August 27, 2012 smz-blog

4 secrets of ‘badge brands’

— Alan Stamm, contributing writer
Alan Stamm Communications

 First of two parts.

Gaining and retaining “badge brand” status takes precise vision, clear distinctions and sustained effort. If it were easy, it wouldn’t be so valuable.

The alliterative marketing phrase describes brands with intense loyalty – “a product or name that is so powerful that people define their own identities or social groups around it,” as marketing consultant Barry Callen puts it in a 2009 e-book,Manager’s Guide to Marketing, Advertising and Publicity.

Steuben, Versace, Cadillac and Gucci are among obvious examples. Ubercool brands position themselves as Something Special. But no enchanted wand confers iconic status, which is earned and reinforced in traditional ways – through proven quality, stand-apart features and effective marketing.

Even without a magic formula, winners apply what we’ll call secrets of badge brands. They typically display some or most of the approaches described here and in a follow-up post:

  • Be distinctive: No product and no copy appeared in print ads that ran for five years with just a rainbow logo and this black tagline: “Think Different.” TV versions featured those words with black-and-white footage of Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Jr., Thomas Edison, Mahatma Gandhi, Pablo Picasso, Amelia Earhart, John Lennon and other legends. “This [1997-2002] campaign defined Apple as an outsider brand for artists, thinkers and rebels – forever setting it up in a battle against comparatively stodgy IBM and Microsoft,” says a 2011 Forbes tribute. More recently, Apple hammered the distinction in a Mac vs. PC campaign that thrust “I’m a Mac” into pop culture.
  • Reinforce pride: “As long as we strive for the highest possible level of integrity in everything we do, there will be people on this earth who appreciate it,” says customer-flattering copy in the ad shown with this post. It’s for the Mercedes S-Class, described as “upholding an ideal.” In other words, owners are as special and sophisticated as the product.
  • Tug emotions: Art and commerce converge in two 2012 taglines pitching Jaguar – one fictional, one real. “How Alive Are You?” says a campaign introduced in March. “Jaguar: At last, something beautiful you can truly own” says a Mad Men version that aired two months later. “They went down this emotional path,” David Pryor, the model’s real-life vice president of brand development, tells Advertising Age. “They weren’t trying to sell the car, they were building on this emotional connection, this love, this lust that people had for the brand back then and that we’re trying to recreate now.”

Louis Vuitton tugs emotions with familiar faces and an artifact from a bygone era. A five-year-old print campaign shows the French firm’s suitcases and travel totes with Angelina Jolie, Bono, Keith Richards, Pele, Andre Agassi, Sean Connery, Catherine Deneuve and, coming soon, Muhammad Ali. Store window displays feature its classic steamer trunks, “even though very few consumers are in the market for a logo steamer trunk,” as the Wall Street Journal noted last month. It’s all about an emotional connection to superstars and ancestors, of course.

  • Embrace tradition: Tiffany Blue, a trademarked color, appears on boxes, ads, bags, catalogs, credit cards, statements and online. The 175-year-old jeweler’s Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York appears often in marketing materials. The retailer positions itself as a taste and style authority. “Tiffany & Co. has won itself a world-leading brand name in the fashion industry over the past decades,” an ad says.

What brands fit you like a badge?

NEXT: Examples from different consumer product sectors

Manager’s Guide to Marketing, Advertising and Publicity, Chapter 1:

Apple’s Most Unforgettable Advertising:

What Jaguar Had to Say About Its Portrayal on ‘Mad Men’:

Behind the Choice of a Luxury Bag Pitchman:

Comments (3)

    • And that power led you to buy . . . a ‘Rolex’? ‘D&G’ sunglasses? a ‘Prada’ manbag? new ‘Nike’ kicks?

      Do tell, Jamie!

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