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Category: Brand Management

Luxury Holidays in the UK – Can I book now please?!

We’ve been working with Luxury Vacations for more than 12 years now – rather shocking how time flies!

The team have always been amazing in a graphic design sense, appreciating and demanding good design for all their marketing material. Over the years, the brand has come to life in many ways and recently we are focusing on completely re-vamping all the digital material.

We are now at a stage where more and more of their fantastic tours are in brochure form, giving clients the choice to read it online or even request a printed copy. Thanks to digital print and much faster website speeds, the options are all there for customers. And from a design perspective, it all helps to create a rounded brand image that resonates with overseas travel agents and visitors.

Brochure Design

Bear on the lose!

The Royal Mint announces a set of coins featuring Paddington™ the friendly Peruvian bear

 

The Royal Mint has revealed two new commemorative coins to celebrate the 60thanniversary of Paddington Bear’s first adventure in A Bear Called Paddington.

This launch is just the start of a series of exciting adventures for Britain’s favourite bear with the Royal Mint. Paddington fans can follow his journey at www.royalmint.com/paddington and #AllChangeAtPaddington.

The full designs capture the vivid blue and vibrant reds of Paddington’s famous duffle coat and hat in minute detail – creating two miniature works of art that are beautiful, collectable coins. I for one can’t wait to see these – especially since it’s unusual to have colour on coins. They look like they have some lovely detail in them.

The 50p coins feature Paddington in two of the most iconic locations from his adventures – Paddington Station and Buckingham Palace. Michael Bond, who first created Paddington Bear in 1958, would perhaps not envisaged his bear on a coin as much as on a jam jar.

Dave Knapton, Coin Designer at The Royal Mint, was chosen to immortalise the much-loved character for the coin collection and commented: “I loved reading the books about Paddington when I was younger, and felt a real sense of nostalgia as I was designing these coins. Paddington was part of my childhood, but now he’s being discovered by a whole new generation. I wanted to bring his portrait to life and show him in a very realistic environment, so I began with a modern train at Paddington Station, showing Paddington waiting patiently on his suitcase for his new life to begin”.

As a brand, the Royal Mint is pretty interesting. It’s obviously serious business, but also has the ability to capture the spirit of the people handling its goods, i.e. the currency, reflecting national pride and being a ‘current’ currency. It’s a step away from historic figures and buildings, but that’s what makes this so appealing in my mind. It’s the perfect excuse to design something different.

Anne Jessopp, Chief Executive of The Royal Mint commented: “It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate a character from popular culture as well-loved as Paddington Bear, and the 60thanniversary of the books seemed an appropriate time. I’m sure Paddington would be very honoured to be the first Peruvian bear to appear on British coins”.

It’s obviously a collectors’ item rather than general merchandise, but I for one will try to get a set for a rainy day – like Paddington’s emergency jam sandwich under his hat. Bless is furry socks.

 

Niche design, royal mint

A smell of Mercedes-Benz

I’ve been bemused many times by brand expansions that perhaps don’t come to mind naturally… mustard made by a whiskey brand, marinades by Dr. Pepper, perfume by Zippo lighters. And we seem to be having a new one that seems just a little contrived to me. The Mercedes Benz scent is upon us. Complete with baseball cap offer.
Just one thing made me smile – a special smell of petrol positioned right next to Diesel.

Business Teachings of a Teenage Witch


My boys are crazy about this animation from the creators of Ponyo and Spirited Away. I have now seen this movie more times than any of my all time favourites (no I won’t list them as there are some embarrassingly cheesy choices in my feel good movie selection) and I couldn’t help starting to analyse the content a bit more.
Turns out, Kiki has real entrepreneurial spirit we can perhaps all learn from!
To explain, Kiki is a with in training and it is custom for witches to leave home and live in a different city or town when they reach the age of 15. Kiki can fly but that’s about it it seems – her mum has not had enough time to show her potions and I am not sure dad is into witchcraft at all considering his car loading troubles.
Once in a seaside town, unexpected events lead her past a bakery and she observes how a lady lost her baby’s dummy, pregnant bakery owner to the rescue… Kiki offers to fly after the lady and her push chair to save the trip home and promptly gains her first reputable recommendation ‘your new delivery girl is great’.
So, putting broomstick and business together, Kiki sets up a delivery service – more or less with a flying start.
It’s just a story of course but it does remind how important it is for existing business owners or startups to keep their eyes open for opportunities and possible business expansions. Meeting people and finding out about their problems might just inspire the next brand extension that breathes fresh air into a venture – opening opportunities for a fresh look at existing methods, the market, changes and trends in technology, in what consumers or B2B clients require, internal processes and innovation.
Just because you have always done something doesn’t mean you can’t add to it, build on it or change completely if you discover a gap in the market.
I have a number of clients that have successfully launched new parts to their business, reacting to new government legislation, changing trends in the travelling industry and in medicine – they all kept their eyes open and even though things like this involve risks, they can equally involve great rewards.
Let’s get that broom out the cupboard in the new year and start some flying around the competitor landscape and business scene – who knows what ends up right under our noses.

brand extension, SME

Brands and Politics – a Compromising Dilemma

Once brand, different opinions
Once brand, different opinions

Yesterday’s news of the leader of the EDL Tommy Robinson causing a stir at Selfridges when a member of staff refused to serve his friend, all conveniently documented on video and published on YouTube, has seen many finger wagging for or against the reaction of the retail brand.

Whilst the suspended shop assistant is not receiving any disciplinary action, the brand’s PR team will have a bit of work cut out for them to counter the dismay of many about the fact that they apologised profoundly and offered the two shoppers a free lunch – which, may I add, at £80 does not exactly do them any favours in this situation.
It reminded me of one of the key tasks and capabilities of a brand strategy that is thought-through and includes risk assessments and training for all those involved in representing the brand. This may not be the worst-case scenario, but the clash of political opinions, especially in a high profile brand that will frequently be dealing with well-known personalities or celebrities, and how to behave humanly yet with the brand values in mind surely seems one eventuality worth considering.
A Selfridges spokeswoman said ‘We’ve been in business since 1909 and we serve everybody regardless of who they are or their political views.
‘We investigated the incident involving one of our sales assistants and he fully understands our position and we won’t be taking any further action.
‘The suspension has been lifted and he is aware he can’t refuse to serve customers.’
The shop manager’s decision to apologise may thus have been in line with the view from the top, but it backfired in how it was perceived by us normal folk and seems to have brought to light a discrepancy in values between management and staff on the shop floor, never a good sign for brand managers.
Politics are precarious of course and with all the equal rights and freedom of speech elements, it is a complex one for sure. It’s just tragic that the only winner out of this one is actually the leader of the EDL who got great coverage and will perhaps find his upcoming court appearance for public order offences on October 22 eased by the media attention.
Could have gone better, Mr Selfridges

brand management, Brand Strategy, retail

BMW – Beautiful Marketing Opportunity Wasted

BMW-Brand-advertising-franchise
What were they thinking? This amount of words from such a brand is leaving me speechless…

Hands up everyone who thinks that this is a yellow pages ad from a small business with the BMW logo stuck on… I hope I am not the only one that feels this is way below the usual brand aesthetics of BMW, brand managers cry your eyes out.
Upon closer inspection I realise of course that this is a franchise advert – but I still don’t understand why that implies you can throw any typography style out the window. They may however have gotten a decent discount from the media agency backed up by brand guidelines because there must be a paragraph somewhere that states that the type should be completely visible after the ad has been stuck on, and not like in this sample missing a letter right in the middle of the sheet.
BMW-Brand-advertising-franchise-error
We know how it happened, but that still doesn’t make it right.

