The Affordable Branding Blog is a peek inside today’s branding blunders and success stories. Plucked right from the business and marketing headlines, my colleagues and I will make observations, pithy comments, overt criticisms, and well-deserved at-a-boys, all designed to help you make the right branding decisions for your business.
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Authenticity requires a brand to begin with the mind of the customer. Take a mental snapshot of your customers to see what your brand already stands for, then exploit that perception by staying authentic to it instead of trying to make them take a mental leap...because they won't.
You must be true to your strengths, not someone else's.
You must go beyond superlativeness and importance — and make your idea credible.
Prospects subject every claim to two tests:1. Is the claim plausible?2. Is it plausible coming from you?
Is it believable that yours is the business that should be bringing this product or service to market? Is it aligned with your core competencies? Is your authentic character reflected accurately in your reputation? Because that’s what authenticity is all about.
Being who you say you are. And your organization’s authenticity is just that: the values that your business stands for.
My wife and I went on a nice drive recently to visit and tour a local winery. On our trip, we went through the small town of Waunakee, a suburb of Madison, Wisconsin. As we entered the scenic little hamlet, I chuckled at the city sign, which read: Welcome to the Only Waunakee in the World.
Ha! What a unique and memorable way to greet visitors and undoubtedly a point of pride for the residents. But there is an important branding lesson in this silly sign.
We’re all aware that we live in an over-communicated society. We’re bombarded—some experts say thousands of times a day—with brand messages, headlines, billboards, Tweets, products on the grocery store shelf, commercials on the radio, and so much more. In this highly competitive and noisy environment, it’s more critical than ever to ensure that your business or organization is about something remarkable. Only by being radically different will you get noticed, have a chance at getting publicity, make sure people talk about you in their circle of influence, and ultimately, get new customers and create loyal fans.
And just being a little bit different is no guarantee of success. The best way to be radically different is to be the “only.” If you can complete this simple sentence, you’re on your way to being like the town of Waunakee, the only one in the world…
A few months back, I traveled to Las Vegas for a business trip. The conference I was attending was at the Cosmopolitan, a property that uses sensuality as a differentiator. For example, the lobby of the Cosmo is adorned with huge columns displaying moving images of writing naked bodies, just slightly out of focus so as not offend more timid souls.
But this is Vegas, baby. Sin City. Sex sells.
When I arrived in my room, I surveyed the mini bar, and as usual in upscale properties, there was a dazzling array of goodies, which I would never consider touching because the prices were outrageous. (Really? $12 for a one-ounce package of cashews?)
But one item caught my eye: A small package with a photo of a bolt screwed into a nut and called, “Get Lucky Romance Kit.” The contents included two condoms, some personal lubricant, and breath mints. Okay, I get it. I’m in Vegas. Hah!
I just HAD to take a photo of the unique offering and text it to my brothers. I knew they’d have a chuckle. And that was that. Or so I though...
When I returned home, I looked over my hotel bill from the long weekend and was shocked to find the Get Lucky Romance Kit itemized on my bill! What would the Chief Financial Officer say when he saw my expense report?
On page two of the bill, the item was credited back to me, so I breathed a sigh of relief. But then it struck me: Why would the Cosmo itemize a purchase like that? I called and complained that--even though I didn’t have to pay for it--I was embarrassed that it was on the bill to begin with. The Cosmo explained that the mini bar items are all on sensors, and that once housekeeping recognized that I really didn’t consume the kit, I was credited for the item.
But what happened to “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”?
Brand alignment is about ensuring that your Character, Conduct, and Conversation are all in lock step.In other words, it’s making sure that WHO YOU ARE is aligned with HOW YOU ACT, which in turn is aligned with WHAT YOU SAY in your marketing and in communicating with customers and prospects.
Vegas dropped the ball. Their character and conversation suggests that they’ll keep your visit discreet; but their conduct was not in alignment.
Make sure YOUR brand stays in alignment.
Brand relevance is the basis of WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?); and this implies meaningful relevance. (Healthy eating is relevant to 100% of the population, but businesses need to understand that it's only truly meaningful to a much smaller percentage as American waistlines will attest.) Ask: Why does my business matter?So many brands fail (or trip or stumble or otherwise make marketplace errors) by not starting with the fundamental question: “Will (or do) my clients care about what my business offers?”
It sounds basic—even kind of obvious—but relevance is a key concept in building your radical brand. While relevance can be a somewhat difficult concept to grasp, being relevant means having a bearing on, or connection with, the matter at hand. Is your business germane? Is it pertinent? In other words, does anyone care?
A few years back, my wife and I relocated into a new home. But in order to make the move, we had to first sell our white elephant of a house. It wasn't quite a house, really, it was a stone church built in 1939 and converted into a home with the addition of living quarters in the late 1960s. It even had its own belfry. We had been living there for around 6 years and while we enjoyed showing our unique home to visitors, we never enjoyed paying heating bills that exceeded our mortgage payment. With 28-foot ceilings and large, leaky, single-pane windows, keeping the church-house warm was an expensive exercise.
When the last child announced she was moving out, we needed to unload the 4,400-square-foot behemoth and move on to an empty-nester-type domicile. The problem was, the real estate market was in a major slump. It seemed that every third house in our neighborhood had a for sale sign in front of it, and many homes had been on the market for six, eight, and 12 months or more with no activity in sight. Others had slashed prices and taken losses just to interest buyers.
