Logistics – Parcel delivery market study

Logistics particularly as it relates to the consumer delivery business is a two horse race. FedEx and UPS have long duked it out, in effect, having a duopoly over an entire category. One might argue that the US Postal Service should be included in this group as well, but FedEx is one of the USPS’s biggest customers, co-opting its last mile delivery.

However, the industry is in a state of flux and all players, regardless of size, should take note.

The state of FedEx and UPS, the leaders of logistics

UPS Logo - LogisticsFedEx LogoBy all measurements, both FedEx and UPS continue to strengthen their market dominance. FedEx accounts for about $50 billion in revenue with UPS doing about $10 billion more. There are an ample number of customers to keep FedEx and UPS fat and happy for a while, with more and more consumers turning to online retail.

With that being said, what are these two saying about themselves to both preserve and attract new customers? First take a look at FedEx:


FedEx’s two main divisions, FedEx Express and FedEx Ground, are each on display here. FedEx is huge sponsor of the PGA and, during golf season, there are many ads like the first one. The ad touts the technology of FedEx Express with its app that can reroute packages to a local FedEx store, as if that is more convenient.

The second touts the price savings FedEx Ground customers could have over UPS Ground. While price is a sensitive issue for most businesses that ship a lot of products, it’s difficult to believe that the price differences between FedEx and UPS are all that significant, if they really exist at all. Each is going to do what it can to keep or get new business.

For UPS, it’s much of the same, ads trumpeting technology and cost savings. UPS played around with the idea of “What can Brown do for you,” which was a good segue into the idea of owning logistics. After all, isn’t what these delivery companies do, logistics?

What is lacking is any real reason to choose. Like many categories, the major players try to outmaneuver each other by claiming the very attributes that all players in the industry, regardless of size, possess. In fact, they are the bare minimum that any player must have. How can you be in the shipping business if you are not price competitive or have the technology deliver packages.

More over, both FedEx and UPS (especially UPS) try very hard to tell their stories from the perspective of the consumers who are receiving the package. Do consumers have much of a choice as to who actually ships the packages? That decision is often based upon price and when the consumer actually wants the item delivered.

Most typically, customers don’t have a choice between FedEx and UPS. The entity shipping the package makes that choice.

Being basically a duopoly affords both carriers the luxury of building larger and more sophisticated networks capable of delivering more shipments with each trying to outmaneuver the other. All the while each tries to woo more businesses to choose it over the other.

The FedEx and UPS brands both accomplish the same thing – getting stuff from one place to another. The FedEx brand feels a bit more sophisticated and harkens back to one of its old messages. “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” is ultimately about piece of mind.

UPS feels more like the hard-working blue-collar challenger even though it actually ships more often than FedEx and has greater revenues.

Neither brand has proven over time to be superior to the other. They both work well and neither has really given customers a compelling and unique reason to choose one over the other.

Regional players are becoming more sophisticated and integrated

OnTrac LogoLaserShip LogoWhile FedEx and UPS continue to grow and optimize their networks, regional courier and LTL shippers are doing the same. Regional comDicom Logopanies like Dicom (Eastern Connection), LaserShip, GSO, OnTrac and even Pitt Ohio whois more of a LTL (less than truckload) once exclusively dealt with their own geographies. Now, those regional players are transporting parcels and freight that originated with another carrier. This model is not completely unlike the US Postal service delivering some packages the final mile for FedEx or UPS.

Regional players can ship most things quicker and less expensive than UPS and FedEx. The caveat is that, in most cases, the package must originate and arrive in the same coverage area in order to get these savings.

While these regional players present an alternative to the major players, they have a much more difficult climb. First, while they are known in certain circles and industries, what little awareness they have is limited to these niches. Their awareness pales in comparison to FedEx and UPS. Secondly, they all regurgitate FedEx and UPS sales messages – innovative technology and cost savings. Because of that, they have to prove some of the table stakes, such as timely delivery and size of delivery network.

When these regional players and their associated national networks act like FedEx and UPS, the best they can hope for is to be viewed as an equal. All their messaging does is reinforce the position of the market leaders. A company can’t gain share against a market leader by merely copying what the market leader says.

There is a unique advantage the regional players are not effectively exploiting. Each of these regional players should possess innate knowledge of their regional customers that is unique to the region in which they operate. The brand should always be from the perspective of the customer not the company itself and no regional player has positioned itself as that.

Local disruptors in the market

Uber Rush LogoMore companies are getting into the delivery business. Some with familiar names like Uber and others with not yet familiar names like Roadie. Using the same blueprint as Uber, these companies take a preexisting work force, drivers going from point a to point b, and pay them to move packages across town. (Or across the Roadie Logocountry, in the case of Roadie.)

None of these are being taken seriously as a competitor for traditional shoppers because they have not reached the needed critical mass. But the major players should take note, and they are.

While players like FedEx and UPS have an extensive driver and delivery network, they lack the driver density of the likes of Uber. Uber has the ability to pickup and deliver (on a local level) in real time, on-demand. Even the traditional bicycle courier can’t do that to the degree Uber or even Lyft can do it. FedEx and UPS can promise same-day delivery but Uber could be as close to instant as possible until we develop the coveted transporter.

A Major Development

Amazon has quickly ramped up its own delivery network, recently unveiling its new 767 plane with the words “Prime Air” written across the side.  Amazon claims having its own delivery network only augments its existing relationships with its current partners. But can Amazon be trusted?

TAmazon Logohe reality is that Amazon wants to own the entire supply chain. You don’t have to look much further than its expansion into private label products and cloud-based computing services to understand that. Amazon’s business is about getting stuff from one place to the other. Amazon doesn’t really make anything at all. Doesn’t that sound familiar?

The actual shipping part of delivering that stuff is expensive. It is good business for Amazon to want to control the costs of that. After all, it is by far the largest e-retailer in the US and is second in the world only to China’s massive Alibaba.

Ultimately, Amazon does not want to augment anything with its current delivery partners. It wants to replace them. And quickly and quietly, it is developing its own network to be able to do so. Its grocery delivery and same day Amazon Prime deliveries are prime examples of this. Amazon trucks deliver products ordered through Amazon.

What’s more is that the Amazon brand gives it permission to go down this road. In fact, its brand dictates the necessity for it to do so. But there is are two problems. First, severing the important relationships Amazon has with FedEx and particularly UPS could be problematic. Secondly, and more importantly, Amazon must convince other retailers to use it over FedEx or UPS.

The first issue is pretty cut and dried. Amazon will reach a point where it does not need FedEx or UPS but only for special circumstances. At this point, Amazon will be all in with its delivery model and there will be no turning back. It would be doubtful that either FedEx or UPS would welcome Amazon back anyway.

