Red, blue and orange in all the right places

When somebody says something good about Trump – which is rare – he will usually be denounced as a “Lyin’ Ted” or “Trump Derangement Syndrome” for supporting the Republican candidate.

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece for Quartz titled “Red Brands Are making America right. Why Democrats should embrace them.” Those brands were dubbed Republican, Democrat and Independent. In the latest edition of Marketplace, columnist Abby Goodnough discusses the importance of finding “blue” brands to align with as well.

I particularly liked her section on innovation. She pointed out that new research has revealed that companies that innovate the most tend to do so in their sectors instead of seeking out new markets.

“When I mentioned the brands to Peter Blackshaw, who is the chief marketing officer at Nielsen, he told me that in general, companies can boost innovation through their brands,” she writes. “Brands that focus on their core strengths and use strategic innovation, something that is more difficult, are more likely to help their customers and help their companies grow. One of the things that I tell a lot of clients that you have to do is think how to drive your brands forward.”

You could start by identifying your top 10 non-political brands, she suggests. This might be a few years old, or it might be newer companies still in the early phases of their marketing process. Why not test out their products or services to see if you can tease the right message through your consumers?

One thing that really struck me about Blackshaw’s talk is that he admits that brands that focus on a brand’s core strength are rarely risk takers. “The sector you play in is going to be based on the strength of that sector,” he said. “You’re not going to experiment with creative strategies.” That has two effects. First, there is less flexibility in going outside the boundaries of your own market.

But second, it is more difficult to change a perception about a product. “If you’re not identified with your category, the reason you have a brand that’s powerful is because you’re not supposed to be different. If you’re starting with a brand that’s inherently linked to its category, you’ve just made it less vulnerable to being perceived as having some of the characteristics that customers find interesting about your category,” Blackshaw said.

You would think that a company that is on its way to developing core strength, like Apple, would be best in this area. Or what about Amazon? They are considered to be disruptive and an innovator, so this would be a great time to change the perception around Amazon as an innovator. But apparently the risk comes from disruptive innovations that are not aligned with Amazon’s core strength, which is e-commerce.

It is important to look at the traits you are doing to position your brand, and test them out. But if you make them untrue to your core, people will stop trusting them with your brand.

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