Located at a prime spot in our town, this seems such a wasted opportunity – although I wonder how many target market drivers go past the local Aldi… It does blatantly highlight the difference between brand advertising and franchise advertising where the bar still seems to be set much lower and price dictates quality of design.
Whatever the motivation  behind this, in my mind the brand would have been better off with just the logo on a white background.

Prepare for the Worst – Then Make the Best of it

All news is good news. At first glance, it may well seem like that in the world of marketing and PR, but it is also true that mud sticks and it takes years to overcome bad feelings once the seeds are planted in the minds of the consumers.
Even though businesses of any size will (and should) strife to create the best possible brand experience for their customers, it is inevitable that sometimes things don’t go to plan. A crisis management strategy is always a good idea when a business enters the media world and is exposed to not just positive feedback. A good and thought-through crisis management strategy will define the strength of a brand and how quick (or if) it will recover.
There are many reasons for why a crisis could occur – look at the recent horse meat scandal where the supply chain has compromised both budget and premium brands all over Europe. Who would have thought… And whilst Tesco and Iceland are starting a brand trust campaign, other organisations are using the crisis for their own benefit – like PETA and their campaign to ‘go vegan’.
Tesco
iceland-branding-ad
PETA horsemeatad-Campaign
Small brands are perhaps less exposed to the media, but just as vulnerable to a crisis, especially if unprepared. Bad word of mouth is damaging on whichever scale. And being ready for the worst case scenarios gives a business an advantage over competitors in the same or similar situation no matter how small.

Brand Crisis Management quick 123
A quick guide to brand crisis management

Consistently create and increase your brand's reputation
Keep building! Brand reputation – or love for your brand – are key to overcoming a crisis.

Rescue plan of action
Assign a team and think ahead to prepare for a considered and speedy reaction to a crisis.

Identify brand crisis risks
Play through different scenarios, identify potential threats to your brand and how to react.

When in a crisis, there are a few things to consider, but perhaps one of the most important ones is that the business understands the concerns of the public and stake holders, that it remains tactful and human, that it puts people and emotions ahead of profits and potential loss of assets.
Crisis-mantra-04
No-one wants a crisis, but a business should not fear those ‘sticky situations’. A crisis is as much of an opportunity as it is a problem – and how it will turn out is once again dependent on how the brand is managed and prepared.

brand crisis, brand management, Brand Strategy

Which Came First – The Chicken or The Chicken?

I know that when you really look hard, everything has been done before in some way, shape or form, and the challenge of creatives is to come up with new and innovative ways to use a set number of visual devices us people are familiar with to communicate in an engaging manner, but it does strike me as strange when a big brand like McDonald’s uses literally the same device as another big brand (albeit in the pet food market) to advertise one of their key products.

mcdonald's brand advert
What does it say about the brand – apart from ‘hey, we like the Whiskas campaign and thought we do the same!’

Looking at the advert for McDonald’s chicken burger, I am not convinced that it actually works as a brand or product advertisement. It is neither here nor there in terms of emotion and message. Surely if you stuffed your face with a chicken burger in a delightful frenzy, the packaging would look worse for wear with eager fingers dipping in?
Whiskas product advert
Cat food origami… a bit different… but quite sweet.

I know that you can’t always avoid repeating visual devices, in this case origami, and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as such, if executed in an innovative way or used to tell a new story, be relevant and fresh.
tissue brand advert
Folded message. Not really unfolding well.

Looking at this ad for Colhogar, I am not sure the connection with tissue paper for runny noses is really evident. And if you ever tried to actually make origami out of these type of tissues, it is nearly impossible and frustrating because of the softness of the paper (now here is a thought that might actually show a benefit of the paper to the consumer who might prefer the message of ‘too soft to be stable’ for their noses).
greenpeace advert
Missing something.

This Greenpeace advert is another origami example, the connection being the ‘wasting paper kills more than just trees’ but the visual execution is somewhat missing some warmth or depth.
bancoMatoneparrots
This bank’s strapline is ‘multiply your money’ but it beats me why they used birds instead of animals we naturally associate with rapid breeding (rabbits, anyone?).
brand advertisement
Sport artificial leather to stop animal slaughter – sorry, lost on me!

I also don’t quite get this advert for Rexiine House. I don’t even know what the connection is to their brand, what they do, why I should care. Perhaps this is simply an unlucky find because they are an indian company and won’t have exposure here.
The adverts below for Western Union also use origami, but I do like what they have done with it. Unlike the ‘multiplying’ advert, they used the essence of the bank notes themselves to create a connection between money transfers and the human aspect as well as the distance and cultural differences. It shifts the brand message from being a financial transaction to being a human interaction. Nicely done.
western union advert western-union-money-transfer-faces-1
I wonder how the McDonald’s chicken burger campaign will work for them. Perhaps they have planned a whole interactive origami media campaign with in-restaurant tutorials and bespoke packaging with instructions to bring the rather unsubtle copy of the Whiskas adverts to a better live… but why do I doubt that?

advertising, brand advertising, graphic design

Can You Buy Brand Loyalty?

A question of brand loyalty
A question of brand loyalty

It remains to be seen if the latest move from coffee brand giant Starbucks will get their brand loyalty program back on track. Whilst they, like Google, Amazon and Vodaphone, have been using loopholes in the UK tax law to avoid millions of pounds payable to the government, they started to feel the effect of the bad publicity this tax evasion has created.
Even without considering the effect their behaviour has on local small business competitors, who have to face not only the massive branding and marketing budgets of Starbucks, but also the fact that they do pay 20%VAT on every cup they sell, the public is less than impressed especially since everyone feels the economic downturn and personal tax burden of us living in the UK.
Perhaps someone thought that offering to pay 10million Pound to smoothen the waves is a good idea, but it will have to be seen if they are that easily forgiven or if in fact it fuels the anger and conception that they are trying to buy their way back in…
This Guardian article has some more details.
Brand trust is a quick one to be broken and I for one will continue to avoid the bitter taste their actions left and go to a coffee brand that shares the pain of being taxed.

brand loyalty, brand management

Follow Your Convictions – And Sack the Stylist!

There have been a number of blog posts about Bob Geldof’s campaign with Maurice Lacroix and how those two brands go together. They even made a video clip – though in my mind it doesn’t really help change the perception that Bob has perhaps gone for the bucks rather than the ethos.
This blog post by merrick describes the moral dilemma rather nicely.
There is however another issue in this – one where I question the watch brand’s choice to use Bob Geldof as their ambassador – and the main question why they could not manage to create a better image of him representing their high quality products! Greasy hair, bags under the eyes, unhealthy looking skin, a rather cynical look – the whole poster shouts everything other than individualism, integrity and high quality.
Perhaps they are appealing to an audience I do not understand but it would put me off considering their watches as desirable no matter what the price tag.