The second is much more difficult. Once Amazon gets really good at delivering its own stuff, it will reach out to other retailers who need delivery services. This will be a tough nut to crack because retailers will likely be hesitant to partner with a competitor that could use the delivery information as a competitive advantage. Amazon has become successful in part because it knows what to do with data and any additional data it can get on its competitors could hurt those competitors.

The opportunity

There still is real brand opportunity in this space. The natural default for most shippers is either FedEx or UPS and you can throw in USPS in there too. The reason those choices are always the default choice is simple. No one in the space has given anyone any reason to care. Reliability and price are really the only two things that matter at the end of the day and most, if not all of the players regardless of size, are reliable and are cost competitive. Cheaper options might take a bit longer but packages will still get there. Next day delivery will get there too but will be more expensive. In short, they all work.

Marketing Major Appliances – A Market Study


Step into a Home Depot, hhgregg or any of the other big-box stores and you can see just how much space is devoted to selling and marketing major appliances. Lowes and Home Depot now account for the lion’s share of major appliance sales along with Best Buy. (Sears once the dominant player but that retailer blew it.)

Marketing major appliancesThese big box retail environments try to cram as many major appliances they can into their stores to reap the benefits of the high margins the major appliances provide.

These retail locations often have many different brands in an attempt to cover all bases. But how does a consumer decide on which brand to purchase?

Sometimes the reason to buy is to replace a worn-out or broken appliance. In many of those cases, consumers generally want the same brand to match their other household major appliances.

Others may have experience with a particular brand and still others know that they are simply in need of a new appliance.

Since there are some manufacturers that produce a number of brands (such as Whirlpool), do customers choose on the basis of manufacturer or brand? For the purposes of this study, we will only look at consumer brands, as marketing major appliances are based on brand not manufacturer.

What is important here is to look at the individual brands to get an understanding as to just how similar they all are and where there is room for them to improve.

What follows is a snapshot of where we see major appliance brands today.

The High-End/Premium Segment

First, let’s examine the high-end or premium segment. We won’t spend a whole lot of time on this segment only because they account for a very small percentage of major appliances sales in the US, though it is increasing.


Marketing Major Appliances - Viking LogoViking has fallen on hard times. Just a few years ago, Viking had a premium price point the quality of its products did not warrant. Issues, particularly with its wiring and general overall quality, plagued the company.

Marketing Major AppliancesAt that point in time, Viking was not manufacturing much of its appliance lines. In 2013, The Middleby Corporation acquired Viking and it has completely re-engineered the product lines.

Since then, Viking has regained some of its clout. But, as a brand, it is much need of repair.

Viking’s messages are expected, introducing the new Viking as something better. That is a defensive position against the competition.

Being better than what? Better than the way its appliances used to be or better than all other major appliances?

If it is the latter, that is not a claimable position because there is no opposite claim. Without an opposite claim in the market (“We’re worse!”), it does not provide a choice. For a brand to succeed, it must say who it is for and, often more importantly, who it is not for.


Miele is a German manufacturer with the themeline of Immer Miele LogoBesser, which means Forever Better. Like Viking, Miele talks about the product and not the user (big mistake). It’s still a pretty strong promise, as far as it goes.

It is a reminder that the product will actually be better forever and gives the consumer the confidence that they are always ahead in the technological changes in the market. That feeling – being with a winner – can be a strong claim. It suggests that you, the customer, is a winner by association.


Sub-Zero Wolf LogoThe Wolf/Sub-Zero brand, with its characteristic red knobs and stainless steel finishes, has a pretty solid history of quality and performance – except when your built-in refrigerator needs repaired. The built-in workings of the appliances means repairing them is expensive and may require you to buy a whole new appliance.

That being said, Wolf talks about creating moments worth savoring. Is that about creating a moment or creating good food? From a brand perspective, it is a mixed message. Brand works best when it is single minded.

Make no mistake, the Wolf and Sub-Zero brands have generated growing awareness and preference. The red knobs of the Wolf major appliances and the stainless of the built-in refrigerators are iconic and the brand has been very successful in working with builders who specialize in high-end homes.


Thermador LogoThermador has been around for quite some time. It focuses on innovation, as there have been many in its history. One of its exclusive features is the 5-star burner design, which serves a functional and cosmetic purpose. Its tag line, real innovations for real cooks, does a decent job recognizing the customer but it stumbles because it is still about Thermador.

One of the problems with the position of innovation is that, with the speed of technological change, innovation has become a table stake in the category. This is particularly seen in major appliances on the next tier down.

There are refrigerators that are connected to the internet and can send pictures of their contents so you know what you need at the grocery store. Even washing machines now have two separate washing areas. While Thermador promises innovation in cooking specifically, that is still a table stake promise.


Jenn Air LogoWith ovens that can connect to your mobile devices and touch screen ovens, Jenn-Air looks just as innovative as Thermador. However, Jenn-Air leaves the consumer guessing as to what its brand actually means.

Jenn-Air says its brand is about “sophisticated design, innovative technology, and exceptional performance.” So in other words, it has high-end major appliances. Actually, that theme could really apply to any appliance brand as the emotional difference between them is slight.


Bosch LogoBosch is a bit of a tweener, falling both in the premium and mass-market segments. Some would argue that Jenn-Air might be in this spot as well. Bosch takes the same approach to its brand as does Jenn-Air, although it encapsulates it more clearly with “Invented for life.”

Bosch talks a little about its attention to detail and, much like Jenn-Air, says its major appliances represent, “uncompromising quality, technical perfection and maximum reliability.”

As a business, Bosch has done an excellent job in product performance, especially in its dishwashers and cooktops. Its dishwashers especially are viewed as some of the best on the market today.

There are a number of other high-end brands but all of them are much of the same. Brands like La Cornue, Bertazzoni, Gaggenau, True, Dacor and Aga Marvel tend to play in specific niches of this niche category, but their brand promises are very similar.

Other brands like Samsung, LG, Frigidaire Gallery and Professional, KitchenAid and Electrolux may have some products that are premium but, for the most part, they still mass market brands.

The sales process and what we know about premium major appliances brands

Looking at marketing major appliances in the premium or high-end category, there are a couple of things that stand out. For one, many attempt to differentiate with themes on design, the culinary experience, heritage and innovation. In other words, they all talk about the same things.

Marketing Major AppliancesTheir advantage is that consumers of premium major appliances are already predisposed to purchasing them. The premium appliance consumer is not one who, when the microwave breaks, heads to Home Depot to go get another one.

In a kitchen remodel, for example, a premium appliance consumer discusses appliance options with their designer or contractor who will lead them toward a particular brand or brands.

From the perspective of the premium appliance manufacturers, this is a terrible place to play in because they have no control. Marketing major appliances in this segment the brands cede control the contractor or designer.

There is little innate brand preference and that preference comes as a result of past experience with the brands. But that’s not stealing market share.

