I am saying it a loud, please do listen carefully, in branding being different is not the same as differentiation.
By differentiation and by brand differentiation, we’re really talking about a difference that matters. That matters to consumers. A difference that’s relevant and it’s a difference that they’re willing to pay for and they are willing to acquire.
When we think about brands and the purpose of brands, often communicated through things like slogans, it’s good practice to actually think about what these slogans or these brand positionings, their brand DNA, their brand essence, whichever term you might give it. What does it actually mean?
It’s important for a variety of reasons. One reason is, that if your own people don’t understand what the brand stands for. It will not affect their behavior, they won’t know how to react.
But the question then is, how will their brand shine through? Will the customers actually know what you stand for? And I thought I’d give you a couple of examples of slogans, which are not exactly the same as the brand purpose, but they can get pretty close.
One of them is from United Parcel Service (UPS). Until 2010 the brand slogan was, ‘what brown can do for you.’ Now that’s a very internally focused slogan and part of their visual identity. That’s basically taking the brown of UPS and making it as part of their brand promise. It’s taking a colour, and that’s what the brand is about, the brand is a colour. And that’s not very powerful. This year they re-branded their slogan to, ‘united problem solvers.’ Now, that might seem a bit of an odd term, it sounds bit of like a labour union but what the brand is trying to signal is that the brand is about solving problems, not just logistical ones, but business problems overall. It’s taking their acronym UPS and given it secondary meaning.
Very much like BP, which used to be known as ‘British Petroleum’ rebranded as ‘Beyond Petroleum’ when they focused on green energy. It’s a shift more towards the customer in terms of solutions for UPS and towards the value to the environment for BP.
Let’s think about this in action for a brand which many of you will know, Pampers. These are diapers or nappies depending on which market you might be in. If we go back to 2001, they were by then the largest single brand for P&G. It was a $3.4 billion for P&G. The problem was, it was shrinking. And it was a drag on the earnings of P&G overall. And it was about to be, well, activists were asking for them to spin it off. Push forward 10 years to 2010 and it became a $10 billion-dollar brand. Entirely through organic growth.
It’s a story told by Jim Stengel in his book ‘Grow: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit at the World’s Greatest Companies.’
And it’s one of the chapters where he talks about the story. It’s a story which was also presented on several occasions by ‘Saatchi and Saatchi’ which was the advertising agency that accompanied Jim and his team on this journey.
What did they do in order to gain more relevance for the brand? They did something very simple. They took a deep dive into the lives of their customers.
They tried to figure out what motivate mothers? Not just to buy diapers, but in general. Especially first-time mothers because that’s when they make their decision about diapers. And they typically then stay brand-loyal. Is it just about price where Huggies had really enjoyed market leadership? As a matter of fact, Huggies had become the number one brand in the US, the home market for Pampers, which was very, very painful.
It’s not just about that. If you think about being a mother or a parent, it’s about babies’ health. Babies’ development. That was the key consumer insight. And the question then was, how do I make these diapers relevant to baby development? The major commonality here was that most of these diapers, for them and their competition, it’s all about dryness.
Now how does dryness help baby development? It turns out, and Pampers did these studies, it helps baby’s sleep. If baby sleeps, they got the little sleeping habit here, if baby sleeps, that’s when the baby develops it’s mind and muscles. And of course, the parents get a bit of extra rest as well. So, P&G turned that into the foundation of their Pampers brand. They went away from dryness to better sleep. And that was a fundamental change. It was a change that did not just affect the slogan, if you will. Before the change Pampers was a very male dominated engineering culture. People in white frocks focusing on dryness and dryness metrics, focusing on product attributes. There were very few women comparatively speaking to other P&G brands working for Pampers, which is a bit surprising.
As part of this change, Jim Stengel and his team changed fundamentally everything about Pampers. The new headquarters became more baby and mother friendly, the colours were pink and apricot and the parking spaces close to the building were reserved for expecting mothers. The key metrics by which to evaluate the quality of the products went from dryness to better sleep. The values of the brand were aligned with the values of a parent.
Literally everything changed, including something that was almost holy to a P&G, which were the two-year rotations that the staff went through going from one brand to the other.
What P&G realized is even though it was a packaged product, they had to build the brand from the inside out. They hired people who had a passion for babies. Even if you’re in finance or if you’re the accountant, if you didn’t have a passion for babies, there are lots of other brands you might qualify for. But not so much Pampers. They also aligned the corporate social responsibility. Working with UNICEF about baby development, keeping babies healthy. That became the fundamental, and core purpose of the brand that also allowed them to move away from just dryness and diapers.
They moved into baby development into wipes, into products where baby had its first soap. Where they could wipe themselves for the first time. Literally, anything that had to do with baby development was now a fair territory for Pampers to compete in. That also built a very different relationship with mothers. Mothers don’t want to talk about dryness with a brand. That’s just a product attribute. Pampers village, which is a new website they developed, they can now have a conversation with mothers. Another core insight was that mothers thought of developmental stages. P&G engaged with mothers before baby was born, when baby was born, when it was a toddler, and so on. They built a true relationship over time with the mothers. Which also fuelled the development of different stages of diapers. Training diapers and so forth.
P&G have changed everything about Pampers, and it was driven by core consumer insight, which became the purpose of the brand that motivated the brand from the inside out, and even a packaged good category, it made it a huge success, so huge that it actually added to Huggies pulling out of European markets. With their lower cost diaper because Pampers had taken over that space.