In that environment, we listed our church-house and prepared for the inevitably long wait for the right buyer who not only wanted to buy in a down market, but who wanted to spend money on a drafty old church that needed some TLC and was just pretending to be a house. Within two weeks we had an offer. While it ultimately fell through, it wasn't long before we had another bite, and this transaction went smoothly while other homes in the neighborhood continued to languish.
After we had gone through the closing and moved, my wife and I were looking back on our experience, and I truly believe the reason we were able to unload our white elephant was because it was different. It stood out from the rest. It demanded attention. In a sea of similar offerings and price points, the church-house was unique. People were bound to look, and thankfully, someone was intrigued enough to write an offer...and then write a check.
More about differentiation at the link.
Did you know that an average supermarket has 40,000 SKUs? Now for the shocker: an average family gets 80 to 85 percent of its needs from only 150 SKUs. That means there’s a good chance you’ll ignore 39,850 items in that store.
While your business is likely NOT a grocery store, the principles are the same. There is an explosion of choice out there in your community, on the web, and in your marketplace, and you need a business brand that will:
• Deliver your message clearly • Confirm your credibility • Connect you to your target market emotionally • Motivate the buyer • Cement user loyalty
And the best way to build a powerful brand is to make it RADICAL!
A logo change--or even a complete rebranding--is a fact of business life. Businesses need to remain relevant, authentic, and differentiated in the minds of their target audiences. Sometimes that means building a new foundation on which to base your strategy.
Ask these 14 questions before taking any steps toward rebranding.
1. Why are we considering a rebrand?
2. What paint point are we attempting to relieve?
3. Are our competitors gaining new footholds?
4. Have our customers fundamentally changed?
5. Are generational differences changing our relevance?
6. Is our business pigeonholed in a way that no longer matters?
7. Does our brand tell the wrong (or no-longer-relevant) story?
8. Are we as relevant as we once were? Does anyone care about our offerings?
9. Have we determined exactly WHO is our target audience; our brand lovers? 10. Is our business connected to a value proposition associated that is no longer meaningful?
11. Are all our communications in alignment with our dominant selling idea; our unique sales proposition?
12. Is our brand differentiated and positioned AGAINST the competition?
13. Do we have a brand champion; a cheerleader—like our CEO—who can lead us into the brand battle against our competitors?
14. If we were launching this business today, would our current value proposition and brand essence be the solution we arrive at?
Ironclad rule: Luxury doesn't take the bus, or in this case, luxury doesn't drive a Kia. It's not that Kia is a bad brand; on the contrary, Kia is a true success story from Hyundai--a low-market, entry-level auto brand with impressive styling cues and value pricing. Remember the failed Volkswagen Phaeton? The VW with the $60,000 price tag? VW spent a fortune bringing the upscale Phaeton to market and reviewers LOVED the vehicle. But it turns out (no surprise) that putting a big VW emblem on the grill turned the Phaeton into something nobody wanted. You can't brag about a $60,000 "bug". Now Kia seems to be heading down that same dead end road. Lesson: Don’t change branding horses in the middle of the race.
The Shack: When Radio Shack tried to reinvent itself to be hip and relevant by laying a new nickname on themselves, “The Shack,” authenticity flew out the window. Radio Shack should embrace the geeks who brought them to the party. Not surprisingly, the retailer continues to struggle. Oh, and their association with Lance Armstrong isn’t helping much either. As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Lesson: Be who you really are today, so that tomorrow you don't have to remember who you were yesterday.
I saw this news item recently, and I just couldn't believe my eyes: In the past few months, Bud Light has launched higher-alcohol Bud Light Platinum, killed Bud Light Golden Wheat and debuted Bud Light Lime "Lime-A-Rita," a margarita-flavored malt beverage in a can. Lesson: Budweiser has been down this brand road in the past and these line extensions are diluting what Bud stands for. What is “a Bud”? Apparently, now it’s just some form of alcohol-based liquid.
Ya know, when you know very clearly what something is not, it means you also know very clearly what it is. So when I saw a story about a Lambourghini with four seats, I about went through the sunroof. I mean, imagine a Harley without the noise, or a low-end Gucci bag from Walmart. It does not compute. A Lambourghini is the ultimate high-performance sports car, not a grocery-getter. And it never will be. Lesson: Branding is about standing for “one thing” to the marketplace.
One of the most common criticisms of rebranding (and in this case, I’m focusing on the corporate identity—or logo redesign—aspect of rebranding) is that it isn’t necessary. Founders and loyal customers alike often become wedded to the original mark and wonder why a change is necessary at all.
But in most cases, a logo becomes dated, irrelevant, and tired with time and use (and misuse). Some notable examples of timeless logos are Coca-Cola’s iconic script or the Ford Motor Company signature, both of which have gone through evolutions over the decades, but still maintain their original integrity and intent.
Which brings me to White Knight Laundry Services. White Knight offers domestic laundry services, serving businesses like hotels, restaurants, and healthcare, as well as individual households throughout the South and Southeast of England. They also hold a Royal Warrant, meaning they are cleared to serve the royal family’s laundry needs.
The redesign speaks for itself. What a dramatic improvement. While I could wax on about the lameness of the original logo, I would rather admire the excellence of the new mark.
From the royal purple background to the photographic treatment of the mark itself, the before-and-after is a testament to the power and validity of rebranding when done right. The primary words in the name—White, Knight, and Laundry—are all elegantly captured and reinforced by the simple visual of the pressed and gleaming linens creating the armor helmet. Simple, memorable, and stands by itself even without the wordmark portion of the logo.
I look at a lot of redesigns, and in my book, this one is a real winner.
For more on logo design theory, click on the link below.