One thing is clear, premium appliance brands don’t know what drives customers to purchase their specific brands other than what drives a premium appliance customer to purchase ANY premium appliance brand – design, innovation, quality and cooking, if you go by what the market’s players say.

The Mass Market Segment

For the remainder of this study, we will look at marketing major appliances brands that are readily available, particularly in big box retail.

SamsungSamsung Logo

Samsung does have a premium-like line of major appliances called Chef Collection, but the vast majority of its sales are in mass market. It is a bit difficult for consumers to separate the Samsung appliance brand from the Samsung Electronics brand – especially since Samsung has used the same actors for both, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard.

Samsung Electronics ad:

Samsung Washer ad:

Samsung is attempting to create a lifestyle. After all, Samsung can be used for everything from phones to major appliances. That is actually one of the things that makes it approachable. It’s clear that Samsung is leveraging its innovation-driven electronics brand to drive preference in the appliance market. It wants to be known as a technology expert.

marketing major appliancesThe problem with this strategy is that a product failure, product substitution, or, more dangerously, a technology failure on either side hurts the Samsung brand as a whole.

And let’s be honest for a moment, when you see the washer ad, how innovative is it if you can add to a load mid-cycle? Top loading washers have had that capability for years. If you are really concerned about adding additional items, wouldn’t one just choose a top loader in the first place?

Samsung tells the consumer that its major appliances can handle anything you can throw at them. The messaging is all about what the major appliances can do with the single exception of the ranges in which the messaging shifts to what the consumer can do with the range.

Although Samsung blurs its electronics and major appliances brands, neither owns a distinct position in the market space. For the Samsung appliance brand, you get design, innovation and ease of use.

All are table stakes of the category. Nothing Samsung says is a true reflection of the customer or who the customer aspires to be when they use the brand.


LG LogoLG feels very similar to Samsung but humanizes its brand when marketing major appliances through its Life’s Good tagline. While not highly emotional, the tag line does attempt to connect with the consumer as if to say, “If you believe life’s good, then LG is the brand for you.”

However, it is much more likely that the brand is really trying to convey, “With LG, life’s good,” making the brand more about LG than about the customer it wishes to influence.

You also recognize that it’s about the manufacturer and not the customer by the way that the initials of Life’s Good are LG. If noticed, then the line becomes non-believable. It’s becomes only clever.

Much like Samsung, LG talks about innovation, design and ease of use.

LG Twin Wash Commercial

However, in a bit of a non sequitur, LG also introduces a new concept of fitness meeting fashion. This is a web series with Malin Akerman where she talks about staying healthy while looking great. The videos are a minute and a half long and she spends less than 10 seconds, at the very end, talking about the washing machine. These videos are clearly aimed at women who might connect with her but they do little in terms of building the brand of LG.

LG Side Kick where fitness meets fashion:

Unlike Samsung, LG is trying to market by just being different. Differentiation in the marketing sense requires two things: being different and being better. Other than the loose tie with fashion and fitness, there is nothing in the LG brand that represents anything better.


GE Appliances LogoGE has a number of sub-brands: Profile, Café, Artistry, and Monogram. All of these GE sub-brands cite design and style as differentiators but there are some other differences as well.

GE Artistry

GE Artistry is the Target of the GE family of major appliances. It claims to be the height of appliance design and style, but it has stripped down all of the fancy features (like a timer on their range, for example) to give consumers major appliances that heat, clean, cool and cook.

Like the Target brand, GE is attempting to make GE Artistry cool, cheap and chic. It is a slight change in the marketing major appliances strategies.

This is a good example of an appliance brand understanding its consumer. There are many consumers who are just starting out, perhaps buying their first major appliances and who are drawn to a brand that enabled them to buy style without breaking the bank.

Below is a co-opted online ad of the GE Artistry series where the brand differentiators of cool, stylish and inexpensive are clearly laid out.

So the question is, does cool overcome cheap in major appliances? Major appliances by their very nature are meant to last for a considerable amount of time. With the GE Artistry sub-brand, at what point does the cool factor wear off?

While it may have a certain style today, appliance style may completely change in a matter of just a couple of years. For anyone thinking of an appliance that is supposed to last more than a couple of years, GE Artistry is probably not for them. From a brand perspective, the GE Artistry brand is often too of the moment.

GE Cafe

The GE Café sub-brand claims to be restaurant inspired. GE Café is also the only one of the GE sub-brands that says anything about innovation. The intention of the GE Café brand in marketing major appliances is to be for the serious cook who needs the features and power of restaurant quality major appliances.

This first ad discusses the power and advanced cooking technology of the major appliances to take “food further.”

What is seriously wrong with this ad is that it gives no credit to the cook. The ad is about the major appliance. While it assumed that a consumer knows that major appliances alone can’t make food, the argument is backwards. “GE major appliances take food further.” Rather, the argument should be “If you are always looking to take food further, GE Café is designed for you.” Then it becomes a real reflection of who the consumer aspires to be.

Compare that with the ad below:

While this ad demonstrates the innovative feature of the Keurig brewing system, it portrays this innovation as something that’s normal. It just makes things easier and good enough for everyday (and extra special days). All the power and advanced cooking technology seen in the other ad, and what GE Café is supposed to be about, is completely gone. Now the GE Café brand is about ease of use and everyday cooking.

GE Profile RefrigeratorGE Cafe RefrigeratorGE’s other brands, such as GE Monogram, GE and GE Profile, are about sophisticated style, craftsmanship and modern style, respectively. GE Monogram is meant to be GE’s high-end brand where the GE and GE Profile sub-brands are the everyman’s brand.

Instead of consumers identifying with a particular sub-brand of GE, they are stuck comparing features and price between the brands. There is no true preference.

That opens up the rest of the brands at Home Depot to the consumer’s considered set. The power GE thinks it is getting from differentiating its sub-brands actually makes the brands more suspect to competing non-GE brands.

In marketing major appliances, GE has tried to segment its market to the point where it is trying to be all things to all consumers. As such, it is for no one. GE wants to leverage the power of GE throughout all of its sub-brands but is depending too much on the consumer to be able to navigate them.

Walking into a Home Depot, for example, you can find all of these GE brands sitting together with price hangtags. There is nothing differentiating one from another thus canceling out any brand differentiation and reducing the individual power of marketing major appliances. How is the GE Café refrigerator that sells for $2700 any different than the GE Profile that sells for $2300? Standing in the store, is the GE Café brand worth $400 more without an ice and water dispenser?


Whirlpool LogoWhirlpool has a bit more of a heritage than others, particularly in marketing major appliances. Its products promise innovation and design much like everyone else.

But the innovation and design come as a result of Whirlpool’s corporate position of making the most out of the moments that matter and innovation that develops at the pace of life.

Corporately, Whirlpool is focused on avoiding flash. Its major appliances are designed to be as easy and flexible as possible so that they do not impede running the house. Whirlpool understands that major appliances are simply tools to do tasks.

