BabyCenter: Creating a Social Brand (2012) Stanford Graduate School of Business Case (Aaker and Schifrin)

In 2012 BabyCenter was the largest parenting platform and parenting media company in the world. It provided expert advice to pregnant women and new mothers while connecting these women to each other online and in person. The company had 110 employees, with operations in 23 regions around the world in 14 languages. The case provides students with a practical, real world example of how to create and grow a social brand. It details how BabyCenter evolved as a social brand through implementing several mechanisms: cultivating employee innovation, creating customer communities, empowering influencers, and enabling great storytelling. BabyCenter cultivated employee innovation through its three-day “BabyCenter Innovation Days,” held every six weeks. These days involved brainstorming sessions, breaking into cross-departmental and intra-departmental teams, and presenting innovative business ideas to the rest of the company. These ideas directly benefited the company, as 60 to 70 percent of them went to market. BabyCenter created customer community online through an interactive website, and in the real world through “BabyCenter Birth Clubs.” Using the customer data it collected, the company connected women in the same stage of pregnancy to each other to form the clubs, which served as social organizations and support networks. Through its robust web analytics and surveys, BabyCenter identified its most active and trusted online users, the “influencers,’’ and worked deliberately to cultivate its relationships with them. One way the company did this was through launching a social campaign highlighting several influencer moms who worked with charitable organizations. BabyCenter also understood and embraced the power of stories to create brand value, and it gave customers the opportunity to tell their own stories through the website and beyond.

The Ford Fiesta

The Ford Fiesta (2012) Harvard Business School Case (Deighton and Kornfeld)

Executives at Ford wondered if social media could be the marketing solution for the launch of the youth-oriented 2010 Fiesta. But with social media came a ceding of control. Some at the company believed that if Ford was going to move beyond its conservative brand image for the launch of the new subcompact chances had to be taken. Others erred on the side of caution. Chantel Lenard, Ford’s Group Marketing Manager for Global Small Car and Midsize Vehicles and Connie Fontaine, Manager of Brand Content and Alliances championed a new approach for the new vehicle and set into motion a comprehensive 6-month social media initiative targeting a younger, ethnically diverse, and urban-based market, called “The Fiesta Movement”. In doing so, a large portion of the marketing campaign was handed over to 20 and 30-somethings across America, and Ford had to acclimate to a new way of doing marketing. To what extent should the company guide the activities and messages of their army of bloggers? The case is set two months into the Movement, as the team evaluates the metrics from YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and their website, and wonder if they’re doing everything they need to do in order to make the Fiesta a success with a new target market.

Coca-Cola on Facebook

Coca-Cola on Facebook (2012) Harvard Business School Case (Deighton and Kornfeld)

In late 2008, executives at Coca-Cola had to decide what to do with a fan-created page on Facebook that had amassed over one million followers in three months. From a legal point of view the fan-created page was in violation of Facebook’s terms of service, because a non-copyright holder was using the imagery and logo associated with a known brand. Facebook contacted Michael Donnelly, Group Director, Worldwide Interactive Marketing for The Coca-Cola Company, to let him know that he was in the position to take down the hugely popular fan-created site or, conversely, he could take it over and make it an official marketing channel for the company. Coke was already revisiting its social media policies, with the Diet Coke and Mentos user-generated video incident fresh in its memory. Those videos, which featured elaborate geysers with Diet Coke as their main ingredient, were among the most viewed online videos at the time but were not initially sanctioned by the company. Donnelly knew that opening up the brand to creative consumers was necessary, but he and his team had to figure out how and to what extent they should do so while still protecting one of the world’s most valuable brands.

Porsche: The Cayenne Launch

Porsche: The Cayenne Launch (2010) Harvard Business School Case (John Deighton, Jill Avery and Jeffrey Fear)

Can an online discussion forum supply insight into the evolution of brand meaning? In 2003 Porsche launched a sport utility vehicle, dividing Porsche purists from newcomers to the brand. Vocal members of online and offline Porsche communities ridiculed the Cayenne SUV and disapproved of the new breed of driver. Some opposed offering Porsche club membership to them, and some even refused to extend the fraternal Porsche ‘wave’ or headlight flicking to them on the road. Porsche’s values of speed, luxury, and a certain masculine zeal resonated strongly with its devotees, while drivers of the Cayenne (which came to be known as ‘the SUV for soccer moms’) tended to be safety-conscious, family-oriented, and conservative. Evolving debates on the forum allow a class to debate whether the brand had strayed too far from its core values and was at risk.

