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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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.
Creating an on-purpose brand
Any business—regardless of size, singular location, or glamorousness—can become remarkable. Here’s an example: the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, Washington.
How can an entity like a humble local fish market—just several hundred square feet in size—become world famous? According to one of the founders, they just decided to.
Years ago, John Yokoyama, the owner of Pike Place Fish, a retail fish market in Seattle’s historic Farmer’s Market, was struggling. In fact, his business was at a crisis point. So John contacted Jim Bergquist, founder of BizFutures Consulting Company, for advice.
To begin this process, they created three powerful intentions:• To show other business leaders what becomes possible when they are willing to commit themselves to empowering their employees.• To demonstrate what happens when you create a mighty purpose for your organization that includes prosperity and success as obvious by-products for every employee.• To let people see the actual possibility of intentionally creating the future through a process that makes a difference in the quality of life for all people.
Yokoyama recalls: “In one of our early Pike Place Fish meetings with BizFutures, we asked, ‘Who do we want to be?’ One of the young kids working for me said, ‘Hey! Let’s be world famous!’ I thought, ‘World famous? What a stupid thing to say!’ But the more we talked about it, the more we became excited about being world famous. So we printed ‘World Famous’ on our boxes.”
After a while, the team asked, “What does being world famous mean?” And the fishmongers created their own definition. It means going beyond just providing outstanding service to people. It means really being present with people and relating to them as human beings. You know, stepping outside the usual “we’re-in-business-and-you’re-a-customer” way of relating to people and intentionally being with them right now, in the present moment, person to person.
The team made a commitment to have their customers leave with the experience of having been served. They set out to discover how they can make a customers’ day—every day.
Yokoyama reports, “Customers experience being known and appreciated whether they buy fish or not. And it’s not good enough just to want that—it takes an unrelenting commitment. We’ve made it our job to make sure that experience happens for every customer.”
And what do you know? Pike Place Fish Market really is world famous!
Dominate Your Market...FAST!
Let’s state the obvious right up front: At $3.8 million per 30-seconds of airtime during one of the year’s top-viewed television events, advertisers really need to get their money’s worth from a Super Bowl commercial.
Anheuser-Busch (InBev) managed to garner my personal best AND worst for 2013. But first, let’s talk about the importance of memorability. Twenty years ago, a Super Bowl commercial featuring basketball legends Michael Jordon and Larry Byrd (“Nothing But Net”), aired and to this day, many consider it one of the best examples of Big-Game-Day advertising. When I read that, I distinctly remembered the spot (and I could picture the playful tit-for-tat of the two greats), but I could NOT recall the advertiser. (It was McDonalds, by the way.)
Which brings me to what I thought was the worst commercial of Super Bowl XLVII. While there were some dogs, I take issue with the Budweiser strategy of yet another line extension: Budweiser Black Crown. They offered no reason to consider this new brew except that it comes in a black bottle. Did they learn nothing from Budweiser Platinum? The guy at the end says, "Here's to taste. Here's to our kind of beer.” Does that mean other Budweiser beers have no taste and are NOT our kind of beer? Thoroughly confusing, unremarkable, and further muddies the Bud platform.
My best commercial pick? Budweiser’s Clydesdale spot, dubbed “Brotherhood”. Sure, it tugged at heartstrings, had a perfect accompanying song, and was shot beautifully. But that’s not why it was the best in my estimation. The Clydesdales are an iconic visual hammer (as brand expert and author Laura Ries would describe it) and reminds us that Budweiser IS the King of Beers (a great verbal nail to drive home the reason that I would consider Bud). Bud has always been positioned as a great American brew, and the patriotism and the strength of the Clydesdale image informs me of that without any overt flag-waving.
Adweek says, “Budweiser hasn't had a commercial this good—or this popular—on the Super Bowl in years. The story of a Clydesdale foal and its breeder, separated early on and reunited years later, is by far the most shared ad of the 2013 Super Bowl, and for good reason. A great, simple story wonderfully told.”