In this ad, Whirlpool credits consumers with taking care of their household, knowing that care can be messy. Then the ad posits how the product can help you “care.”

In this ad, the caring aspect of the brand is still present and is much less about the products than about the whole idea of caring. Whirlpool has successfully separated the product from the act of using the appliance in its strategy of marketing major appliances.

marketing major appliancesJust about anyone with children can think of a time where they were in a similar situation. Parents make lunches for their kids (yes even with cute notes) and they do laundry when a child falls in the mud or has an accident.

At those times, the appliance that keeps the food cold or washes the soiled clothes is irrelevant. It is everyone’s expectation that, when they go to the refrigerator to pull out the lunch meat or put a muddy shirt in the washing machine, that the food will be cold and the shirt will be clean.

These are table stakes of the entire appliance category. The brand of appliance does not matter.

In print, Whirlpool tries to convey the idea of being designed to simplify.Whirlpool Refrigerator Ad

Whirlpool says its refrigerators are not simplified but that their refrigerators somehow make “your coolest creations simple.”

Whirlpool should certianly be commended for at least attempting to make its brand a reflection of the customer, but can a refrigerator make what a consumer wants out of its contents more simple?

While the brand of Whirlpool is certianly a feel-good kind of brand, it lacks a key ingredient to incite change in a behavior. It is not pursuasive.

The Whirlpool brand wants consumers to believe that choosing another appliance brand will get in the way of running the house and taking care of the family.

Unfortunately for Whirlpool, that simply is not true. Unless the appliance is broken, which happens to all major appliances, getting in the way of running the house is not a point of failure. All major appliances work and are easy to use.




KitchenAid Logo

KitchenAid is probably best known for its stand mixers and food processors. But it does have a full line of major kitchen major appliances as well.

Its brand is for those who create, paying homage to the users of the appliance for their ability to create.  KitchenAid does bring the consumer into its brand, probably better than the rest of the competitive landscape. The spot demonstrates that the user has more control over creating even better dishes with the KitchenAid line of products.

KitchenAid backs up those statements with the table stakes of design, performance and features to back up this idea. The important part is that the main themes are the reasons for preference and, therefore, make the table stakes more important.


Maytag was once the king of marketing major appliances. There was a time when Maytag had a single message represented by a single iconic figure, the lonely Maytag repairman.

Jesse White was the original “loneliest guy in town” and that campaign went on for nearly 50 years. As everyone knows, the Maytag repairman was so lonely becase he had nothing to do – Maytag washers and dryers, and other major appliances, were so dependable that they did not need repairing.

In 2014, Maytag shifted their approach to the Maytag repairman:

The more active repairman is no longer a repairman. Rather, he represents the “hardworking hum of a Maytag home.”

marketing major appliancesMaytag once owned the whole idea of dependable in marketing major appliances. In much of the same way that Volvo once owned the idea of safety, Maytag very successfully owned what is supposed to be a table stake value.

However, as competitors’ products became more reliable, Maytag shifted its once iconic position.

While the concept of dependability is not as pronounced as it once was, it is still tightly woven into the fabric of Maytag, at least in words. It talks about its products as being “All kinds of (insert kitchen product category), one kind of dependable” or “You can’t have delectable without dependable.”

What is odd is that Maytag has nearly dropped all references to dependable in its print ads, with its washers and dryers and kitchen major appliances, instead focusing on best-in-class cleaning and hard work. It is a change fir them in the strategy of marketing major appliances

Even the print ads are missing the idea of dependability.

Maytag OvenMaytagPrint1_800









The equity of dependability is gone. It is is now simply nostalgic.

Maytag has diluted its brand with the repurposing of the Maytag repairman. Because dependability is now a table stake, it was right to step away from it. However, Maytag has landed in a spot that is unemotional (although quirky).

Fridgidaire/ElectroluxFrigidaire Electrolux Logo

We can combine these brands because there is so little difference between them and they are part of the same company. For the most part, Electrolux, the parent company, makes the same products for both then labels them differently even though there isn’t much difference between them in the first place.

The Fridgidaire/Electrolux brand as it currently stands is about time savings.

It has attempted to demonstrate how all of their kitchen major appliances can save their owners time, either with stainless steel that reduces fingerprints, faster preheating or a dishwasher that has more water coverage.

However, while time savings may not be completely applicable to a smudge proof refrigerator, Fridgidaire/Electrolux does a good job with living up to that promise with its washing machine, which can clean a load in 20 minutes.

marketing major appliancesFrom a brand perspective, the question is, “Is time savings a brand or a characteristic of a brand?” Further, is it the single most emotionally intensive thing that could be said to get a consumer to consider the Fridgidaire/Electrolux brand? What makes marketing major appliances effective?

To answer the first question, the idea of time-savings is not really true to all of Frigidaires products. Its gas cooktops don’t boil water faster, its microwaves don’t cook faster and its refrigerators don’t cool faster.

Secondly, do consumers who purchase Frigidaire products see themselves as someone who saves time or do they buy them because they believed they were the best value? Or do they believe that the product has the most features?

In marketing major appliances, there are other brands – Kenmore, Hotpoint, and Amana for example (all manufactured by Whirlpool). Hotpoint and Amana are low-priced value brands. Kenmore, once highly sought after, has become an also ran in this category, partly because of Sears/Kmart’s struggles and very limited distribution.

Summary of Marketing Major Appliances

What have we learned about marketing major appliances? It’s pretty easy to divide the category into two – high-end major appliances and mass market. Brands have a distinct fit in to each of these very broad categories.

After that, things get pretty murky.

Marketing major appliancesMarketing major appliances in the high-end segment, brands talk a lot about luxury, innovation and creating an experience. There are varying degrees but thematically each of them fall here. In effect, all of the high-end brands are claiming table stake values.

What the premium appliance brands have in their favor is that there are fewer of them to choose from, so each can have a bigger piece of the market share pie than their mass market brethren.

The high-end appliance brands work very closely with builders, interior designers and architects to build a relationship with the brand. Secondly, these brands either have a dedicated sales force or are sold only in stores that sell other high-end brands, making the sales force more knowledgable about each brand. The caveat to both of these advantages is that the brands are giving up control to a third party to sell their major appliances.

Marketing major appliancesIn marketing major appliances in the mass market, the story is even bleaker. The mass market brands have done a poor job in creating differentiation. The brands have nothing to do with the user and instead are all about the major appliances.

On the other hand, some brands attempt to own a table stake of the entire appliance category – innovation, design, style, it cools, it heats, it washes, etc. In effect, the mass market brands are trying to convince consumers to buy their brands simply because they are major appliances.

Further, there are any number of retail outlets selling one, two or all of the mass market brands. The brands are mixed up on the floor with specific major appliances grouped together. Consumers are then forced to make decisions on the brand of appliance based on features and price.

