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Straight Talk with Nigel Hollis

Nigel Hollis Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst, Millward Brown

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Latest Entry
Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Better product or better brand. Is it really a choice?

According to Al Reis having a better brand is better than having a better product. Overall, I agree with him. However, I think the balance is shifting – particularly for products or services that are subject to intensive scrutiny and search.

Reis is right that all too many people get fixated on product innovation as the sole means of gaining competitive advantage. No argument there. And everything in life is perceptions. Yup. A better product alone will not guarantee success. Agreed. So where do I find cause to differ?

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Auto brand style wars: can design alone turn a car into a sales winner?

A recent interview with Infiniti Chairman, Nissan Chief Planning Officer Andy Palmer, reported in Automotive News Europe was as interesting for what it did not say as what it did say. Titled, “How Infiniti plans to capture the new breed of premium customers” ,the interview focused largely on the brand’s design ethos while ignoring any sense that the brand was anything other than “not German.”

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Hot dog! What marketers can learn from Chicago’s finest.

What is your image of a Chicago hot dog? When I lived in the Western Suburbs of that fine city a hot dog was invariably a frankfurter covered in yellow mustard, chopped onions, green sweet pickle relish and served in a split roll (and whatever else you add, no ketchup). These days, however, it seems that things have changed; you can buy a foie gras or elk meat sausage with quail egg or Japanese seaweed for topping.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

Why is Google trusted more than Facebook?

According to a WARC news update from last week Google is trusted with people’s private data more than LinkedIn, the U.S. Government or Facebook (in that order). The update did not seek to explain the large difference between Google and Facebook found by the MyLife survey, but I can think of a couple of reasons.

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Why brand differentiation still matters

Some people believe that differentiation is not important to brand success. Others seem to have given up on the fight to differentiate their brand. That might be OK if all you need to do is sell more stuff, but if you want to grow profits, you had better continue to worry about differentiation.

An article in MIT Sloan Management Review: Summer 2012 Research Feature titled, “Is It Time to Rethink Your Pricing Strategy?” states:

We find that many managers in (competitive) industries mistakenly assume themselves to be in a “commodity” business. They then neglect the possibility for differentiation and customer value creation and resign themselves to competing solely on price.

The authors of the article, Andreas Hinterhuber and Stephan Liozu, suggest that seeing your product as a commodity tends to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. They propose that through deeper research into customer needs, almost any product or service can be differentiated.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Do attitudes to brands swerve too?

In a recent New York Times article, Robert Jay Lifton refers to Harvard humanities professor Stephen Greenblatt’s use the word “swerve” to describe an unforeseen change in society’s attitudes toward a particular subject. The article got me thinking that attitudes to brands swerve too. The initial change is minimal but soon attitudes have changed dramatically; sometimes for better, sometimes for worse.

A swerve, Lifton suggests, relies on a coalescence of three factors: experience, economics and ethics. Lifton suggests that American attitudes to climate change are in the process of swerving from denial to acceptance (and hopefully action).

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Make a difference: ask your kids to make a video

No, this is not a post about some great viral campaign created to publicize a brand... at least, not yet. Instead this is a plea that you help us do something. Get our political leaders to act on climate change. How? By asking your kids and friends aged 13 to 21 to make a video, one that simply asks - Why?

The vast majority of the scientific community is in agreement that climate change is happening and that we must act now to avert disaster. However, few of us know what we can do to make a difference. Many of us feel it is an issue that our political leaders should address and yet they appear content to do nothing. Well now is your chance to help change that.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Should Indian brands stay home or seek their fortune abroad?

It is official. HDFC Bank is the most valuable brand in India. The BrandZ Top 50 Most Valuable Indian Brands Ranking was announced yesterday at an impressive event in Mumbai, which not only showcased the ranking, but offered insights into how some brands have made good in India’s hyper-competitive market.

As with the global ranking, financial services and telecom companies made a strong showing boosted by the absolute financial value of the categories in which they operate. Apart from HDFC, the top ten included Airtel, State Bank of India, ICICI, !dea, Kotak Mahindra Bank and Reliance Communications. However, Asian Paints, as well as Bajaj Auto and Hero, both manufacturers of two and three-wheeler vehicles, also made it into the top ten. Packaged Goods brands were less prominent in the ranking, but displayed strength when it came to creating an emotional connection with their customers. Brands like Colgate, Fair and Lovely, Kingfisher, Maggi and Horlicks have all created strong connections with their consumers in India.

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