Dove: Evolution of a Brand

Dove: Evolution of a Brand (2008) Harvard Business School Case (Deighton)

Examines the evolution of Dove from functional brand to a brand with a point of view after Unilever designated it as a masterbrand, and expanded its portfolio to cover entries into a number of sectors beyond the original bath soap category. The development causes the brand team to take a fresh look at the cliches of the beauty industry. The result is the controversial Real Beauty campaign. As the campaign unfolds, Unilever learns to use the Internet, and particularly social network media like YouTube, to manage controversy.


Burberry (2003) Harvard Business School Case (Moon)

In 2003, Rose Marie Bravo, Burberry’s CEO, is debating how to maintain the currency and cachet of the brand across its broad customer base, while entering new product categories and expanding distribution. In the past five years, the brand has become one of the hottest luxury brands in the world. But Bravo now faces a number of key decisions, including (1) which new product categories to enter, (2) how to deal with the appropriation of the brand by nontarget customers, and (3) how prominent the company’s famed “check” pattern should be in its advertising and clothing.

Introducing New Coke

Introducing New Coke (2001) Harvard Business School Case (Fournier)

On April 23, 1985, the Coca-Cola Co. announced a decision that would rock the world. The old Coke formula would be taken off the market and replaced with a smoother, sweeter taste. The reaction of the American people was immediate and violent, causing three months of unrelenting protest against the loss of Coke. Was the marketing research at fault? The launch strategy? Or did Coke “just not get it”? This case explores marketing’s most famous public disaster to reveal deep lessons about managing the brand.

Brands in Culture Exercise

Brands in Culture Exercise

Illuminate the culturally shared meanings of brands through cultural analysis of how the brands are used in popular culture.

How to Run it:
In advance of the class session, deliver the following assignment:
“Think about movies, television shows, songs, videogames, etc. that feature brands. How is the brand used to tell the story in each of these mediums? Who are the characters using the brand and what defines them? How does the brand help the story move along? What types of movies, television shows, songs, videogames feature the brand?”

In class, prompt discussion of the cultural meaning of brands with the following questions:
1.) Why do popular culture artists (writers, songwriters, movie and television producers) use brands in their work?
2.) Which types of brands are most used in popular culture? Why? What does this usage say about the brands?
3.) How does this type of usage help and hurt the brands? What are the opportunities and risks for brand managers?



Illuminate the culturally shared meanings of brands through cultural analysis of how brands are used in a popular movie

Materials Needed:
Student access to the short film Logorama, which can be found at

How to run it:
Logorama is a short 16 minute film that was directed by the French animation collective H5, François Alaux, Hervé de Crécy and Ludovic Houplain. It was presented at the Cannes Film Festival 2009 and it opened the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Recently, it won a 2010 academy award under the category of animated short.

The film depicts events in a stylized Los Angeles, and is told entirely through the use of more than 2,500 contemporary and historical brand logos and mascots.

WARNING: Logorama contains explicit profanity and is for adult audiences only. If you are uncomfortable watching the film, please contact me and I will provide you with an alternative assignment.

Once you have watched the film, answer the following eight questions.
1.) Which types of brands are included in Logorama? Which brands were noticeably absent from Logorama? Why were you surprised not to see these brands?

2.) Why do you think the film’s directors chose to include the brands they did in the movie? Choose three brands featured in the film and analyze what messages they carried or helped convey in the plot through their brand meaning.

3.) The film’s producer claimed, “I’m the producer of the film, so I have to thank the 3,000 non-official sponsors that appear in the film. And I have to assure them that no logos were harmed in the making of the project.” Was he correct? Did the film build or destroy brand equity for the included brands? Why?

4.) How exactly did the film’s directors parody different brands? How harmful are these parodies overall to the brands’ image?

5.) Analyze the Ronald McDonald character that you saw in the film and its effect on the McDonald’s brand equity. If you were the brand manager for McDonald’s, how would you respond to Logorama? Would you a.) sue the producers for violation of your trademark, b.) ignore it, or c.) pursue a path somewhere in between? Why?

6.) A brand manager from Cash Converter, a brand featured in the film sent this email to Logorama’s directors, “Thank you, I just saw our logotype in some pictures [from the film] and we appreciate you used the logotype in the middle of all the big brands. It matches perfectly with our strategy that you put Cash Converter on the main street, in the heart of the city, thank you so much!”. How has Logorama increased the brand equity of Cash Converter?

7.) Given the guidelines for branding in Web 2.0, what advice would you provide to brand managers regarding Logorama?

8.) Looking at Logorama as a whole, what does the film tell us about the role of brands in contemporary life? Is this a positive or negative view of branding and our consumption culture? Why? What is the overall message the directors are trying to convey?