Marketing major appliancesEven if a consumer has a preference for a particular brand, with all of the brands present, that preference could easily be overcome by a feature or a sale on another brand. That’s because in the marketing of major appliances, brands themselves have not given anyone a real reason to choose.

Sure, appliance manufacturers and brands are likely saying, “Oh, we are the best designed, we have a washing machine that you can add to mid-cycle, or we make our major appliances easy to use and clean.” But again, those do not create preference. They should be the supporting points for an emotional brand that creates loyal customers.

Like Electrolux/Frigidaire’s attempt to capitalize on the idea of saving time or Maytag’s durability claims, it should be woven into everything the brand is and does.

This does not just apply to the mass market brands. The high-end brands should also take note. As this space becomes more and more crowded, the survival of all appliance brands may depend on it.

There is a better way

When marketing major appliances brands that can connect with and be a reflection of the consumers will have a distinct advantage in this category. In marketing major appliances, it would drive preference if a brand could give consumers the answer to, “Who am I when I use this appliance brand?”

Marketing major appliances This answer must come directly from the consumer’s beliefs not simply a fulfillment of a passing want or need. Beliefs are powerful. They are not transient but rather enduring guideposts that influence each and every decision we as human beings make everyday.

When brands are really derived from belief, not just wants and needs they have the DNA of the consumer built in them and resonate on such an emotional level that choosing a different brand would be akin to emotional suicide – a consumer would actually be choosing against who they believed they are or aspire to be.

Its easy to satisfy a want or need there are many options with many substitutes.

Aligning with a belief, now that is something different and in marketing major appliances, brands would be wise to pay attention, because the opportunity is there to steal market share.

Beer Marketing and Differentiation

Beer Marketing — Growing Beer Market Share


Beer marketingThe following glance at beer marketing will give you a quick peak into how Stealing Share operates and finds solutions. Of course, no branding project would be complete without market research and all too often beer marketing lacks valuable research. This is just a cursory analysis. But it suggests a brand position that beer brands could use to steal share based on our own experience and expertise in branding beers. If your brand needs to steal share, feel free to email us or call us.


Keeping the advertising in mind for all of beer marketing is important because to be successful in stealing market share your brand needs to be both different and better. So try to keep in mind all the beer ads you’ve ever seen (COORS, Budweiser, Michelob, Miller, MGD, Corona, Beck’s, Heineken, Red Stripe, Bud Light, Sam Adams, Amstel Light and Coors Light — for example). (You can view many of the category commercials here in our beer market study). Take a look before going on with this article.

It’s important to start by briefly describing the personality, position and promise of each of the brands. Here is a short example of just a few US domestic brands.

Brand Personality Position Promise
Budweiser Confident. Hip. King of beers “I get it.”
Miller Lite Hip. Youthful. Beer for friends It’s the experience.
Coors Lite Hip (a bit sophomoric) Cold. From the Rockies. Everyman Beer.
MGD Cool. Aloof. Genuine Seize the day.
Miller High Life Knowable The High Life Everything in perspective.
Coors Real Legendary Be an original.
Michelob Cool. Knowing. Tastes Imported Taste


Possible Meanings

Beer Marketing Positions
There are many possible positions. The goal is to find the one with the highest emotional intensity.

We considered the positions that a beer brand could take based on the advertising when mapping out the beer landscape with the goal to create meaningful beer marketing messages. Of course that assumes that the advertisers know what they are trying to convey – and THAT is a frightening assumption. Remember, for a brand position to have any meaning there must be an opposite position that a brand could chose for any of the positions to have true meaning to the customer. For example, “Best” is not a brand position because no one would claim “worst.” “Best” simply isn’t believable to the customer. But someone may claim the “intimate” position because a competitor could claim “casual.” That would be believable because it’s positioned against another’s positioning. Below are some possible positions a beer could choose:

Rules of Positioning

The following rules are helpful when selecting a beer marketing position to steal share in your market.

  1. Thrust:
    The positioning must demonstrate an active competitive advantage. This advantage answers the question of “why should I care” from the perspective of the consumer.
  2. Beer Marketing
    Strategy has rules

    The positioning must have a powerful relevance to the target audience and their interest and receptiveness must be peaked.

  3. Definition:
    The positioning must be distinctive. It must set the brand apart from the competition.
  4. Density:
    The positioning must be single minded. It must have clarity and simplicity and must illuminate the target’s main precept.
  5. Synthesis:
    The positioning must be fused together in an emotional bond with the target audience. It must grab them in the gut.
  6. Integrity:
    The positioning must be believable. If the message raises suspicion – even if it is true – barriers are raised.
  7. Precision:
    The positioning must speak to the target that is best positioned to influence consumption or to consume that product or service.
  8. Convergence:
    The positioning must convey the same positioning message in all of the ways in which the consumer has of touching the brand.
  9. Momentum:
    The present positioning must build upon (but never mimic) the equity (if any) of past communications to leverage any residual positioning equity.
  10. Acceleration:
    The positioning must keep pace with the changing markets to evolve constantly making itself increasingly effective each day.

Beer Marketing and the Current Market

Next, we map out graphically how the major beer brands see themselves to check if there’s a position ready for the taking. This is an important exercise in developing beer marketing messages and beer brand positions.

Beer Marketing
Today the market is divided mostly by origin and price point.

Beer Marketing
Most microbrews define themselves by their origins or styles

Beer Marketing
To be fair, all the beers brands could be positioned one on top of the other as there is little differentiation

Beer Marketing Summary

All the major domestic beers are, by and large, competing for the same audience with vastly similar messaging. The market skews towards masculine-bawdy. Where are the beer marketing differences? How are they being delivered?

Quality, distinctive taste and better beer belongs to the imports and the micro-brews with some spillover into the specialty mass brews of Killians, Red Dog Blue Moon and the like.

Therefore, to claim a position as the superior tasting beer is in violation of rule 7 (integrity). It simply is not believable.

Like most mature markets, the beer marketing messages need to trade off personality and brand image rather than product benefit. After all, no one prefers a beer that they do not like. Taste or even a promise of better taste is not an effective lever to take market share.

Inside-out and Outside-in

Let’s dig deeper to accurately find positions that have the most meaning to customers and provide a market opportunity. Think about beer marketing from an inside-out perspective (how the beer brand presents itself) and an outside-in prospect perspective (how the customer feels about the brand).

Beer Marketing Implications

The most successful and powerful beer advertising of the past 10 years has toyed with this position. Bud’s anthemic “This Bud’s for you” and the original “Miller Time” campaign from years back found home in this quadrant. In today’s market, the closest player to this position is Corona, which has been one of the strongest and fastest growing beers in the import market.

