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Concepting, Jan Rijkenberg Concepting, Jan Rijkenberg
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Concepting, Jan Rijkenberg

Managing “concept brands” in the communications era

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  • Concepting is not about communicating product propositions (USPs, etc.). It’s about building brands that represent a certain way of fulfilling human needs, or how they communicate this.
  • Don’t overly define target audiences in socio-demographical metrics or other buying behaviors that your product could cater too. Create your audience.
  • A brand’s continuity is enabled and strengthened by the way it communicates with its followers. Building a belief system around your brand is vital to its success.
  • Concept brands add products to their sales strategy that grew naturally from the brand’s proposition and communicate this in a way appropriate to the brand’s concept.
  • Concepting turns the 4 Ps around (Promotion>Place>Price>Product).
  • Brands that grow – and grew – from conceptual ideas enable the consumer to strengthen his/her identity.
  • Products are supporters/carriers of the brand’s vision.
  • True product innovation and development based on identity-strengthening conceptual ideas usually receive a warm welcome from consumers. Mere cosmetic product innovation does not.
  • Positioning as communication of a brand’s added value is mere window dressing. It’s applied to a brand’s statement once added value has already been found. Concept brands build added value propositions and add products that translate added value into consumer experience.
  • When a company looks at its production capacities (What can we make for a reasonable ROI?), the danger is great that development will only consider current capabilities. Looking inside < looking outside.
  • Concepting brands watch society closely to make abstractions and provide answers to newly arisen consumer needs. This anticipation should be communicated through the brand.
  • This does not change marketing’s core principle that brands should listen to the consumer/market. It differs in that brands won’t answer by providing commoditized solutions to its consumers, but by contributing and adding value on a more spiritual/intellectual level.
  • Conceptual ideas (and brands) are usually born from a feeling. Analytics alone will not sprout conceptual ideas. Fertilizer for conceptual ideas:
    • interest in human nature: draw from life, for life
    • curiosity: clear vision means questioning everything
    • two-way communicative strength: keep channels open
    • unlimited creation: give your team the freedom it needs
  • After the conceptual phase, start research as soon as possible. List the first concept ideas and run them by consumers; use this consumer input as a catalyst to improve the ideas. The ideas might never make it to market, but that’s why we have research.
  • When initial tests show that most consumers reject a new concept, it’s not certain that the idea will be scrapped for good. Sometimes you have to be willing to run a concept/product that only appeals to less than 10% of the market. It’s better to have high interest from 10% than average interest from 40%.
  • Communication should be the main focus when entering the market with a concept brand. Concept statements are drawn from the brand’s vision and continuously communicated to all the stakeholders.
  • There is no need to integrate communication channels. Concept brands apply “total communication”; every act of communication is a statement of the brand’s concept.
  • A true personality is born with a concept brand; therefore it is only logical that communication strategy remains constant from channel to channel. The brand’s mentality is central to every possible communication.
  • Consumer = Brand = Company. Internal communication cannot and should not differ from consumer communication. Everyone involved should live and breathe the brand.
  • Success should not be the brand’s end game. It is only a signal that the brand is on the right track and will “walk the walk” towards the future. The brand has to keep learning from interactions with its stakeholders to evolve in the right direction. Once a pioneer, always a pioneer.
  • Markets are still laid out in terms of product. This is irrelevant to concept brands, because the terms are based on product categories. Concept brands should divide markets into “consumer categories.” Market differentiation should focus on all the nuances and differences that make up a consumer.
  • Competition should also be defined this way. When your concept brand’s products are things like consumer electronics, your competitors are not “other” consumer electronics producers. Your competitors are brands that live in and adhere to your consumer’s state of mind.
  • Communication-driven concept brands have their own management discipline. Intuitive brands have intuitive managers, communicative brands have communicative managers … Product managers turn into brand managers, brand managers turn into concept managers.

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