Bob-Geldof-branding
The right kind of image for a luxury watch brand? It might have looked good as an idea on paper, but the result looks more like a badly printed student project.

advertising, brand management, Brand Vision, Branding, personal branding

SME Branding Lesson #22 – Turning a Negative into a Positive

I’ve just had a weekend in York and had lunch at a restaurant / bar with a Latin theme. It was spacious in itself but there was no toilet on the ground floor. You had to climb five flights of stairs and there was no lift – lots of accessibility issues spring to mind, even ignoring wheelchairs (try carrying a child up all those stairs…).
I could have left the place with a dampened feeling and not just tired legs, but they did something clever with their unfortunate toilet situation – they made it a feature!
All it took was some entertainment on the way up. Instead of emphasising the somewhat arduous trip, it made me walk up twice (second time iPhone in hand to capture the trail).
No business is perfect – and I feel that this is a really simple and nice example for how to deal with situations that have to be managed before they can eventually be altered.
I for one will be remembering this bar for the positive brand experience their innovative dealing with a negative situation has created.
clever-brand-management-02
















brand loyalty, brand management, brand message, Brand Strategy, Branding, Funny

A Logo is a Logo is a Logo…

They famously sparked the usual rebranding debate in 2010 when Waterstones changed their logo from the traditional serif W to a rounded sans serif. It was linked to a campaign ‘feel every word’ – and the typography that ensued always struck me as uncomfortably familiar to Unilever, rebranded by Wolff Olins.

Waterstones rebrand 2010
Feel every word… I feel the world ‘familiarity’

Waterstones Logo 2010
Familiar concept? Compare it to the Unilever brand…

Unilever branding
Plagiarism is a form of flattery…

Early this year they have undergone a backward revolution, I suppose, by abandoning the sans serif FS Alberta Pro back to Baskerville and by dropping the apostrophe. Perhaps it got a bit crowded in the logo marketplace when even Tesco adopted that visual type style.
Tesco welcome typography
Another Unilever inspired brand visual…

It’s an interesting decision by the brand owners, and a somewhat brave step to go ‘back to the roots’.
Waterstones brand evolution
From brand evolution to brand revolution – and back again…

They did however still keep that very Unilever style, now on the new old type.
VentureThree rebrand of Waterstones
VentureThree sticks to the Unilever branding approach…

With all this happening, one can excuse the shop owner of the bookstore chain for struggling to keep up with the latest brand guidelines! This Birmingham outlet seems to believe that if in doubt, stick them all on the shop front – something for everyone…
Waterstones-brand-confusion
Brand confusion? If in doubt, stick them all on!

Perhaps the brand guidelines never made it up to Birmingham, or perhaps there is a hidden message here – but it makes me smile in disbelief that such an established brand can allow a clash of identities…

brand guidelines, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message, Brand Strategy, Brand Vision, typography

Form over Function – Is Being Fashionable Really Enough to Innovate a Brand?

It has taken me a few days to digest a press release I received relating to Filofax, a brand I have been following for a while now. Here is the bit that that is almost too bad to be true when relating it to those brand followers that have been loyal and dedicated to the brand throughout its turbulent history.

Filofax press mention
Working the media… enough to reposition the brand?

The Filofax personal organiser is an iconic product with a strong heritage but as a brand they’ve found it challenging to stay relevant in the current digital age. We were challenged to re-position the brand to make it culturally relevant again and re-capture the imagination of ‘lapsed users’ who once used a Filofax but now rely on their smartphones to keep their diaries.
Following a usage and attitudes study, we identified that lapsed users and current Filofax users share the same common ground – they like to write notes and are very interested in fashion / stylish accessories. With this in mind we needed to make Filofax fashionable again to recapture this audience’s attention, so we set up a fashion-focused press office targeting key fashion and style journalists in aspirational and mainstream media, as well as influential bloggers with style focused tactics to change their perception of the brand.
From creating monthly trend reports that tied Filofax designs into leading catwalk looks, celebrity seeding, to implementing a series of style led blogger challenges, over the course of six months Filofax was starting to become recognised as a style accessory. This was all supported with a design partnership with iconic British fashion designer Alice Temperley who created a limited edition collection designed to showcase Filofax’s design capabilities but ultimately raise their profile amongst a high fashion crowd.
Helena Bloomer, MD of SLAM PR

Especially the ‘usage and attitudes study’ must have felt like a slap in the face of those users who are more keen on what’s in it than who made its cover. Some vented their frustration and published an open letter addressing the issue.
Dave Popely wrote a lovely reply to the PRs strange conclusion based on focus groups or other research which, if anything besides missing the point of the brand and its followers, puts our industry in a bad light. It made me cringe reading the buzzword loaded marketing speech and I am going to try doubly hard not to jump to marketing conclusions that are short sighted and biased.
Even though I am not a Filofax user, having just had a few encounters with those passionate about the product on sites like Philofaxy (hello Steve), I believe the very core of the ongoing success of the brand lies in the provision of a tool helping people organise their lives. Those people don’t want to rely on fancy gadgets, they appreciate the versatility, flexibility and reliability of paper and Filofax’s different systems for keeping notes is at the heart of their social and business organisation – day in, day out. To be pigeonholed as “people who like to write notes and are very interested in fashion/stylish accessories” is not only patronising, but alienates exactly the core of brand followers that seem to be keeping the company alive amidst the mass of digital alternatives.

Winchester and Malden
Kindly provided by Steve Morton from Philofaxy, throughout the decades Filofax has excelled as a brand of quality and function

I had a read of a PDF published on Philofaxy in which Kevin Hall lists the chronology of the company since the 1920s and if anything it highlights once again the lack of understanding that the true magic of the personal organiser lies in its functionality rather than its form.
There are so many possibilities of rejuvenating a brand without attempting to use the glittery but fickle and  shallow fashion direction. The best brand ambassadors are those who believe in the product and I just can’t understand why they are not being included in the development of the brand be it for a social campaign or at least for an in-depth forum or brainstorm. They meet up regularly as a group of enthusiasts sharing ideas, ways to file information, laughs no doubt. Why can the Filofax marketing department not see and capture some of that social magic and break through this strange notion that style will rescue them all.
Cat137_page9
An old system based on functionality

Just like Apple used to create extra special hardware and software for the design community, there is an opportunity to develop an extra special functional paper organiser that looks good as well – and if, as it has been with Apple (excluding SIRI and Maps to date) the design is just as amazing as the product itself, people will happily pay a premium.
Scotsman article about the filofax brand on sale again
Up for grabs – will the French know how to take the brand in the 21st Century?

It remains to be seen what’s next on the cards – with a new edition of the Alice Temperley range announced for the 2013 London fashion week and all those “style led blogger challenges and celebrity seedings” – or perhaps with the possibility of a takeover by French firm Exacompta Clairefontaine. Possibly the future ‘Le Filofax’ will be naturally confident of their French style such that the focus of the brand managers will shift towards the deeper appeal of the product for those using it as an integral part of their life.

brand loyalty, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message, Brand Strategy, Brand Vision

SME Branding Lesson #21 – Strap Lines, Brand Promises and Does it All Matter?