Behavior Modeling Analysis

beerpres_b42_355To ensure that this beer marketing position has true and important meaning to the audience, we thought through the process (what it is customers think beer does), purpose (what the result of that process is) and the precept (what are the fundamental beliefs of the audiences that leads them to think that is the process). That brings us to the ruling precepts that are the most basic and critical precepts that motivate this audience. As you can see, a brand that fits into the sophisticated/intimate/confident position will appeal to this market ? and steal market share.

From our Behavior Modeling (Read more about it here) analysis we came up with the following precepts that support our market audit.

The Beer Marketing Prime Position

X beer is an authentic great tasting American beer for those of us that don’t need to follow the crowd.

Beer Opportunity.001

“This is the confident beer for those of us who know exactly where we stand. Some things in the world simply need no explanations. Good judgment has great rewards. Discriminating and smart enough to avoid trends and ads. Nourishes the spirit without pretense.”

Predict the success of marketing. A Marketing Metrics

Predict the success of marketing. Predicting that influence on brand strategy

The Human Model | Motivators | Challenges | Desire | Familiarity | Leadership | Affirmation | Scope | Comfort | Change | Community | Summary

By Tom Dougherty

Introduction into the art of how to predict the success of marketing

The purpose for all messaging and communications is to have influence on the audience and to persuade it to act. However, getting your message to the proper audience in today’s economic climate is no longer an issue of choosing among the possibilities. Instead, it has become solely an issue of affordability. There is a need to predict the success of marketing messages. In retrospect, many experts have looked at the success of past advertising campaigns but hindsight is not valuable.

predict the success of marketing
A model to predict behavior

Companies do what they “need” to do, instead of what they “want” to do. How do you measure effectiveness and ensure that you win? These questions can be predicted if not measured. We needed a comprehensive model to predict the success of marketing so we created this marketing metrics. For that “need” to be effective, it must be the most meaningful in the market – and it must resonate considering the current situation, such as an economic climate that has changed the mindsets of consumers.

The unwillingness to address those needs and go with the same tired approach – messaging that’s nearly identical to what was delivered years ago and follows the tired reach-frequency format so many misguided marketers follow – produces a predictable, losing formula. After all, in changing times, there will still be winners and there will still be losers.  The difference between the two is one understands the nature of human beings and the other doesn’t.

If you seek to understand something, it always makes sense to model it. The science of physics has been modeling natural laws for centuries. The marketing metrics model presented here is a formula that takes into account the emotional intensities of the primary human motivators within any changing situation, economic or otherwise, to formulate messages that will resonate most strongly with audiences, and predict the success of marketing messages. With this marketing metrics model, you will learn to recognize the elements and, if form follows function, you will be able to understand how to influence and change the model. (Read how precepts control behavior)

The Comprehensive Model of Persuasive Communications for marketing and branding. How to predict the success of marketing A New Human Model for Persuasive Communications

to predict the success of marketing is the goal of any strategist and marketing matrix
How well will our marketing messages resonate

Human behavior can be modeled, as you will see, and this marketing metrics model in particular models the behavioral elements of persuasion. Let’s start by asking ourselves, what do we notice? How do we decide what is important and what we remember? When we examine the answers to those questions, we begin to re-think the waste inherent in current marketing. Looking at the elements of human behavior is quite different from modeling a communication process like reach and frequency. For this new model to be usable, it needs to act as a predictor of human behavior and, by definition, should be able to explain past communication successes and failures.

What Human Beings Notice Most

Human beings are egocentric. We cannot get out of our own way and see almost everything through the filter of self. As a result of this filter, what the receiver considers most when confronted with messages is not so much “what’s in it for me” (which is the traditional model of benefits and features) but rather “am I in it”? Human beings notice ideas and products that, in some way, reflect themselves. They remember products and ideas that help them accomplish their major goal of simply becoming themselves. That is why, if a doctor tells you to lose weight because of the onset of diabetes, we notice and pay attention to messages about weight loss — a message we might have ignored the day before. (Another example: Think of how many For Sale signs you saw when you were buying a house. Then think about how, amazingly, they seemed to disappear once you bought the house.)

The New Marketing Metrics Model to Predict the Success of Marketing and Marketing Messages

Imagine this: You are driving down the highway and you see a billboard that featured your photograph. Would you notice it, regardless of message? Absolutely. There is a communications process that empowers every message to become exactly that effective. It requires an anthropologist’s skill at understanding and modeling human behaviors and motivations. Once that has been uncovered, you would need to include that learning in the message itself. It would be nearly as effective – and in a similar way – as starting every message with the customer’s name and image. Through experience and empirical and scientific research, the human motivators have been effectively modeled here and the basic elements are cross-cultural, so personal impression can be noticed and acted upon. The basic queries in this marketing metrics remain constant regardless of culture or national origin. They are global. Understanding the eight elementary human motivators propels your message to the forefront and ensures it is remembered.

The Unquenchable Thirst for Meaning

Human beings, regardless of culture, seek meaning in all of their actions. (Consider this: We even talk to our dogs, expecting them to give reasons for the things they do.) This represents an opportunity for those communicators who understand this tremendous thirst for meaning. This means that the words we choose to create meaning to our messages and our brand is extraordinarily important. It means that everyone who is exposed to your offering or the communication of that offering sees this meaning and, in fact, will use the words you provide to them. This is a double-edged sword. If you get the meaning wrong, those with whom you are communicating will insert meaning that is not important or motivating to them and, therefore, fail to inspire them to your ideas, services, products or brands.

The Prime Motivators in the Marketing Metrics

The eight primary human motivators form the basics of self-identification and account for a human’s own sense of self — given that the fundamental needs for sustenance, shelter and health are sated. By addressing each of these in your message, you ensure that everyone who is exposed to your message (reach) will notice the message.

1. Affirmation 2. Leadership 3. Familiarity 4. Comfort 5. Change 6. Community 7. Desire 8. Scope

These eight prime motivators are the filters through which all messages are received, accepted, ignored or rejected. The more they reflect the “self-settings” of the recipient, the more likely they are to be acted upon.

Good Times vs. Tough Times and Times of Change

In creating this model, we looked at each of the eight prime motivators needed to predict the success of marketing messages and measured the differences between cultural norms in both good and tough economic times because most companies and brands in the U.S. have become handicapped by this situation. The marketing metrics model will demonstrate the differences in these motivators, predict success and explain failure. We are able to recognize the intensities of each motivator in relation to the situation as well as the rate with which they change during changing situations. In this case, that situation is economic: Going from “good times” to the “tough times” of today. The motivators below are listed in order of intensity during good times and tough times. Also, the way in which each motivator is defined changes slightly, depending on overall circumstances. It is those nuances that often make the difference between a winning message in the context of the times and a losing one. Each motivator has been given an intensity measurement, a ranking on a 10-point scale based on the particular situation. In addition to differing definitions, the rate of change for the intensity of a human motivator from one situation to another is referred to as Acceleration, and those rates are measured on a 10-point scale.

