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How to Make Your Brand the Centre of Attention

11th May 2015 | Wolfgang Schaefer, JP Kuehlwein

Put Your Brand on a Pedestal to Market It Full Force without Ever Over-Selling or Undermining It

Rethinking Prestige Branding (9780749470036) In this excerpt from Rethinking Prestige Branding, Wolfgang Schaefer and JP Kuehlwein address the seeming contradiction that Ueber, or prestige, brands need to both 'unsell' and make their product the centre of attention, citing a popular example of how to accomplish both by putting your brand on a pedestal.

We already discussed the campaign for Absolut vodka in the context of Ueber-Brands applying art or art collaborations for a more sophisticated, ‘subtle’ communication and sticking to the idea of Un-selling (Principle 3). Funny enough, it’s equally a great example for the seemingly contradictory point we want to make now: Ueber-Brands need to not just ‘un-sell’ but also make their product the ‘centre of attention’. But this supposed paradox is easily solved.

Putting your product as the focal point doesn’t mean pushing or promoting it as hard as you can – and thus potentially compromising its status. It actually means the opposite: putting it on a pedestal, ideally with a glass dome to make it practically untouchable – metaphorically speaking. And thus protecting and ‘un-selling’ it while at the same time proudly placing it smack in the middle, at the ‘centre of attention’. Ueber-Brands celebrate their iconic products as true heroes, marketing them full force without ever over-selling or undermining them. They put them at the eye of the hurricane so to say, all swirling around them, but in a hush of calm and control at the same time.

There are two aspects to this: the first one is in some says more a matter of communication, yet not only that. It’s really about a going-to-market mindset, taking into consideration all touch points and channels, always ensuring to not leave behind that product which represent the brand in ‘essence’ – even if there are times when other, perhaps newer ones, may be ‘hotter’ and selling better. Icons aren’t necessarily always bestsellers, but as most marketers we spoke to confirmed, they are long-sellers. As such that they must be treated like that in order to serve their purpose and iconize your brand. The second point is definitely about product development – how Ueber-Brands must always update and upgrade their icons, dramatizing them in a new, current light, but without ever giving the impression that the ‘star’ needed a ‘makeover’, because that would destroy its nimbus of timeless perfection.

Heroes Need the Spotlight

‘Got milk?’ There’s hardly anybody interested in marketing who has never seen or at least heard of this campaign for the US milk board. It ran for over 20 years until its still-too-early ‘demise’ in 2014. In the print ads you’d always simply see a celebrity in a characteristic pose, sporting a milk moustache. This put the product quite naturally into the spotlight – while at the same time entertainingly taking a crack at the celebrity’s aura of course. Back when the campaign started, a milk moustache was seen by most as an embarrassing sign of having had a ‘bab’y drink, something the campaign changed in no time. Through its irreverent yet confident and proud display of ‘lactal love’, a trace you’d rather have wiped off was transformed into a statement of cultural cool – with milk almost achieving Ueber-status for a while…. [This campaign used] the star shine to draw attention, but at the same time they break it, redirecting the light at the true hero. Yet, even here the hero-halo is somewhat fractured, because it’s so obviously and wittily over the top. They truly turn celebrity endorsements on their head (see Principle 3), making the brand the Ueber-Star, which is so self-assured of its impressiveness that it can make fun of itself. It’s a multi-dimensional yet well-balanced placy on ‘who’s the boss’ or ‘who’s on top’, which lets us ‘behold’ and store the brand as truly ‘Ueber’ – one way or the other….

The moral: don’t be shy as an Ueber-Brand. Be bold and show what you’ve got. Flaunt it, but don’t over-sell it either. Celebrate your goods in the best possible light, but always make sure that this is coming from a position of strength and pride- not greediness or last-call neediness. Nothing is less sexy than despair. You have a hero. And heroes don’t hide. They are obviously ready for their close-up, in love with the spotlight – but never too obviously in search of it.

For more examples, including Apple's iPod and the Dyson vacuum, read Rethinking Prestige Branding.

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