Branding Innovation – Nespresso, George Clooney and the Art of Brand Anchoring

22 April 2019

For innovation to thrive it needs to be in harmony with your brand anchor – even if that means creating a new one altogether

Companies often enter a new market or launch a new product by trying to leverage their existing brand. If I told you Apple were launching a car, would you buy it? Maybe. But, what if I told you that Ford were launching a smartphone? Of course not, Ford is a car company. Yet Ford and Apple could technically launch a car or a smartphone, and would probably knock out a pretty good product. The problem is that we as consumers instinctively reject certain products based on the brand under which they are sold.

Two great examples of this sort of brand failure come from the 90s: Harley Davidson launched a perfume and Cosmopolitan a yoghurt. Both were big failures. The main reason being that they didn’t consider their existing anchor. A brand anchor is the heart of the brand; it is what consumers associate you with, your perceived zone of competence. Harley Davidson is a motorcycle brand, and Cosmopolitan a women’s magazine – consumers were never going to find them believable as perfume and yoghurt producers. So, to an extent, your anchor dictates where you can and cannot grow. Thats why, for instance, Toyota created Lexus: because Toyota’s anchor is reliability, not luxury. And why Volvo is marketing its high performance electric car range under the Polestar brand: because Volvo’s anchor is safety not innovation.


Volvo created Polestar to leverage a brand anchor of innovation and open new possibilities

Another example is Nestle, with its Nespresso capsule system patented in the 70s. The system was so innovative (it wasn’t even  they knew they could charge a real premium for it. Nestle had been active in the coffee market with the Nescafe brand since way back in the 30s, so the expected thing to do would have been leverage that well-recognised name, right? Well, no, because the anchor of the Nescafe brand is affordable daily coffee. Selling the new capsule system under the Nescafe brand would have positioned it as a solid coffee, but an affordable product. Very far from the desired premium image they wanted to present and price they wanted to charge.

Since they couldn’t change the anchor of Nescafe, nor wanted to, they had to create something new. Eventually, in 86, Nespresso was born; a luxury lifestyle brand selling coffee. They coined the Nespresso club so they could call their customers ‘members’, they opened luxury boutiques on the Rue de Rome, near Champs-Élysées, they launched a lifestyle magazine, and they even called their coffee grand cru in reference to great wines. And then, of course, there is George Clooney. Making Clooney the face of the brand in 2006 was a revolutionary move at a time when celebrity endorsements were normally reserved for luxury products like perfumes or watches.

The Nescafe anchor is affordability, Nespresso luxury

We have seen how damaging a misplaced anchor can be, and also how effectively a well-placed one can aid and boost your innovation. So, if you have an existing brand and are launching a new product or services, you need to ask yourself: What is the current anchor of my brand? How am I perceived? Does this anchor fit my innovation? Will it help the launch? Or, should I create a new anchor altogether? Because only if your anchor and your product or service are in harmony will your innovation truly thrive.

Brand Storytelling, Technology