It took me a while to realise what was bothering me about the new campaign for Esso. Something just didn’t feel right – which I guess is what branding is all about. The chemistry seems wrong between me and their new slogan ‘We fuel progress.’
But what’s not to like? Straplines and slogans have been with us forever, they are a great, simple way to get the brand essence across and gives the company the opportunity to show some attitude, its own language, its mentality and gives a glimpse of what the brand stands for.
Nike’s ‘Just do it.’ inspired a whole nation of fitness lovers without olympic ambition. Apple’s ‘Think different’ struck a cord not only with creatives, but more and more with consumers of home entertainment and technology. Even Esso’s ‘Put a tiger in your tank’ seems more exciting and personable than the extension of last year’s ‘We fuel creativity’ with Lego promotion. It seems the line lacks meaning for the consumer. In a time where fuel prices are ever increasing and profits soaring, there is something patronising about this statement. ‘We fuel progress’, don’t you know? Aren’t we clever! You just keep paying us and we keep paying our marketing department to come up with yet another clever line that tells you how well we are doing because naturally this is all you are interested in!
Oh, they mean the long term benefit of their fuel and are ‘making fuel work harder for you’. It just does not engage me.
There are plenty of great slogans that have stood the test of criticism and time.

Andrex Toilet Paper

Around since the 70s, the Andrex® Puppy is one of the UK’s most recognisable brand icons.

Andrex brand slogan
It’s the little things… and that little bit of consistency that adds to the success of this brand.

Tommee Tippee

This household baby brand is probably far more known for their sub brand ‘closer to nature’ than its slogan ‘simply intuitive’… but it’s a nice line nonetheless.
Tommee Tippee Logo and Slogan

Closer to nature sub brand
The power of a sub brand. Often used interchangeable among mothers, the sub brand has become a brand name and slogan in itself.

BT – British Telecom

BT slogan
I had to look it up – when BT dropped its “It’s good to talk” slogan, it didn’t quite capture the imagination with ‘bringing it all together’…

Dulux

It’s another household name and the slogan ‘let’s colour’ sums it up just nicely.

Dulux brand slogan
Another famous dog – dulux has made a brand name for itself and I wonder if the dulux dog is now part of the dog breeders index…

BBC
A brilliant brand and institution (in my mind anyway) and one with such an amazing history. I can’t imagine they will ever change their old motto “Nation shall speak peace unto Nation” – but who knows!
BBC motto
What they all have in common (and there are many more) is a story, a sense of something relating to the product or service, and not just words without much human interest.
Where Esso fails to convince, other brands have managed to capture the imagination of their stakeholders and are good to bear in mind when developing slogans or straplines for less well-known businesses. Not everyone will make it into a household name cited on wikipedia, but having a memorable and imaginative strapline can lighten up marketing banter and provide a step in the direction of brand advertising without having to explain in many words.
Once a slogan becomes synonymous with the meaning and essence a company tries to communicate, it becomes part of a brand and will be a useful tool for marketing and communications.
How to come up with a good strapline? Here are just some thoughts:

  1. KISS – Keep it simple stupid – as mentioned before, it’s a great rule for straplines. Anything complicated, long winded or hard to pronounce will be forgettable.
  2. Be real – don’t make promises you can’t keep. Emphasising strengths is one thing. Blatantly boasting or exaggerating usually won’t work long-term.
  3. Be human – use words we understand. Add some empathy, some feeling. It will go a long way.
  4. Be creative – don’t shy away from trying something new. Just avoid emblazoning it in the brickwork of your building until you are sure it is working for your brand!
  5. Be consistent – don’t have a new strapline every couple of months. Develop one and stick with it at least for the duration of a campaign or something you can measure the success of. There is no point keep changing a strapline if the issue is lying elsewhere.
  6. Be proud – don’t go for cheap laughs. Have a slogan you are happy to share and shout about. If it works, it will work wonders…

 

brand management, brand message, brand slogans, Brand Strategy, Branding

A Brand Architecture of a Rare Kind

They have been spending lots of time, money and resources on building their brand. They have invested in advertising and PR, social media and other means of getting your message out. You have perfected your image and relating product. And they seem to have made a success of it. People aspire to wear their brand name on t-shirts, trousers, sun glasses and anything else they decide to stick it on – so what more could they do?!

Abercrombie & Fitch brand architecture detail
Unless I have missed a vital lesson in luxury roof finishes, this tiling method does not live up to its brand’s promise

Talk to the architect of their themed shops is one thing that instantly springs to mind! With a brand as upmarket as Abercrombie & Fitch you would assume there was some budget left to fit the roof tiles of their outlet in a shopping mall. And even if it was the mall’s shop that finished the exterior, there must be a way to ensure the quality of the brand is reflected in the quality of the roof it sells under.
As with most elements of branding and marketing, consumer perception does not start when they hold their purchase in their hands – it’s important to think through the entire shopping experience or in the case of A&F to not just see the exterior as a means to an end but as an opportunity to shine… or at least stick together nicely!
Abercrombie & Fitch brand architecture
All under one shabby looking roof…

Abercrombie & Fitch brand architecture
Be assured we put all our money into the production of our expensive clothes – not in our shops!

brand management, brand perception

Odd Things to Stick Your Brand On Olympics Special

The Paralympics have arrived and we are once again bathing in the excitement of a global sporting event hosted in our capital. I had been on the lookout for cool and crazy merchandise featuring the much debated and much protected London 2012 branding, and here are just two recent ones I came across…
It’s odd to think that this is the item of choice for promoting an event that excels in its dynamic nature, is full of vibe, confidence and energy, that is about breaking records and inspiring a generation. Was the underlying brand messaging strategy to engage with the nation every time they take their  Sunday roast out the oven or put the tea pot on the side table? Oven mittens and tea pot warmers, ladles and other cooking equipment may be apt for MasterChef or Ready Steady Cook… but I am somewhat doubtful of the effect beyond the gimmick and ensuing giggle… Then again, we might inspire a generation of record breaking oven users and tea makers.
Anything is possible!

Olympics-Branding-potholder
Serving oven roast dinners in record time – the 2012 branded olympic oven glove. Torchbearers accessory perhaps?

Olympic-branding-tea-pot-warmer
Polly put the kettle on! We have an Olympic tea pot warmer to watch the 100m!

Funny, Logos, merchandise, product development, product placement

An (Almost) Perfect Ambient Brand Advert

If it wasn’t for the scale of the people directly in front of this billboard for McDonald’s, this would be right up there for me as a super ambient brand advert that plays with the environment with great effect.
It works really well in terms of message and being memorable – and it’s apt for the campaign the brand was running as a main sponsor during the London 2012 Olympics. I’m Lovin’ it!…
Image

ambient, brand advertising

The Olympics are here – but which brands try to play it?

