Pyramid’s brand development tool is anchored in Michael E Porter’s three key strategies: Focus, Differentiation and Cost Leadership. It has served successfully in branding projects for companies both large and small, multinational and domestic.
We start by analyzing each company’s overall business strategy, to establish the positioning and branding that will create the strongest resonance with the market.
- The Differentiation strategy rests on marketing a unique customer offering to a wider target group, often with cutting-edge products or services based on innovation, research and development. It dictates a rational argumentation focusing on the product’s or service’s (superior) characteristics.
- The Cost Leadership strategy strives to perfect cost-effectiveness in production and delivery of products and services that have a large and established demand. Appealing to target customers who are driven by price and low cost, its argumentation builds on continuous reiteration of cost advantages.
- The Focus strategy dictates marketing a focused offering to one or more segments, motivating a price premium through close customer relationships and the ability and understanding to fulfill customers’ current and future needs. The communication’s weighting shows both sensitivity to and engagement in the customer’s unique competitive situation.
To distill a communicable brand essence from this analysis, we identify the recipients’ Cognitive, Motivational and Emotional ‘drivers’ – the core values that define what they should know, want and feel in relation to the brand. The brand essence will come from the common denominator that ties together each of these three areas.
If the above process is done right, the Brand Positioning Statement (BPS) will almost define itself. The Emotional drivers often guide the BPS’s expression and tone, while the Cognitive and Motivational help define the key added values expressed. The weighting given to each driver depends on the target group’s typology, incentives and values.
Positioning means putting a company or its product in explicit relation to its competitors. By giving a brand a firm, fixed position in customers' minds, you can block out your competitors, and thereby create the conditions for winning market shares and increasing profitability.
Many believe that modern positioning logic was created by the U.S. advertising gurus Al Ries and Jack Trout, who first proposed their ideas in 1981 in the book "Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind." The starting point is the psychological process called categorization; i.e. how sensory input is organized in the human brain. In order to cope with the enormous amount of information we are exposed to, we unconsciously create categories that place businesses, products and brands in hierarchies. At the top is the product or company that we view as the leader, and below that is the second, third, etc. Some hierarchies are short, others longer, but few are greater than seven rungs – the maximum set we will willingly (albeit unconsciously) keep in mind. There are hierarchies for every imaginable product category and purchasing criteria. Consider cars: small cars, status cars, sports cars, safe cars, etc. And in each category, there is only one company or product in the enviable top position.
Achieving the right position is the result of a long-term communications work. As a rule, capturing a position requires sacrificing something; i.e. concentrating on a single, simple idea that can take a place in customers' minds. Once you’ve decided on a position, all messages across all forms of marketing communication must support and strengthen that position. For several years, Pyramid has used the following formula to structure a positioning discussion.
"To _ (1) _, Company X is the brand of _ (2)_ that _ (3 )_."
(1) Target group or category
(2) Frame of reference
(3) USP = Unique Selling Point
Place a well-known Swedish company in this formula, and you get: "To responsible parents, Volvo is the brand of family cars that offers the highest level of passenger safety."
Pyramid has implemented a wide range of projects for Swedish and international export companies where accurate positioning has been crucial.
Corporate identity refers to the way a company conveys an image of how it wants to be perceived by means of its behavior, communication and graphical identity. In today’s highly competitive world, where products are more and more similar, corporate identity is becoming an increasingly important way of differentiating companies and informing the added value of their products.
The brand platform and brand promise that summarize how we want customers to see us need to be visualized in a strong and uniform way. This is sometimes done through a new logotype and graphical profile, but it can just as well be a matter of unique product labeling and packaging.
Consistency and uniformity are key. For instance, if you sell a premium product, all customer communication must also be premium (for example, when have you ever seen a photocopied manual from Apple or B&O?). And if it’s a cheap product, customer communication should look cheap as well.
If you think about the strong brands you know – from Apple and CAT to Mercedes – their communication is extremely consistent, regardless of their industry. All follow a clear profile, which is the foundation for building a strong brand.
Customer experience refers to all points of contact between a company and their customer.
The starting point is the customer journey. By building a uniform experience during each point of contact – from the initial communication of the offer to delivery and handling of any complaints – you build a strong brand.
When it comes to your customer experience, Pyramid can help to identify goals, conduct analysis and make improvements.