Tough Times
Good Times
1. Comfort 1. Desire
2. Affirmation 2. Familiarity
3. Familiarity 3. Leadership
4. Community 4. Affirmation
5. Change 5. Scope
6. Desire 6. Comfort
7. Scope 7. Change
8. Leadership 8. Community

Desire(Good Times intensity 6.0 — Tough Times intensity 6.5 — Acceleration 8.0)

In good times, the most important human motivator is Desire. It derives its power from its relationship with the other motivators. Simply taking into account the desires of the target audience that you seek to influence is not nearly enough to promise success. It is simply a starting point. A traditional usage and attitudinal study (U&A Study) can discover what people need or want and the results are then used to create messaging that fulfills those desires. However, there is a more powerful means to understand and use this dynamic — one that will make it useful to you as a predictor of success and as a tool to understand past successes or failures in the marketing metrics.

predict the success of marketing

In good times, the fulfillment of desires is defined as “What I Want.” In tough times, it is defined as “What I Need.” Comparing the relative importance of each definition in good or tough times demonstrates why the benefit you offered in relative good times will not resonate as important in tough times. As a general rule, all intensities are increased in tough times and each of the prime motivators is realized as more important. But understanding the nuances is critical in the marketing metrics because it’s what makes the difference between surviving in tough times. In this case, that means your message must be about “need,” not “want.”     Think of it this way: In tough times, you “need” products to simply do their job. In good times, you “want” something more. In tough times, we simply need coffee, so you accept the one at the grocery store. In good times, you want Starbucks. And thus, you have a predictor of what Starbucks is currently going through unless they adapt their communications to the particular nuance.

Familiarity (Good Times intensity 5.0 — Tough Times intensity 7.0 — Acceleration of 6.40)

All communicators understand how important familiarity is to any idea, product, or service because if someone is unfamiliar with that product or service they are less likely to adopt it as a new behavior. Familiarity is also linked to top-of-mind awareness in the marketing metrics but even that is misunderstood. It is not so much about the familiarity of the brand or product, but what is it about that brand or product that makes it feels familiar and at ease.

predict the success of marketing

In good times, the fulfillment of familiarity is defined as “What is Easy.” In tough times, it is defined as “What is Safest.” That is, in good times, consumers are looking to what makes things easy for them, even if its outcome may have risks. In tough times, risk is less accepted. Safe feels familiar to audiences now because it offers a refuge that may herald back to nostalgia.

Seeking the Familiar - predict the success of marketing

For example, when you are thirsty in good times, you might choose what is “easy.” That is, we might grab what is most available. In tough times, we seek “safest,” meaning we might inconvenience ourselves and go somewhere else for something that is healthier or cheaper.

Leadership (Good Times intensity 4.0 — Tough Times intensity 5.0 — Acceleration of 7.0)

When we think about leadership as a human motivator in the marketing metrics we are not talking about taking the lead on something as we might in geopolitical terms. We are talking about leadership in terms of responsibility — meaning, “Who takes the responsibility for this action?” It is an internal question asked by everyone before they take any action.

predict the success of marketing

In good times, from the point of view of the target audience, the fulfillment of Leadership is defined as “My Responsibility” (the consumer) and in tough times it is defined as “Your Responsibility” (the brand). In good times, audiences are more than happy to assume the responsibility because the risks are fewer. Once the element of risk has become more threatening, however, audiences want the responsibility to fall to the experts (or communicator of the message).

Leadership in good and tough times - predict the success of marketing

As strange at it may sound, according to the marketing metrics, we listen to experts more in tough times.  Even if they were the ones who let us down in good times. That’s because the responsibility has shifted. Choice, as we will examine more closely in Scope, becomes less of a motivator.

Affirmation (Good Times intensity 3.0 — Tough Times intensity 7.0 — Acceleration of 6.99)

One of the ways human beings seek meaning is by looking for affirmation in their choices. Consumers wish to make sure that all of their actions are somehow affirmed as “being correct.” As a primary human motivator – regardless of culture, product and category – everyone that your brand or marketing message contacts are seeking this sense of affirmation and certainty.

predict the success of marketing

Without this value in the marketing metrics, target audiences gravitate towards inaction: A refusal to make a choice or fall back into a habit of what “I have always done.” This is a surefire way to assure continued market dominance by the category leader. It means that if we do not provide our audiences with a sense of affirmation, little or no change will take place in the marketplace and the market leader will continue to benefit from this inaction.

Seeking Correctness - predict the success of marketing

In good times, the fulfillment of Affirmation is defined as making the Best Choice and in tough times it is defined as making the Right Choice. For example, in good times, we will look for the best choice in automobiles, something that is top of the line or sporty fits us best. In tough times, we look for those things that are right, such as a hybrid or something more economical. The world, in a way, has determined that it’s right. Talking about the choices consumers make in terms of affirming they have made the right choice makes your messages more meaningful in a difficult economic climate.

Scope (Good Times intensity 3.0 — Tough Times intensity 5.0 — Acceleration 7.75)

Scope is one the most complex of the human motivators in the marketing metrics. When we consider Scope, we see it in terms of how large audiences want their considered set to be. This is related to the other motivators, such as leadership or the transfer of the responsibility of the decision to others. What we seek to understand in looking at scope is what gives the customer or prospect permission to include the scope of either your product or category into their consideration.

predict the success of marketing

In good times, the fulfillment of Scope is defined as having many choices and in tough times it is defined as having precision and more focus. In good times, audiences seek a wide scope, with lots of choices. In tough times, we are looking for “right,” so more focus is needed. Our considered set is smaller and we often give expert advice more weight. This, for example, is why Borders (which is all about choice) found it difficult to survive in a difficult economic climate.

Defining Scope - predict the success of marketing

Comfort (Good Times intensity 2.0 — Tough Times intensity 9.0 — Acceleration 9.18)

Human beings seek comfort no matter the situation, but the intensity surrounding it is much stronger depending on that situation.

predict the success of marketing

According to the marketing metrics, in good times, Comfort is simply accepted as the norm. In tough times, it is actively sought. In good times, most of us feel that we already have comfort so a comfort message is relatively meaningless. In tough times, however, comfort is no longer a given. Therefore, we seek it and a comfort promise – instead of achieving, which has risks – resonates. Note the differences in intensities with this motivator within the two situations. It is only a 2.0 on a 10-point scale in good times. In tough times, it’s a 9.0 with one of the highest rates of acceleration among all the motivators.