With the Olympics finally here, I was interested in those brands that paid to be affiliated officially with the event.
The big brands have the cash to participate – but having observed who does what in recent weeks and months leading up to the event, I wonder if they are playing their cards right.
When visa insisted tickets could only be purchased with their cards, they lost a lot of respect from me simply because a brand that limits options is in my mind a brand that reflects an attitude of wanting to gain rather than wanting to give and that doesn’t support individualism and consumer choice.
And why everyone has to eat Mac Donald’s is just another example of selective monopolism that is so very much against the idea of the Olympics, it makes me somewhat doubt their brand strategy in this respect. I understand they give a lot of money to be sponsors and allow for better games for all of us – I just wished someone tried a fresh approach to the inevitable marketing frenzy of the event that ensues.
In comparison, it seems rather harmless that Panasonic puts his Olympic stamp on products designed to capture the moment. (A bit like crunchy bars as the snack for audiences…)
I would have liked to see a truly refreshing brand action in connection with the Olympics that was more than handing out micro bottles of coke on the torch route – at least with crunchy bars you got the full size! 😉
It just shows that most brands are motivated by profits and whilst there is nothing wrong with that, in connection with events such as the Olympics makes their benevolent activities seem somewhat contrived.

I am still not sure it’s the ideal colour combination for brand and logo, but it certainly makes the olympic logo stand out.

sponsorship

SME Branding Lesson #20 – Function Over Form or Form Over Function?

20120724-074444.jpg
I’m on holiday – thus the rather sporadic and short entries – but I always look out for anything branding related that can help my SME clients.
This one is a tricky one – it’s a design issue for sure but one a brand manager has to handle. Does your brand identity have to be forced onto every object even if it distracts from its clarity and even destroys its legibility?
Brand guidelines generally contain rules on how not to distort, change, discolour or deconstruct a brand icon or name – but perhaps we need to add another rule and send it to supermarket giant Sainsbury… How not to space out your brand name or website address!
Especially if people won’t consider your business a household name (yet) clarity is paramount and designs such as this example from Sainsbury can do more harm than good.
Sometimes it’s perhaps better not to feature a name or logo if it is confusing and detrimental to a brand – or find a different brand vehicle, pardon the pun…

brand management, graphic design, SME, vehicle design

SME Branding Lesson #19 – Brand Strategy and the Recession

branding in a recession
Saving in the wrong place – an easy mistake in the world of branding and marketing

It’s much talked-about in the media and favourite subject of a lot of marketing agencies – for good reason. An economic downturn inevitably means budget cuts, and marketing, design and advertising budgets are often conceived to be the outgoings which businesses can live without.
Of course everybody who knows even just a little bit about market positioning, purchasing cycles and consumer behaviour knows that this is a bit of a trap a lot of SMEs fall into. Because it is so hard to track the ROI (return on investment) of marketing elements, such as a new brochure design, an updated website or even a fully fledged re-brand, businesses find it hard to see why they have to keep the work up in order to reap the rewards.
I like to think of it as one of the vital habits of business. Just the way you can’t expect your teeth to stay clean if you stop brushing them because you are short of time (or toothpaste), you can’t expect your brand to flourish and grow if you don’t keep working on getting your brand message out there. So in that sense, all that marketing talk is very true. I do however think that the recession does give more than the challenge of continuing marketing activities to benefit from gaining market positions due to competitors bailing out or lying low.
When money is tight, creativity becomes extra valuable. Creativity allows to stretch a brand, to tweak out new methods of getting it out there, to household with budgets and still stand out with truly beneficial messages, information, services or products instead of  expensive gimmicks. Looking beyond the print and online marketing could yield inexpensive answers that retain existing customers and get your brand talked about.
Consider some of the following:

  • Have you clearly defined your target market or are you ‘carpet bombing’ and thus having increased spending without guaranteed response?
  • How can  you add value to your existing customers – can you share some expert knowledge that will help them and set you apart from competitors?
  • How do your target audiences engage with your brand? Is there a way to reach them that does not require expensive ad campaigns?
  • Do you have a single focus product or service that is the core of your brand and that convinces new and existing clients? Are you pushing this or are you in danger of diluting your brand by trying too many other things that may or may not increase business?
  • Do you excel through excellence in your field – and in the way you treat your customers? Are there ways you can improve the interaction between your brand and consumers with staff training, brand understanding and focusing on delivering an amazing experience?
  • Are you talking to the right people?
  • Could you use the press to gain some coverage through interesting stories?
  • Is your brand easy to recognise? Is your existing marketing material adding to your brand and are you proud to share it?
  • Do you spend your time and resources on perceived ‘free’ marketing, such as social, because it works for  you or just because everybody else does it?

Each business is individual and has individual challenges. The recession is not great for most of us (money lenders and crooks not counting). It is however a definite opportunity to drive a brand forward and gain momentum when the competition seems to stand still…

brand management, brand positioning, creativity, marketing, recession

Filofax… A Fashion Brand on the Rise or an Endangered Species?

Alice Temperley for Brand Filofax
At £399, with little or no sales, is this really the future of Filofax?

Just as I heard on the grapevine from a reliable source that Filofax’s venturing into the fashion world trying to sell organisers for £375 and £399 (this is about 4 times the price of a conventional Filofax) may have been all but a disaster, in comes the press release that they will do it all again!

“I’m so pleased to be partnering with Filofax again to create a second collection, especially following the amazing response we received from the limited edition styles earlier on in the year. A Filofax is much more than just a diary, for me it’s a place to collect inspiration, write my endless lists and juggle my life. I wanted to turn it into an accessory which can accompany you anywhere; from day meetings to nights out with friends. It’s a busy world and still so important to write things down” says Alice Temperley, MBE

Whilst the current range, according to retailers, is actually bombing, it makes you wonder why they are doing another run – but then I saw the price range and it is significantly less than last time:

“Temperley for Filofax, consisting of the Violet and Ikat, will be available nationwide and online from September 2012 in pocket and personal sizes, priced £45 – £165.”

The feedback from their loyal, traditional customer base has been mixed – there seem to have been a lot of problems with the production and quality of the new range. It’s probably the single most important issue for a brand selling luxury brand experiences with high priced goods or services – you expect immaculate quality –so it’s a shame they got this so wrong.
Here is a link to anther blogger discussing quality issues.
I am sure Filofax will continue to work as a brand in some shape or form – and that belief is mainly due to the excitement and dedication I experienced talking to those that still see the value and place of a paper based diary in today’s age of smartphones and electronic gadgets.
Considering this dedicated customer base, such as the Philofaxy community, I still wonder if it really was a wise decision to stretch the brand into this new area  – and the notion that they are doing a fashion range at cut down prices now somehow defeats the whole purpose of it.
Perhaps they could look at working closer with their ‘fan base’ instead and do a collaboration with their actual customers  rather than investing all their efforts into an unknown market. I guess we just have to wait for the next press release after London Fashion Week and be surprised once again!

Alice Temperley, brand loyalty, brand management, Brand Strategy, Design, Fashion, Filofax

SME Branding Lesson #18 – Brands and Respect for Personal Space

It’s one of those things shoppers have to expect: You walk into a store and a shop assistant will ask you within seconds if they can help you. (When I first arrived in the UK, I was stumped but then quickly learned the phrase ‘no thanks, I am just browsing’.)