Integrated marketing communications
Building strong brands is always about ensuring that all company communication – both internal and external – speaks with the same voice. This is the essential starting point for integrated marketing communications, which aims to coordinate communications with all other company functions. A common definition is: "Integrated communications is based on a holistic approach and means that all communications, with each of the organization's stakeholders and target groups, is coordinated in regard to message, channel and timing."
Today, integrated communications is a given. Few companies have time or resources to split up their communications efforts in today’s competitive business climate. A harmonized message in all external channels – including exhibitions, as well as print and digital communications – helps to create a unified image of the company and saves valuable financial resources.
But integrated communication goes a step further.
In companies where everyone is aware that their own earnings depend on customers’ payments, clear external communications are self-evident. Instead of trying to persuade through advertising, the aim is to convince through keen sensitivity, responsiveness and the fulfillment of promises and customer expectations.
For this to happen, the organization must display a unified behavior that boosts the company's brand recognition as well as its strategy.
The intersection of various company functions creates many connections, and it is worth noting just how many of these processes and tools affect customers – both directly and indirectly. To ensure that all external recipients find a consistent, pleasing and reliable experience of the company, it’s necessary that all employees speak and act with the same voice.
But don’t imagine that this happens by default, or that all good things come to those who wait. A disturbing fact is that the percentage of companies with a communications coordinator at the senior management level has dropped by 50% since 2000. Today, one company in six lacks specific communication skills within their management team. The consequence for these companies is typically poorer coordination, fewer resources and a weakened competitive position.
Over the years, Pyramid has developed solid experience in integrated communications through numerous projects for Swedish and international export companies.
An increasingly fast-moving and competitive world increases the need for communications coordination. Centralized management and production of all major campaigns and communication has become an increasingly important competitive parameter.
The benefits of a global approach are significant:
- Focus on the brand. Through central control of the message, tonality and sales argument, you build a strong brand that is perceived the same way in all markets.
- Shorter time-to-market (TTM). This is more important than ever. By centralizing the development of ideas, strategies and communications platforms, it is possible to launch products more quickly and simultaneously in all markets. The time saved expands the sales window and increases revenues.
- Reduced production costs. It is obviously more expensive to develop communications solutions for each individual market than it is to develop one common solution. Even something as simple as coordinated printing can save large sums of money on a major launch. Overall, it is possible to reduce development and production costs by up to 66% – money that can be better invested in media or additional sales personnel.
- Investment in your company’s future, not in your distributor. Companies working with sales agents or distributors should not spend resources building the distributor’s brand. It may prove to be a waste of money and a lost market.
- Optimum resource utilization. Otherwise, local sales forces are often bogged down in advertising projects that eat up valuable sales time.
The barriers to successful international coordination often come from local offices, which can be suspicious about the parent company's ambitions to develop all communication at the head office. They will defend their independence tooth and nail, and make various arguments for why a local launch must be produced locally. This can be characterized as the Not-Invented-Here syndrome. The local offices feel shut out of the development process, and protest by trying to find fault with the campaign.
Pyramid has lengthy experience as a global lead agency for Swedish and international export companies.
Global product launches
By the classic business definition, the principle of lost revenue is not relevant to for product-producing companies. Goods the company cannot sell immediately are produced for stock and sold at a later date. Somewhere, sometime stock may become obsolete.
Today, this laid-back approach is practically archaic, as novelty quickly fades and competition increases constantly. To maintain market position, companies must constantly introduce new products. Everything must be sold as quickly as possible, because what ends up on the stock shelves will soon be old and unsellable. Electronics giant Sony, for example, aims to introduce one completely new product every day, year-round. The product remains unique for, at best, a couple of months – by which time competitors have caught up and the "novelty" is sale-priced to empty stock and make way for the next product generation.
The focused and shortened global launch of products will become even more important in the future. There will be no room to slowly roll out a product around the world, or to come back with a re-introduction if the first round was not perfect. In short, there is only one chance to put both the company and its new product on the map.
At launch, effective communication solutions create the new product platform through:
- Correct positioning, sales arguments and pricing that catches early adopters in different markets
- Communications that reach, convince and create preference with as much of the target group(s) as possible
- A clear plan to adapt arguments and offering to volume customers (e.g. with reference cases) in the launch’s second phase
- Streamlining the purchasing process, for example through the integration of different media channels
- All communications material being ready before the product is launched – not just at headquarters but in all the target markets as well.
