Thursday, March 24

Benchmark Brands

I guess in a way this is a follow-up post to one that I wrote last week about default brands. Brands that you choose over and over again by default, almost out of mindless routine. Potentially good, but a bit risky for the brand itself. Our brands need to be more engaged with our consumers if we really want breakthrough success.

Perhaps at the opposite end of the spectrum is the notion of a "benchmark" brand. A brand that sets a standard for a consumer, one that symbolizes something special that no other brand can touch. There is such an emotional connection that it becomes the gold standard in a consumer's mind.

Like walking into a party and seeing Veuve Clicquot champagne sitting in ice buckets. A benchmark brand because you know the host has gone all out and it's going to be a fun night.

You meet a blind date and she walks in with a Louis Vuitton bag. Benchmark brand that says she's concerned about how people perceive her and she's had success in her life. Or better yet, you finally are able to get one yourself, and that feeling you have when you walk out the store with that brown shopping bag in tote. Benchmark brand.

A family trip to Disney World, like you imagined you would do when you had kids and they were old enough (but not too old) to really enjoy the time together. Benchmark brand.

You visit a friend and notice that they have Tropicana orange juice in their fridge. Sign of a well stocked fridge with healthy choices. Benchmark brand.

I had my own benchmark brand experience this past weekend. I've been on Weight Watchers since January 1st (classic New Year's Resolution) to trim down and shape up. I have a favorite pair of Diesel jeans, size 30, that I have not been able to wear for probably 3 years. Those jeans are a symbol to me of fitness and style.

Benchmark brand.

I got the courage up to try them on again, just to see how far from goal I am. Happy to say that they slipped right on, buttoned right up, and I was still able to bend over and even eat lunch later on. Score!

Those jeans, particularly that brand and size, have become my benchmark.

What an amazing space to occupy in consumers' minds, being a benchmark brand. Not everyone can do it, and it's not always about price or style. Tylenol had it for a long time. Coca-Cola does for some people. It's about an emotional connection that can't be compared.

What's your benchmark brand ... what's your experience? Jim.

PS - My book "The Experience Effect" won the Silver Medal yesterday for best marketing book at the Axiom Business Book Awards. So psyched!


  1. Jim -

    My benchmark brand used to be Diet Dr. Pepper. I drank WAY too much of it, but when someone else also drank it or a restaurant carried it, it said to me that there's was a kindred spirit around...somebody outside the mainstream!

    Target might be another benchmark brand for me. I don't have very expensive tastes, so I'm not in high end stores. For me, there's something about the design style inside Target - whether it's furniture, clothing, groceries, even office supplies - that resonates with me.

    This post really got me thinking!

    BTW - Size 30? I worked like crazy to get into some 32's a few years ago, 33s still work pretty well, but wow....30's! I'm impressed!


  2. Admittedly, they are cut big :)
    Thanks for the comment .... I think for many Jeep is a benchmark brand too. Love it!

  3. Great post.

    I have 2 that I consider benchmark. First is a Specialized bike. It took me a few years to commit to investing in a Specialized carbon bike. But now that I did I know I will always stay with this brand. My goal is to upgrade to their S-Works model at some point. I look at this bike as being the one on the pro circuit that is ridden by some of the best teams in the world. I also love the attitude portrayed through their marketing. I feel very confident on this bike.

    The other benchmark brand for me is Babbo. I have no idea how to truly explain this but whenever I go there it always feels like a special occasion..the food, the service and the vibe.

    Designer apparel/accessories really don't phase me. I am happy to buy one good handbag every year and it's not the label for me but rather the style, color, etc. Same goes for clothes and shoes. If I like it and it looks good on me, I don't care about the label.

    It was fun to think about this.
    - Maryanne

  4. Babbo is one of my benchmarks too. Thanks for the comment! Jim.