[Marketing] On brand equity and Sugar on a Stick.

Sean DALY sdaly.be at gmail.com
Sun Oct 18 14:42:21 EDT 2009

Brand equity is the "value" of a brand. Although this seems a funny
concept to most people - how does one measure the "value" of a brand,
anyway? - it's a dead serious topic when trying to build awareness of
something. Marketing consultancies have no shortage of clients who
want to know how their brand is doing
Simply put, the value of a brand is the difference between two similar
products or services: one unknown, one well-known.

It is expensive to build brand awareness. Corporations invest a lot to
do so, usually in mass advertising and promotion, typically between 5%
and 15% of revenue including salary or outsourcing equivalent
(http://www.gtms-inc.com/tip_tacklemarketingbudget.htm). Some
companies spend a lot and don't have much to show for it (Microsoft's
J. Springer campaign springs to mind). Others spend little yet manage
to build brand awareness, usually by having a product or service
("offer" or "value proposition") so compelling, the target market and
the press fall over it with word-of-mouth and rave reviews (Google
itself grew this way). Beyond the product/service offer, companies
work on corporate image, important for recruiting (and keeping)
talent. Advertising and press relations are key in corporate image.

Nonprofits of course have it much tougher. Budgets are much smaller
and as a result, there is less ad spend and more reliance on the
press. Bad press is bad for companies, but can be dramatic for

In the Internet age, probably the very shortest shortcut to increasing
brand equity is to become well-referenced in Google. A distinctive
product name which returns the correct link in the top three hits has
every chance of becoming better known. In particular, influencers such
as journalists and bloggers can easily find the source of the product
for more information, and overnight direct hundreds or thousands of
readers' attention.

One of the methods to attain the goal of top referencing results is
"buzz", or getting people to talk about the product and service, to
search for it often and click on the appropriate weblink. It's a
positive cycle; the more people talk positively, the more people hear
positive things. Sugar Labs' approach of six-month dev cycles lends
itself well to creating buzz.

Brands are fragile. People are surrounded by literally thousands of
brand messages, few of which filter through. So marketers carefully
choose an effective logo (eye-catching, and readable even when small)
and typeface (distinctive yet clear) and then hardly change it over
time. Instead, marketers shape the message du jour by building on
brand values - what the brand means. We haven't done a lot of this
work for Sugar - e.g. a "Brand Book", a document with visuals which
perfectly express the brand values - but we try to communicate that
Sugar is fun, high-quality, easy to use, educational, collaborative,
open, compatible with varied hardware, and so on.

Brand-building requires patience and absolutely crystal clear
messages, so clear that word-of-mouth explanations can be very brief.

The Marketing Team has been working on this for two brands: Sugar Labs
and Sugar on a Stick. Sugar is such a generic term, marketing on that
name alone cannot bring results - Sugar the children's interface
would fight for mindshare with Sugar the stuff you put in your coffee.
So since March, we have always linked "Sugar" and "Labs" together.
Although some chemical labs doing sugar analysis appear in search
results, we have had good results by marketing the phrase and logo
"sugar labs". "Sugar on a Stick", as a project of Sugar Labs designed
to easily communicate that Sugar is software, present on OLPC laptops
but independent too and available to be "plugged into" any PC or Mac
or netbook, has since the June v1 Strawberry launch benefited from a
logo put together by Gary and Christian and a "beauty shot" by my
friend the talented Philippe Cantiniau, both of which were widely
republished by tech sites and bloggers. Both of these, the logo and
visual, reinforced Sugar Labs branding with identical typefaces and
comparable color treatments; both the Sugar Labs and the Sugar on a
Stick logos color the word "sugar", allowing us in a sense to have our
cake and eat it too (pun intended).

Of course, it's early days for anyone to try to put a money value on
Sugar Labs' brand equity. However, our brand equity is already way
ahead of many well-financed startups; that value is real.

Protecting that value - insuring that what the brand means is
something decided by the project, and not others - is an important
goal of the marketing team and the project's leadership. Not for its
own sake, but so the spreading of the Sugar word continues to grow,
and is not fragmented. Such fragmentation - where people are not quite
sure what a word means - results in the fading away of brand equity
and starting over... with all the effort that implies.

This is what distresses me about Caroline's sugaronastick.com. It's
completely unclear to anyone discovering the Sugar on a Stick project
why there are two pages with the same name and apparently the same
product. This can only lead to confusion and fragmentation. Although I
agree with the idea of commercial technical support, and perhaps even
a minisite for the project (an initiative adored by marketers but
often ineffective for parent-org branding), doing it that way poses a
grave risk to the Sugar on a Stick project.

Sugar Labs Marketing Coordinator

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