deliver your brand externally?

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September 3, 2010 at 8:10 pm

Building a Brand Takes Time

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I sometimes worry that people read this blog, make a few changes to improve their brand, then expect to see the results right away. Marketers and brand managers are often used to running promotions where you can see the ROI within days of its launch.

Unfortunately, building a brand takes time. And anyone expecting quick results will be frustrated.

A traditional marketing campaign is designed to elicit a specific reaction within a specific time horizon. If someone buys your product when it is on a limited-time special offer, than you have achieved your goal.

When building a brand, loyalty is often your objective. And building loyalty takes time and multiple interactions. Each of these interactions must remain consistent in order to embed your brand’s promise in the mind of consumers.

What do you think? What time horizon do you focus on for your brand?

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July 27, 2010 at 8:55 pm

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Despite All the Buzz, Email Still Trumps Social Media

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Much to my dismay, I found myself spending much of my Sunday afternoon in a mall. While I don’t love shopping, I am always amazed by the positioning of brands at this crucial touch point in their relationship with me as a consumer. After stopping at a few stores, it became abundantly clear that brands are still placing much more emphasis on email marketing than social media.

Four of the five stores I stopped at were offering discounts if you signed up to their email list. Only one of the five prominently displayed their social media channels (ie ‘check us out on Facebook/Twitter/YouTube’).

This was reinforced in data published by eMarketer that shows that most consumers still prefer to receive promotions by email. Of all respondents, 37% said their preferred method was Email, followed by Mailers at 23%. Only 9% prefer to receive promotions by Social Media, placing the channel fifth among consumers.

Is this short-sighted?

However, this  may indicate that brands are being too short-sighted. Email promotions offer a very clear and easy to measure ROI. If you measure the ROI of a single promotion on social media, it will likely come in lower than email. In the short-term, email definitely wins.

But this isn’t an ‘apples to apples’ comparison since it doesn’t take into account the long-term impact on consumer loyalty. With the common ‘Please do not reply to this message’ on almost every email campaign, there is much less opportunity to develop a relationship between the brand and the consumer. Social media, on the other hand, is designed around building and maintaining relationships.

The downside is that these relationships are hard to measure, so brands stick with email campaigns.

What do you think? Email or social?

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July 21, 2010 at 8:24 pm

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Advertising on Social Networks Doesn’t Work

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ComScore has just released data showing that social networking websites still charge much less for digital advertising than traditional websites.


This should come as no surprise. People find social networking addictive. They spend hours checking the latest updates on the Facebook wall. For many it is the first thing they check in the morning and the last thing they check at night.

People find social networking unbelievably engaging. One can assume from this that the actual content must be pretty interesting. So why would anyone expect people to notice small ads on the side when the content in the middle is so damn good?

The answer is simple – they shouldn’t. Social networking by its very nature is not as well suited to regular ads as traditional websites.

What can your brand do about it?

Don’t worry, there is some good news for your brand. Social networkers have shown a tremendous willingness to engage with brands through social platforms. Today, Starbucks is just short of 10 million fans (or ‘Likes’) on Facebook giving the company access to a huge pool of potential brand advocates.

By engaging with these fans, Starbucks (or any other brand for that matter) has the chance to build brand loyalty with users in a much more meaningful way than is possible with regular ads.

The idea of ‘engaging instead of broadcasting’ through social networks has become a cliché, but for good reason – it works.

What do you think? Is your brand still relying on regular ads on Facebook?

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July 12, 2010 at 9:16 pm