Street fund raisers
Chuggers or charity muggers and their effect on brands

Another regular occurrence of high street shopping is that a team of fundraisers will hustle you to appeal to your giving nature. This one is a particularly tough one because obviously the charities need to raise funds. However, there are different ways to go about it and I have come across groups of fund raisers who gathered at lunch time, swapped their branded vests and changed into another charity – it does border on insincerity and changes the image of philanthropy to hard core business.
More crazy though, every week, I get a letter from three household brands and, after more than five years of getting them now, it is definitely affecting the way I see their brand. Lloyds tries to give me a credit card, BT some phone line upgrade and Virgin anything that’s on their mind at the time. I subscribed to neither, and neither messages have ever hit me at a decision making point over a rather large ‘buying cycle’ period, which makes me question their effectiveness.
Yes, the old dogma of brand marketing used to be to ‘carpet bomb’ the consumer in the hope that a message would stick with a number of people which, despite being very small, would build the customer base that made the business worthwhile. We have moved on – and very select targeted advertising is possible now, but it seems it’s still too much effort or too scary for brands to throw away those huge direct mail data bases and find new, innovative means of brand communication.
It’s not just about shouting out messages at people, it feels like an invasion of personal space. Those brands, that have looked at other approaches to become embedded in the mind of their target market when it comes to the buying decision, will probably find the long-term benefit of not poking their nose into our every day life and let us come to them when we want something. It’s not just the power of the niché, it’s the power of the brand itself.

  • Educational approach – provide customers with practical, educational content, be it on your website, blog, via an app for smartphones, on social media platforms such as twitter or LinkedIn, appearances on seminars, exhibitions, in the press – you are the expert, so make sure other people can benefit from that. Yes, it’s a worry that the competition will ‘take inspiration’ from what you do, but you can’t run a business worrying about what they may or may not do; it’s much better to be the first one that wholeheartedly embraces the ‘sharing’ attitude and builds a name (brand) for themselves in their chosen field.
  • Subtle post sale marketing – Someone bought something from you, whehey! They get a receipt, and that’s probably it. Perhaps this is the point where they are open to find out a bit more about your magic product or service. Perhaps the receipt could be accompanied with a short message about related items of potential interest? Amazon’s ‘others also bought this’ system and derivatives are really effective and make sense if you consider the consumer being on a ‘shopping spree’ and open to suggestions.
  • Supporting causes, charities, events, fundraisers – it’s nothing new, but ‘giving back’ means free PR, great local exposure and a positive attitude towards your brand. It’s a win-win situation and doesn’t have to cost much.
  • Devising a strategy to reach the most relevant target market – this has a few advantages. Speaking from a designer’s heart, one obvious plus point is that the value of a very specifically targeted campaign item is much higher because of the better conversion rate. Thus, it is viable to invest proper time (and money) and the creation of a great piece of communication that will convince rather than grind down readers. Another one is the likelihood of recommendations and referrals. If I talk to those interested in my brand, chances are, they will appreciate the communication and remember to mention it with other like-minded people. Nobody really shouts about the local pizza menu thrown through the letterbox every week, but if you are a golfer and found a brand that provided you not only with great relevant products but also added value to your shopping experience by giving tips, insider tricks, offers, etc, you may very well tell your golfing friends about it.
To summarise, I believe personal space also applies to the way brands communicate with their clients and customers. Respect is key – as is relevancy and adding value.
I might just have to drag one of them charity workers to one side for a chat one day…

Brand Strategy, Branding, buying cycle, marketing effectiveness

Is it time to bring behaviourism back into strategies?

This is a really interesting subject. I guess it does go beyond loyalty card systems and referral schemes.
It brings to mind psychological phenomena such as the notion that people experience loss ten times more than they feel when gaining something. Or the idea that our brain is programmed to find patterns, and changes – we become blind to things that don’t change and we become superstitious when patterns in our interaction with the world are detected.
Malcolm Gladwell talks about the subject to some extend in Tipping Point when he describes the characteristics of those influencers who can tip the balance and achieve a result – be it hush puppies or Paul Revere‘s ride during the American Revolution.
It would be great to see some examples of current brands using behaviourism as a basis for their brand strategy – and perhaps that kind of case study would be just what they expected…

behaviourism

The Brand as an Asset – As Proven by Ford

Ford brand icon
The Ford Oval – more than just a logo

If someone is in doubt that a logo really is of monetary value to a business, and that a brand identity can be used to vouch for credit re-payments, here is a current news article that describes just that…
Ford pledged their Ford Blue Oval as part of a loan package and a representative commented on this: “When we pledged the Ford Blue Oval as part of the loan package, we were not just pledging an asset (…) We pledged our heritage. The Ford Blue Oval is one of the most recognized symbols in the world, and it is a source of great pride and passion, both inside and outside our company.”
Now, seven years after the bailout, Ford have their logo back in their possession – and comment further that this has an ‘enormous psychological impact on Ford and all of our employees’…
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pT610oLXLjI&w=640&h=360]
It’s just great example to advocate the importance of a brand symbol and why companies work so hard on keeping their icon unique and memorable. It is, after all, one of the easiest visual identifiers of a business, if neither the product or service are visible.
Whether Ford will use this opportunity to once again evolve their logo and thus mark the beginning of a new era will have to be seen – and maybe there is a brand strategy meeting being planned as we speak…

brand icon, Brand Strategy, emotional brand

When a Brand Mix Becomes a Brand Mix Up

Santander-brand-advert-in-control
More out of control… A jumble of brands and graphics

Santander-brand-advert-pole-position
Pole position? Or running behind the times?

The adverts position Santander as one of the Formula One brands. Here are some thoughts on why I don’t think they really work in favour of this brand.

1) Visual appearance

The images come across as contrived and – apologies to the designers – a bit messy. The main graphics features racing driver Lewis Hamilton wrapped in a range of brands – Mercedes Benz, Vodaphone, Boss etc – some in a far more prominent position on the driver’s suit than Santander. It does (in my mind at least) not convey the message of being ‘In Control’ especially since the advertiser’s logo is cluttered by other brand icons.
Visually, the first thing I saw was the Mercedes Benz star, then I noticed the Vodaphone logo and finally I did make the effort to follow the ad to the Santander logo.

2) Too many messages spoil the broth

There seem to be at least three strap lines there as well – ‘In business with you’, ‘Driven to do better.’ and ‘Value from ideas’. All have their own different typography. To add to the disjointed image they put on a QR code and yet another logo linking to Santander.
The messages don’t gel and they don’t make me want to scan that QR code and find out more. They just create a sense of ‘design by committee’ where too much was packed in.

3) The right brand ambassador?

I am no Formula One expert by any means but it seems to me that Lewis Hamilton has been more in the press recently for his on/off relationship with Nicole Scherzinger than winning races.
And even if he is ‘consistently improving this season’, as a brand I would be very careful in the selection of a person that you associate your brand’s persona with.

Kerry Katona Iceland Brand Ambassador
A step too far for Iceland brand values. Following photographs of Katona taking drugs, she is dropped from the advertising campaign of the supermarket chain.

