A Simple Approach to Branding Strategy Based on Leadership Brands Model

This model is an extension of Aaker’s model for leadership brands, mentioned in his book “Brand Leadership” (by Joachimsthaler & Aaker, 2001).

Leadership brand types

First, let us define leadership brands. A leadership brand inspires employees by setting high expectation levels. It also provides additional benefits to consumers – both emotional (empowerment through brand association) and functional (high quality standards). In the table below, I will demonstrate how leadership brand types position themselves and what their USPs are generally based on.

Click here to view this table as an image file. 

Type of leadership brands What the brands do Brand message Reason why for the consumer Examples
Power brands Own (or claim) a category benefit that is functional and in constant improvement; the product itself is at the core of the strategy. It works better I want to get the job done Gillette (“Better Blades = More Outstanding Shaves”)
Explorer brands Use people’s desire to grow and explore their potential, focus not on the product but on the context of use. It gives you new possibilities I want to improve and grow Adidas (“Through sport, we have the power to change live​s”)
Icon brands Symbolize some cultural aspect that customers share emotionally, create a “brand world”. Join our journey I want to be a part of it

Disneyland Paris (“A magical experience”)

Identity brands Build a connection through user imagery, helping
people express who they are, often strongly personified brands.
This is us I want to be like you Birkenstock (nature-oriented, conscious lifestyle, healthy -“Consciously healthy shoes)
branding-strategy-leadership
Leadership brands types

Branding Strategy Examples

Here is how you can use this model for building a branding strategy.

  1. Analyze your competitors. Is there a predominant strategy they are using? A lot of times, companies go by the “industry standard”, thus selecting the strategy common in their niche.
  2. Investigate if you can use another strategy to differentiate from your competitors (provided you have the resources for that).
  3. Do market research (e.g. focus groups) to verify if your strategy resonates with the target customer.
  4. Launch the brand, monitor and evaluate the results.

Let us take an example of a B2B market for industrial cooking ovens. The majority of producers and distributors base their branding strategy on the “power brands” method, featuring qualities of their products and what they deliver.

A somewhat fresh approach would be to use “explorer brands” strategy. For example, talking about how the food industry professionals can benefit and produce better quality food for the end consumer. For example, Baxter markets its ovens by stressing how the ovens can be used to produce the desired result: “We understand that advanced technology is there for one thing: to help you create an authentic experience for your customers”.

An even more daring strategy would be to use “icon brands” strategy.  One of the leading brands in this segment, Rational, is deploying this strategy. Although it features the products on its website, it rather focuses on being passionate about food production and experiencing the world of professional cooking. MAM brand (pizza ovens) clearly uses the Italian origin of its brand as its USP, featuring Italian lifestyle and cooking and stating “Italian product. Italian technology. Italian taste” on its website.

It is also thinkable to come up with identity brands strategy in this segment (e.g. personifying the brand or centralizing the brand around the personality of its founder or a brand ambassador). For example, BULL Outdoor Kitchens uses the logo featuring a bull, thus personifying its brand “Don’t underestimate the power of the BULL”.  This makes the brand stand out from the competition and creates a strong image in the minds of customers.

As follows from these examples, you can use the leadership brand model to create or to optimize your branding strategy, independently of the market segment you are operating in.

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Author: Elena

I acquired a BA degree in International Business with a specialization in Marketing from Nuremberg Technical School and a parallel degree from Leeds Metropolitan University. In 2013-2014, I worked in the field of performance and conversion optimization with an IT company and then was employed in content marketing. In 2016, I went back to working with Web Analytics and gained additional experience in project management. During this time, I received an Award of Achievement in Digital Analytics from the University of British Columbia (Canada). Currently, I am employed in Online Marketing. My areas of specialization include online marketing strategy, content creation, web analytics, conversion optimization and usability.

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