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The Breakaway Brand Process: How Great Brands Are Built to Win

by Barry Silverstein

A breakaway brand is a great brand that is built to be a winner over the long term. Time after time, a breakaway brand leads its category, generates high awareness and grows market share, despite intense competition. Nike, Apple's iPod, and JetBlue exemplify breakaway brands.

Building a breakaway brand doesn't happen by accident. The brand owner and the brand's advertising agency likely follow a process to build a brand that has the potential to achieve and sustain success.

While the approach may vary from one marketer to another, the process is essentially the same. Ultimately, the goal is to reach the brand truth. The breakaway brand process examines the following areas.

Company Vision

The vision of the company behind the brand is a critical factor. The breakaway brander needs to know who the company is, what its management values are, where it wants to go and what the business challenge is. It helps to have a brand-engaged CEO and a talented, empowered CMO articulate the company vision.

Business Insights

A comprehensive overview of the brand's category is necessary to understand the brand's challenges. Key factors include how the brand's company makes money in the category, the brand's attributes, the characteristics of the competition and where brand sales are going to come from. A breakaway branding campaign must be tightly aligned to the key profit-driving elements of the business.

Target Insights

Target insights come from the examination of cultural trends and target analysis. Finding a "cultural wave" that relates to the brand can differentiate it from the competition. Catching and riding that wave helps a brand grow cost-effectively.

Winning Mindset

The company vision, business insights and target insights combine to help define a winning mindset. The winning mindset reveals to the brand marketer how best to match the company vision and the product with the target audience. The winning mindset becomes the audience filter through which all advertising and promotional activity flows. If a marketer understands and embraces the winning mindset, the messaging and communications that target the winning mindset can be clearly defined.

Some examples of winning mindsets: Nike revolutionized sports marketing by targeting a competitive athletic mindset, regardless of the specific sport; Volkswagen broke away by targeting and connecting with "drivers" who wanted to experience the road in a German-engineered car, but at a reasonable price; Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines targeted an adventurous mindset—an active consumer looking for an experience-filled vacation, rather than the stereotypical sedentary cruise customer.

Brand Truth

Finally, the process leads to the moment of truth—the brand truth. The brand truth takes into account all previous learnings and intersects with the winning mindset's view of life. The brand truth is, fundamentally, what the brand stands for and represents to the winning mindset.

A strong brand truth involves both head and heart. The rational core represents the brand aspiration, or what the brand stands for. The emotional wrapping is how a consumer with the right mindset feels about the brand. The brand truth helps us identify and sell the rational attributes of a brand in an emotional way.

When rational and emotional elements are artfully blended, it can result in a very powerful brand truth—and a winning breakaway brand.

* * *

Miller Lite is a classic example. At the time of its national introduction in 1975, Miller Lite hit on a unique, breakaway brand truth: "Tastes Great. Less Filling." Miller Lite found a way to appeal to the rational and emotional sides of beer drinkers at the same time: only Miller Lite could claim to be lower in calories (rational) while offering the taste beer drinkers wanted (emotional).

Miller Brewing Company was the number-four brewer in the United States at the time of Miller Lite's introduction. By 2004, its light beer brand had helped Miller rise to number two. The brand instigated a revolution in beer as other makers rushed to introduce competitive light beers. Over 20 years later, while the creative approaches have changed, Miller Lite's advertising today still incorporates "tastes great, less filling" into its messaging—a lasting testament to the power of the brand truth.

Miller acknowledged another reality in its brand truth: Brands live in a highly competitive world. A brand may stand apart, but rarely does it stand alone. The breakaway brand needs to push against something, driving a wedge between itself and its competitors. The sustainable breakaway brand finds ways to continually widen this gap and become a category of one. Miller Lite created a category of one, defining a whole new segment of the beer market.

In the end, it's all about getting to the brand truth. The brand truth is the DNA of a breakaway brand. The brand truth can inform every other decision a brand marketer has to make—decisions that will prove the brand is authentic and not a fabrication. And in the battle for increased awareness, profitability, market share and even share price, the brand truth is the single most important weapon a brand marketer will ever have.

Of course, discovering the brand truth is just the beginning of successfully marketing a breakaway brand. Then the brand marketer needs to relentlessly execute that unique brand truth passionately and artfully. It might be a product differentiator (however small), a design advantage, a service commitment, a distribution philosophy, an existing emotional connection people make with a brand or a combination of many things—some obvious and some not so obvious.

By understanding the brand truth, a brand marketer can create a brand position that turns an ordinary brand into a breakaway brand, and devise a marketing strategy with the power to last well into the future.

Barry Silverstein is a senior vice-president at Arnold Worldwide, a leading U.S. advertising agency. He is coauthor of the new McGraw-Hill book The Breakaway Brand.

 

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