Iceland is a great example for how not to pick women as responsible brand ambassadors – Kerry Katona and Stacey Salomon, both displaying dubious behaviour. Katona was dropped quickly following her drug revelations and Salomon was stripped of her ‘mother of year title’ when she was ‘caught’ smoking whilst pregnant.
Stacey Solomon Brand Ambassador for Iceland
Smoking whilst pregnant – Iceland stands by the young mum despite public outcries

A representative of Iceland said in March:
“Stacey has proved to be very popular with our customers over the last 18 months. We understand she deeply regrets the embarrassment she has caused with her recent actions but we are also aware that she has significantly reduced the number of cigarettes she smokes.
“Stacey tells us she is seeking medical advice to help her stop smoking and we remain fully supportive of her during this present time and going forward.”
Kate Moss Brand Ambassador of Burberry
Dropped because of drugs… Kate Moss lost her role as Burberry model in 2005

Some other less fortunate brand partnerships included Garry Glitter and National Rail and Kate Moss and Burberry who dropped her following her drug scandal.
Going back to the Santander advert, in light of all the issues with banking, even if Hamilton was still winning every race, I am not sure it is the best message to invest money and effort in being associated with Formula One at this time of financial difficulty.
Whilst other banks drum home their messages about security and responsibility, ‘In Control’ and ‘Pole Position’ seem to be missing their point a bit… Let’s hope they can recover their brand message as well as their credit rating. It may take more than showing a race driver to regain the trust of businesses in the UK.

brand advertising, Brand ambassador

Take a Bite of These!

Land Rover Survival Guide
An edible survival guide. What more can you ask for when stranded in the Arabian desert (other than perhaps a car that took you back home?)

Talking of large brands hesitant to try new things in this economic climate, Land Rover Dubai had something else in mind. Their survival guide doesn’t just explain how to survive in the Arabian desert, it also offers the reader to truly digest their information – with the nutritional value of a cheeseburger.
It’s just nice to see a big brand that stands for adventure be adventurous and communicate with their brand essence written all over it. It’s a simple idea but wouldn’t really be suitable for many brands. Use it for Land Rover, and a bit of marketing magic happens.
I think this is what I am struggling with when brands suddenly venture into areas that don’t seem to gel – I am still coming to terms with the Kelloggs handbag. Any news on that one?
Banksy Bunting
Bunting at Turnpike Lane. Just simple and clever.

Another really nice piece of creative is the latest Banksy design – assuming it is him. Ready for the celebrations, it’s just a simple and sweet statement that makes me believe in the power of creativity.
Whichever way you look at brand communications and marketing today, there is no real reason why advertising, social and print can’t be extraordinary. It may be a step in the dark, but a mixture of understanding what a brand is about and great creative ideas to get the brand personality across to the nowadays pretty demanding consumer usually pays off long-term.
 

brand management, graphic design, marketing

SME Branding Lesson #17 – Expect the Unexpected

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It may be a very obvious detail of shaping a customer’s brand experience, but the fact that I had two reactions from the same brand representatives in the same shop made me wonder if it is something to think about a bit more as part of staff training.
I had used my smartphone all day and was literally left with an important call to make from town and 1% battery left.
I thought ‘why don’t I just pop in at my local mobile phone supplier and ask them for a few percent of their electricity?’ I approached a member of staff who was alone in the shop and kindly stopped whatever phone call he was making at the time. When I explained, he said all I could do is buy a new charger and use it there.
I didn’t think it was worth it and was left feeling a bit disappointed about the lack of empathy and non-apparent creativity in dealing with my plea for help. Just as I was about to leave to try elsewhere, his colleague came in and asked what I needed and quickly suggested I just use one of the cables they use when sorting people’s phones out. Easy! We chatted for ten minutes and I walked away with enough charge to make my call and a much needed brand love boost from T-mobile.
I don’t understand why the first person didn’t have the guts or brains to think outside the staff manual. It was a bit of an unusual request, I know, but the shop was empty, Friday afternoon, and no harm was coming their way by offering to help.
The self-initiative of the other shop assistant really made a difference to my brand experience and I am passing on my good opinion about the brand – more so then I would ever do when seeing an advert or marketing campaign.
When you are dealing with clients, no matter how large or small your organisation, working on great customer interactions to create and maintain a food reputation should be one of the most fundamental things to consider.
Even if a consumer proves difficult or hard to please, giving up on him could be the route to mediocre customer service and a ‘why bother’ attitude that will spread into other areas of the business and effect not just the brand but also ultimately the product or service.
Branding is all about creating that connection with a product, that warm feeling of goodness and positivity about a company, so the more human the ‘corporate machine’ can appear, the more it has a chance to be a success.
If you manage to train your brand representatives to act in the manner you want your business to be perceived, even the weirdest and unusual situations will be not just a challenge, but a much cheaper and more sincere way to surprise and be remembered than the most ingenious ad campaign.

Brand Managment, customer service

A Purely Pure Brand Ad – And Why It Works

20120509-204401.jpg

If you didn’t know this brand, you’d be none the wiser having read this advert. It is as such a lovely example for why this type of advertising can only work for established brands or those who can pre-empt or follow-up with a campaign that creates the connection and link to the brand and product.
It also showcases how it has become common practice for companies to utilise charities to make a statement, show that they care, support and ‘give back’ — the essence of corporate responsibility.
For this particular brand it works because it doesn’t try too hard, it doesn’t even attempt to obviously mix this fundraising initiative with messages about their product directly, and it visually speaks the language of the brand, adding to its story and its roots rather than trying to be controversial/contradicting for the sake of some short lived attention.
Even in their choice of charity, the brand positions itself among a certain demographic and engages without pushing the product directly.
That’s the magic adverts as good as this one come with in the long-run.
Something to aim for…

advertising, Branding

SME Branding Lesson #15 – Be Generous

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It’s been twice now in recent weeks that I have been surprised by the generosity of businesses who didn’t have to, but did go beyond expectations.
I was about to travel with my youngest son to see the great grandma quite a long way away and someone made me aware that my break lights stopped working. So I headed to the local garage since I never had the opportunity to do that type of car DIY myself and asked if they could change the bulbs for me. The mechanic booked me in and we got the pushchair put so I could take the kids home and leave the car there. (Hurray to truly local businesses).
What happened next was sweetly unexpected – he came back to me fumbling in his pockets and pulled out two pound coins. One for each son to put in their money box – for good luck.
My car was fixed for less than 10 Pounds within the hour and I was left happy and ready to send any car owner their way!
It wasn’t that they had some marketing theme, some ‘buy one, get one free’ offer or a prize draw for getting more customers – they were simply human and tried to make my life easy and put a smile on my face.
At the weekend we visited York and ventured into a board game shop to get an expansion for Dominion. My husband joked whether they would give a birthday discount (it was his 40th that day) and a few seconds later the shop manager came out of the wood works (ok, the window sill) and told his staff to give us 10% off. How nice was that!
Again, there was no email subscription offer, no referral scheme, just good old customer friendliness and unexpected generosity.
It’s something I think any brand can learn from. We spend all this time, effort and money to give brands a human face but sometimes the simplest human interaction is worth a hundred campaigns. It doesn’t have to involve money, and it’s not about just giving away things, it’s about relevancy and an appropriate response that allows people to feel connected to your business.
Think about how you can add value to a customer’s purchase. Can you train your staff to be able to take liberties and react to enhance a purchasing experience? Is there another way to engage with shoppers apart from the age old ‘can I help you with something’ question?
Put yourself in your client’s shoes and try to create an experience with your product or service that will keep your brand in their mind and on their tongues when recommending you to others.

