Brand innovation

Branding for us is about being different, creating a relevant story for your target and then consistently reminding them what made you famous / stand out from the crowd while still offering relevance… which of course needs fine tuning from time to time to keep the brand fresh and attractive to both existing and new consumers.

Many of these elements require a lot of courage, especially from brand owners; focussing on specific branding elements means making some tough choices, putting to one side some aspects of the brand that no longer ‘cut the mustard’! and zoning in on specifics that really make a difference (some of my favourites include: Johnnie Walker ‘Keep Walking’, Danone’s ‘Live Young’ and Audi’s 4 rings…)

Branding exercises

We use branding exercises to help clients think through their DNA, particularly through Brand Stretch exercises; one of our favourites uses the James Bond franchise, thinking through how a brand has stretched from being ground breaking in the 60s, distinctly average in the 70s and revitalised in the 00s…all in a market that has become decidedly competitive (think Jason Bourne, the Die Hard franchise, The Transporter…).

The latest challenger, at least for the younger end of the market, Fast & Furious (or FF to those in the know) is preparing to launch the 8th in the saga. Like Apple, it keeps the franchise moving by announcing its next move; fans can expect a new FF every 2 years in April and this has become part of its brand DNA.


We’ve also helped clients develop sub-brands. Sub-brands are designed to take a brand into a new place where the existing offer cannot reach. A sub-brand offers more ‘ownability’ than a simple descriptor, by definition building the brand equity and strengthening the mother brand. A couple of examples include:

  • Gillette Venus (opened up the brand to women, who up to then were pinching “men’s” razors!)

  • Audi’s R8; a move into the world of the supercar…the usual branding using the letter A (1-8 so far) dispensed with, in order to differentiate the Lamborghini-powered supercar from the rest of the brand offer.

Sub-brands need to develop a new chapter around the same brand story, not tell a new story! Many examples exist where sub-brands have been launched to side-step internal guidelines around new brands…the net result is often that brand budgets are stretched too far and the mother brand suffers from under-investment.

One of the best descriptor examples that comes to mind is Red Bull’s “Energy Drink”…powerful enough to have become category defining (Monster, Lucozade Sport, Burn etc…); imagine how more powerful the Red Bull brand might be if that descriptor was ‘ownable’ rather than generic!

Technology brands are doing their very best to make their latest offerings in artificial intelligence more ‘human’ to encourage acceptance and trial…think IBM’s Watson, Amazon’s ‘Alexa’ and Apple’s Siri…just the start of a long trail of newish brands building their own story in the years to come.