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The Starbucks Counter brand

Prior to the creation of their “Uncola” counter-brand in 1967, 7-Up had survived for 38 years as a lemon-lime soft drink with the slogan, “You Like It. It Likes You.”

As in Judo, the secret of counter-branding is to use the weight and momentum of your opponent to your own advantage. In other words, hook your trailer to their truck and let them pull you along in their wake.

The steps in counter-branding are these:

1. List the attributes of the master brand. In the case of 7-Up, the master brand was “Cola: sweet, rich, brown.” Everything else was either a fruit flavor or root beer and all of those put together were relatively insignificant. “Cola” overwhelming dominated the mental category “soft drinks.”
2. Create a brand with precisely the opposite attributes. To accomplish this, 7-Up lost their lemon-lime description and became “The Uncola: tart, crisp, clear.”
3. Without using the brand name of your competitor, refer to yourself as the direct opposite of the master brand. 7-Up didn’t become UnCoke or UnPepsi as that would have been illegal. But when you’re up against an overwhelming competitor, you don’t need to name them. Everyone knows who they are.

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Brand v/s Counter Brand

 When your business category is dominated by a single brand and all the other brands put together don’t equal them, it’s time to create a counter-brand.

Counter-branding – business judo – is rare and dangerous. But when you’re overwhelmingly dominated, what have you got to lose?  As in Judo, the secret of counter branding is to use the weight and momentum of your opponent to your own advantage. In other words, hook your trailer to their truck and let them pull you on their own fuel.

The steps to create a counter brand  are these:

  • List the attributes of the master brand.
  • Create a brand with precisely the opposite attributes.
  • Without using the brand name of your competitor, refer to yourself as the direct opposite of the master brand.
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