“A Killer Brand exists when an entity derives a disproportionate amount of success in its category because of a compelling and differentiated expectation that comes to be associated with its name.” – Frank Lane
In Killer Brands – Create and Market a Brand That Will Annihilate the Competition, Frank Lane, a life-long brand entrepreneur, provides us insightful case studies and personal success stories. He demonstrates his method to successfully build killer brands as a corporate brand entrepreneur, such as with SC Johnson’s Shout stain remover. Lane also recounts personally using this method as start-up brand entrepreneur with Bullfrog Amphibious Formula Sunblock.
At its core, Killer Brands shows us a brand backbone strategy which is the heart of Lane’s marketing model. It reminds us through case stories that the ultimate goal is to affect choice on behalf of a brand. Lane’s case stories also reinforce the pitfalls of a lack of understanding consumer expectations and how the market really works. An understanding of Lane’s two background assertions is also a prerequisite for us.
A Brand Represents an Expectation
This expectation can and will often be in a differentiation, whether a differentiation in degree or a differentiation in kind. “Degree” often refers to a perceived difference in performance, such as Duracell versus Energizer. “Kind” references different means of achieving the same outcome, such as Windows 8 versus MS-DOS. Not surprisingly, we find that differences in kind are more influential than differences in degree when making a brand buying choice.
Choice Results From Expectation
Lane’s second point is that brand expectation will drive brand choice. Being the brand of choice is not just for major brands, but killer brands as well. We are reminded that killer brands do not have to be large in breadth, but compelling in depth and in differentiation. Sustaining differentiation, without wandering off track, is very difficult and requires diligence.
Having established these points through case studies and stories, Lane has set the stage for his Killer Steps.
Through three simple steps, business marketers, managers, leaders and teams can create a Killer Brand:
- Killer Focus
- Killer Alignment
- Killer Linkage
Step 1) Killer Focus
This step asserts that no matter how many selling points, features or benefits a product has, choosing one is essential. Even if it is hard arriving at a singularity of focus, choosing one that is not the best is better than not choosing a focus at all. “The less information we are given, the more likely we are to remember it.” (Lane 42) It is not in brand’s best interest for the consumer to allow for confusion, we are taught through more case stories. A consumer standing in the aisle of a store looking and trying to choose a product from the masses is an example of what we don’t want.
Step 2) Killer Alignment
Lane makes alignment the core of Killer Brands. It is the brand backbone of the business. It is a strategy that Lane teaches step by step. To show the immense benefits of brand alignment from product conception through rollout, we are shown the process using a model company. Lane is superb in this section on alignment, and it is the largest chapter in the book. A Brand Backbone Strategy, as Lane calls it, is dangerously simple to understand and equally difficult to execute. Congruence, time and mental sweat are what create one simple. We see that there should be a section of the plan for every decision the company makes. It is a difficult strategic process, but the harder it is, the more we need it.
Step 3) Killer Linkage
Linkage is “the glamour part of the business.” (Lane 137) A memorable slogan, not a mere tag line, is essential we are told. “Slogan” is derived from the Gaelic word sluagh-ghairm, meaning battle cry. Linkage can be made in many ways. Visually, such as with Yellow Tail wine. Mnemonically in jingles like “I’m lovin’ it.” Or, simply using interesting words, “We ♥ Logistics.” Ideally, linkage will use all three congruently, such as the Geico gecko and his slogan “Fifteen minutes could…” Well, everybody knows that.
That we learn from Killer Brands: A brand’s income in dependent on choice. That choice drives every dollar spent. Choice is based upon expectations delivered properly. Focus is the most singular component driving expectations. Alignment, connecting everything a brand does and why they do it, keeps focus consistent. Linkage, finds a way to drive that focus and expectation deep into the customer’s mind, creating Killer Brands.