Finally—and unlike the McDonald’s example offered earlier—it’s impossible to remember the Clydesdale commercial without also remembering that this is a Budweiser spot. And that’s why—when people buzz for the next few weeks about Super Bowl commercials—they won’t be able to mention Clydesdales without also thinking about the King of Beers wagon that the workhorses are pulling.
If you haven’t seen the commercial, do yourself a favor and grab some tissues and click on the link below.
Social media, and the ability to virtually voice your opinion (warranted or not) is making branding agencies, and the companies that hire them, the targets of much recent vitriol.
The outcry was so loud—and well organized through social channels—that the University of California recently reversed their rebrand when stakeholders (and ordinary folks who suddenly became interested in corporate identity design and brand standards) rebelled.
But regardless of the social backlash at highly-visible redesigns, rebranding is the right solution when your existing brand no longer aligns with the organization's business strategy, goals, and priorities. Or, your existing brand perception, message, and image are outdated and no longer reflect the company’s current standing in the marketplace.
This was certainly the case when American Airlines announced its rebrand last week.
The social interwebs sprung into action as loyal passengers, industry pundits, and yes, even those who have never flown commercially in their lives—but who have a Twitter account—played Monday morning quarterback.
But at the end of the day, a logo is just shorthand for X (X being the attributes people associate with a brand). So whether you’re a lover or a hater of the new American logo, without a new X, or reality, it's just a meaningless image. And while the character of a logo itself does imply something of the character of a brand, that’s less true of a brand which is already saddled with so much negative baggage (including American currently being in bankruptcy).
That said, most brands require a reboot of their look from time to time if only to remain contemporary. And that seems to be what American Airlines has done here.
For more on logo design principles, click the link below.
Adweek is doing some polling amongst its readers asking the question: “Which marketers pushed their products to new frontiers—and which ones pushed things too far?”
According to brand-extension agency Parham Santana, “A successful brand extension is a logical fit with the parent brand and uses that name to competitive advantage. It also broadens the consumer’s perception of what the parent brand can represent and—of course—it produces sales.”
I have a more direct way: The “noun test”
Before you extend your brand into new territory (this does not include colors, flavors, or incremental movements within your area of expertise and dominant selling arena), do the noun test. Here’s how it works: Since a brand can only stand for one thing in the mind of your supporters or prospects, determine what that one thing is—your noun—and make sure your new product, program, offering, or initiative WORKS with that noun.
Here is an example:
If Zippo is a lighter, than how can Zippo also be a woman’s fragrance? Yes, it’s true. Zippo released Zippo for Women. Have you ever smelled lighter fluid? What other flammable thoughts pop into your mind when you think of a Zippo-branded fragrance? This was my vote for the worst brand extension of 2012. What’s next? Zippo baby food? Zippo energy drink? Just because your packaging is distinctive and iconic, doesn’t mean you should put perfume—or anything else—in it.
Besides. It totally fails the noun test.
More on creating successful brand extensions at the link.
We’re all familiar with NyQuil and its daytime counterpart, DayQuil. What a great way to stand out in the crowded over-the-counter cold remedy market: differentiating by daypart. While it’s not easy to find other examples of this method of differentiation, here are a few more: Aviara, a nutrition company based out of San Diego, California, offers an AM morning health drink and a PM evening health drink. And Life NK has Jump Start Bath & Shower Gel to start your day, and Ultimate Unwind for evening time showering.
Now there’s a restaurant concept taking hold in Denver and destined to spread around the country. Tom’s Urban 24 uses an “always open” concept as a way to stand out and be different than other restaurants. No, Tom’s Urban 24 isn’t the first eatery to be open 24/7, but expressing the brand promise through their name will likely help Tom’s to build buzz and generate word of mouth notoriety.
From their website: Destined to become an iconic downtown Denver landmark, Tom’s Urban 24 is the only place on Larimer Square where you can get hand-crafted comfort food with an urban twist-whenever you want. Sourced with over 30 Colorado food companies and produce farmers, Tom’s Urban 24 offers the best of everything – breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night, epic cocktails, comfort food and good company.
I predict Tom’s Urban 24 will do well. Differentiation is a great place to start. More on differentiation at the link.