Comfort in the ability to predict the success of marketing

Change (Good Times intensity 1.5 — Tough Times intensity 7.0 — Acceleration of 6.99)

The longing for human beings to be in control is a prime motivator. It is within the dynamic of change in the marketing metrics that the need for control becomes most evident. When we think about change as a key persuasive human motivator, we actually think about it as a barrier than as an attraction. The changing situation determines its intensity.

predict the success of marketing

In good times, the resistance to Change is simply uncomfortable and in tough times it is outright feared. Therefore, in tough times, change messages should be softened, otherwise they will feel to audiences like a loss of control.

Perception of change -predict the success of marketing

Community (Good Times intensity 1.0 — Tough Times intensity 7.0 — Acceleration 9.31)

Community in the marketing metrics, refers to the acceptance of the community that affirms our existence and is related to Affirmation. It represents the wish of all human beings to be part of an affirmed group. Very few people are capable of acting as completely independent individuals. Therefore, for the vast majority of people we wish to influence, we must understand the importance of community and the acceptance that community offers.

predict the success of marketing

In good times, the fulfillment of Community is simply about the individual and in tough times it is satisfied through the safety of numbers. In good times, you can risk going it alone – being a leader, a rebel, etc. – because there is less at stake. In tough times, there is too much at risk in going it alone, so you seek safety in a community or being a part of a group.

Seeking Community - predict the success of marketing

Maketing Metrics Summary

Companies and their brands have reached the point in which their communications must change in order to survive in such a changing market. The marketing metrics of the Comprehensive Model for Persuasive Human Communications allows them to alter their messaging so that it becomes more meaningful in context. If nobody adapts to the current context, the default choice will always be the market leader. But the situation actually presents an opportunity for those chasing the market leader (as well as for the market leaders themselves) that reaches target audiences so deeply it causes action. How the primary human motivators are addressed will become the difference between who survives and who doesn’t.

Definitions COMPREHENSIVE MODEL FOR PERSUASIVE HUMAN COMMUNICATIONS: A mathematical model that measures the impact changing conditions have on emotional intensities of primary human motivators. The model can be used to predict and formulate messages for brands that will resonate most strongly with target audiences.

INTENSITIES: The relative strength of human motivators expressed as a ranking on a 10-point scale based on the particular attributes examined by the model. ACCELERATION: The rate of change for the intensity of a human motivator from one state to another, measured on a 10-point scale.

VALUE OF MESSAGE CHANGE: A mathematical representation using intensity and acceleration to predict the value in terms of its overall impact on each motivator.


Download a Power Point Presentation of motivational-Cues and how to predict the success of marketing messages here.pptx
Download a PowerPoint presentation of motivational-Cues and how to predict the success of marketing messages on the link below

Download a Power Point Presentation of motivational-Cues and how to predict the success of marketing messages here.pptx

How to predict the success of marketing messages as a PDF may be downloaded here.

Airline Marketing. Different is Better. Not here.

Airline Marketing is Off-Track

By Tom Dougherty

A steadfast rule when stealing market share is not to follow the leader. Rather, it is of paramount importance to be different and better then the competition. Nowhere is that tenant more abused than in today’s airline marketing. One embattled airline after another clambers to become the next “low cost” airline believing that “price” is the only means by which customers today can choose. Airline brand problems are so common they are commonplace. Airline marketing needs to catch up with other industries. (Read our in-depth airline study here)


No one can, or should, knock the success of SOUTHWEST (SW) Airlines, however, their success in this competitive environment has as much to do with efficiency and process as it does to lower fares. Let’s face it; if SW Airlines moves into a new route, they take share away from the other players even as the other airlines match the price of SW’s fares.

Chart with airline marketing positions
The positions are so crowded they would all overlap


In all of our brand work, no category that we have ever monitored is so desperately in need of a fresh look from both the brand and operations perspective. The dissatisfaction amongst customers is universally (US Domestic Carriers) felt. Yet, each and every airline has decided that the only value upon which customers today will choose is that of lowest price. How is that different and better? United created TED and US Airways touted itself as giving you more for less. Everyone understands the “less” but the “more” seems to be invisible. However, Delta is embarking on a real message.

Changes in the Airline Industry

What has changed in the industry? Quite simply — knowledge. 10 years ago airlines were not very competitive one with another. They did not have to be. Fares and schedules belonged to the airlines and travel agents and the information needed to make decisions was easily hidden. Today, through the Internet, all fare information is as close at hand as your computer monitor.

It is even possible to choose one over another based on price…in an instant. The airlines acknowledge this and believe that they need to compete in a tug-of-war for the traveler’s business on the sole equity of lowest fare. After all, from what else is there to choose? This IS the rub – Airline marketing, with the possible exception of SW, Virgin Atlantic (VA) and British Airways (BA) are all viewed as only commodities, not much different than a city bus — but with less leg room!

Airlines. A Lesson Learned?

Some years ago, BA did a little mathematics and discovered the premium price vs. seating space needed for business class was more than a zero sum game. They converted a good deal of their coach class space into business class space and as a result, revenues soared. In addition, they dramatically improved their brand image of being an airline preferred by business.


Chart of airline marketing opportunity
Brand Success is about Being Different


Today, a similar opportunity exists in the US domestic market. The value equation between legroom, seat size, and cost can be used to steal share — yet no airline has taken a look at this. Instead they have chosen to limit service, cut down legroom and seating space and cut costs. Opportunity exists for the brand that recognizes that they can cast a wider net and offer upper class amenities for a fair market price (hat’s off to Virgin Atlantic).

Rather than improving what matters most to customers – comfort, airlines have resorted to frequent flyer programs, which disguise themselves as loyalty programs to maintain a customer base. All one needs to do is listen to the disgruntled travelers in line at the cattle calls that portend to be Gates to understand that most travelers see the frequent flyer program as a quickly tarnishing chain that holds them prisoner to their past travel decisions instead of as a benefit. To many frequent travelers, frequent flyer programs are not seen as a sign of loyalty, but as a forced and unpleasant choice.

Similarity Spells Opportunity

Where then is the opportunity? It is in open and honest disclosure, better service, higher degrees of comfort and reasonable (not cheapest) pricing. If the value of a brand is to be found in the clarity of the customers’ ability to see themselves as better for having chosen, then there is ample fodder to differentiate the airline beyond simply cheapest. Airlines, treat your customers as human beings and not as cattle. Offer more (as opposed to claiming more) legroom, service and preferential treatment.

Fix the pricing arbitrage. At our Greensboro offices, for example, we can choose to fly from three airports, one 15 minutes away and two others about an hour a way (Charlotte and Raleigh). The Greensboro airport has few direct flights and flies to the Charlotte hub — adding a layover to most travel. Because of the security issues today, sometimes it makes “time sense” to drive to Charlotte instead of taking an inconvenient connecting flight.

For that privilege, of driving and hour, taking the same flight that would have been the connecting flight may very well cost twice the fare. Such pricing capabilities erode brand equity and place the airlines in a position of looking like a form of usury. What brand can build equity on that foundation? Airline marketing has a lot of growing up to do.