Pyramid has lengthy experience as a global lead agency for Swedish and international export businesses and has implemented many global launches.
Content marketing refers to editorial content published through a company’s own media channels (web pages, customer publications, films, streaming video, articles, newsletters, social media and mobile content) as a compliment to purchased and earned media.
Of course, qualitative content with an editorial tone is nothing new. However, today’s wide variety of media channels creates a unique chance for spreading a message and making it accessible to select target groups.
Pyramid can help with everything from strategy – developing a systematic plan for content in multiple channels – to producing content in multiple languages.
Communicating and catalyzing organizational change
The number of mergers and acquisitions is again increasing dramatically, according to a global study by Accenture. More than 70% of surveyed business leaders indicated that they were either currently carrying out acquisitions or planning to do so in the coming 12 months. On the issue of primary motives, more than half (54%) said that acquisition is part of the company's growth strategy to create shareholder value, while 27% responded that they need to create larger growth than they could achieve organically.
At the same time, many mergers end up somewhere between mismanagement and fiasco. We estimate that with most mergers, the result of the equation "1+1" is closer to 1.5, rather than the intended 3.
So what is the problem? Where does it go wrong? Well, like when marriages hit the rocks, or when our children fall into the wrong crowd, it is more often than not about a lack of communication.
Lawyers and financial experts massage the numbers and contracts for months, doing expensive due diligence processes, and then finally reach agreement. Everyone exhales and says "Finally! It’s ready."
NOT! It is only now that it begins. All the people who actually make both companies run must accept the rationale for the merger, get excited about the potential and the goals, and begin working together for a common cause.
Business leaders almost unanimously believe that they have done everything needed to inform employees about motives, means and ends. But ask the employees themselves, and you will probably hear just the opposite: “Nobody talked to us and we do not understand what all this will be good for”.
When carrying out structural changes, many businesses turn to their advertising agency for help with integration of business identities, brand architecture, communication strategies, marketing issues, etc. But the basis for communications is often not right. All too often, leaders agree to append an extra symbol on both companies' logos, or to “hang a tail” on the logo saying "Member of the XXX Group,” then choose a common typeface and consider the job done.
In the best circumstances, the entire integration process is based on a dialogue with all employees in both companies, as well as their customers and other audiences. Pyramid has had the great fortune to be involved as a communication partner in several mergers, corporate reconstructions and takeovers.
Digitalization refers to the process of making companies and organizations more competitive through the application of digital technology.
The key to successful business is often the ability to offer the best customer experience and thereby engage the right customer with an offer that matches their demands right when they really need it. Always up-to-date, always at hand. Making this possible means understanding your customer and the purchase process they go through – and then creating the right tools to meet their needs. By producing smart solutions for organizing and customizing your assets digitally, you can offer your customers added value while simultaneously creating internal efficiency.
Pyramid can help you with strategy and execution, starting from a unique understanding of your customers’ requirements.
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
At Pyramid we half-jokingly speculate that business conditions are increasingly influenced by three key groups: materialists, lawyers and idealists. Behind these, we can see three corresponding forces: the economy, law and morality.
Increasingly these forces interact and give rise to new phenomena, such as Corporate Social Responsibility. This phenomenon is well established in the U.S., but it is also gaining ground in Europe. At the University of Barcelona, one can even get a Master's Degree in CSR.
The European Commission has pursued the issue for some time. In July 2001, it presented a White Paper entitled "Promoting a European Framework for Corporate Social Responsibility." This defines CSR as "… a concept that means that companies voluntarily integrate social and environmental considerations into their operations and their interaction with their stakeholders."
To materialists - to date Pyramid has only materialists as clients - the idea of the "good company" is not a matter of business’s guilty conscience or disposing of profits to charity. As products and services become more standardized, and production takes flight to where costs are lowest, companies strive harder and harder to find new ways to motivate the loyalty of customers (existing as well as prospective) as well as their own employees. It is the economy that steers, and CSR is a way to strengthen the buying motivations of customers and both the motivation and commitment of employees. The vision of a long-term sustainable society can be easily translated into the long-term sustainable company.