Brand Strategy

Old Brands Revived

Just looked at this video about the revival of some old brands in the US – such as  Astro Pops, Boast logo shirts, National Premium beer, and the Seafood Shanty restaurant.
Is this the retro movement in the retail industry? Rather than coming up with new concepts, brand owners decide that it’s time to recycle.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N8TCmJah2A&w=640&h=360]
Astro Pop
Last sold in 2004, this lollipop with a reputation for being ‘the longest lasting sucker’ is making its comeback in the US.
Astropop logo
Boast Polo Shirts
The Polo shirt brand was first established by a tennis pro in 1973 and has now been revived with updated cuts and colours.
Boast Polo Shirts
National Premium Beer
Last sold in 1996, Tim Miller, whose fam­ily sold a string of ser­vice sta­tions 10 years ago, has decided to re-introduce this once famous beer brand.
National Premium Label
Seafood Shanty (Sadly I can’t find the website for this one)
The chain of restaurants known for their seafood dishes closed in 1996.
Now it’s set for a come-back.
Seafood Shanty
I guess the big challenge all these brands will face is to adapt their products and services to the current market demands, to inspire those not familiar with the brands from the past and to excite those who remember them. It’s a great project, I think, and one where brand strategists, designers and marketeers can be really creative in coming up with innovative brand messaging and advertising.
Linking the old with the new, innovating and reviving are such important factors in brand management, it will be interesting to see how these brands will master the challenges of re-entering the high street and the minds of the consumers.
Actually, I am curious which British brands may follow this trend and give it another go… I can only think of Woolworths‘ online shop right now, not seen Adams anywhere yet!

brand, brand management, Retro

Getting the Hang of Standing Up – Progress for the Standeazy Brand

It’s been months since I last wrote about my Standeazy marketing journey. I tried a lot of different things and some are proving to be successful. Somebody mentioned on a podcast that starting a new business, it usually takes around 18 months for anyone to really take notice, but I think it also takes the entrepreneur or brand manager a while to figure out how to position the product, what marketing methods work best and which tools to use.

Airplane entertainment
Couldn't have flown without it!

After a stint of local networking, it became quickly apparent that Standeazy is going to need a wider reach than a local networking group can provide. Considering the time it takes to network ‘offline’, even after weeks of connecting with people it seemed that time was better spent to actually invest in some SEO.
So I embarked on the SEO journey and stumbled across a site that helps with back linking and gives you a free SEO report on your keywords with suggestions for on-site SEO. It cost about £10 per month and since following their suggestions, we have managed to appear on google for keywords we were on page 149 – now iPhone stand puts us on page 4 in the UK and page 6 in the US. There is more work to be done for sure but it shows it is possible. The final test for the SEO are sales from the website itself and they have gone up considerably since February so that’s something worth bearing in mind.
The site is called Clicksubmit and they have been very good with email response as well.
I started using PressKing for press release distribution and also created a page on our website with news and press releases. In December, we were featured in a Birmingham gift guide which again resulted in measurable sales from the local area so PR is a worthwhile time investment. As for the distribution services (I have tried GnosisArt via a special offer on GroupPrice and PressKing) I am less convinced.
B7Living Gift Guide
Getting some exposure

Far more (expensive) impressive are Vocus and PRWeb but they are unaffordable beyond the free trials.
Another great little tool I used to do some market research and to create content for press releases is Toluna.
On my list to try is social media platform roost – I am still unsure if it really is a good idea. I am trying to find someone who has used it and am still waiting back to hear from them why they need access to EVERYTHING in my FaceBook account. Why do they?
We set up a German outlet on amazon.de and the stands are selling there far better than we ever expected! I am now having everything translated to tackle the French market as well, but even just the German market has made such a difference.
What has been really exciting though is that we just completed our first corporate order! It’s taken a while but it is for Warner Bros promoting their UltraViolet brand to retailers at a trade show.
iPhone Stand for Warner Bros
Custom design and print for Warner Bros – the UV Standeazy

02 UV Standeazy iPhone Stand
The phone stand from the back...

We’ve also just had another review published and a video which is a great compliment.
Here is a video and the link to the site coolsmartphone.com.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S4y2IUjagGs?rel=0&w=560&h=315]
So, I am continuing the hunt for a top spot on Google and I am hoping that by slowly making valuable connections in the media industry, Standeazy will go from strength to strength in the coming months.

Standeazy

Every Little Yelps – Add This to the List of Brand Extension Failures

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OBIYN_M-81g&feature=player_embedded]
“Couture” means dressmaking, sewing, or needlework[1] and is also used as a common abbreviation of haute couture and refers to the same thing in spirit.[2]
It makes me wonder if Tesco Couture ever had a chance. A value proposition so far removed from the ‘every little helps’ cheap and easy attitude the brand commonly projects has to work so much harder to gain the reputation and recognition it needs to become and remain profitable at the scale of this super market giant.
How do mass production and couture go together? Perhaps I don’t quite get their story, but it seems to me that by putting a high price tag on they appear to have thought they can elevate their fashion line into the realm of independent boutiques and the big fashion houses.
FF Courure
Surprise, it doesn’t seem to have worked. With some items on sale for less than 20% of the original price, consumers have shown that sometimes a brand just won’t connect. And with mass production quality not living up to the ‘Couture’ branding of the limited edition line, a Tesco spokeswoman confirmed that the supermarket had no future plans to run another range.

brand extension

SME Branding Lesson #12 – To Brand or Not to Brand…

… advertise that is the question.

I recently came across an article written by a marketing expert that suggests SMEs spending time and money on branding really are wasting their time. As I read on, I realised that he may have simplified the subject and based his conclusion on comparing brand advertising versus direct response advertising as parts of a marketing strategy for SMEs.
Pretty much all major fashion, lifestyle and consumer goods brands practice a mixture of both, but we probably mostly remember them for their brand advertisements.  Distinct imagery, a clever tag line, sometimes just an image and a logo – welcome to the very different sibling of  direct response advertising.

Miu Miu Advertising Campaign
Showcasing the brand. Then the product.

It’s an investment. It’s not instant gratification. It’s hard to track and hard to justify, but it seems to be working for the big boys. So why shouldn’t SMEs do the same?
Brand advertising is not meant to sell a product or service directly to a potential customer. Brand advertising skillfully nurtures potential buyers by keeping your name and what your business stands for in the mind of the consumers so when they eventually get to make a buying decisions, your brand is one of the few they will consider.
As such, it may take months for a campaign to show results. Equally, it will take repeated appearances of adverts – but in my mind most importantly, companies that successfully use brand advertising have spent years if not decades building up a public perception of their brand and their values so now they ‘simply’ have to reinforce this perception and introduce the next generation of customers to their brand.
I believe this is the major reason why it won”t work as effectively for local SMEs as a means of getting new business. Even if you had the money to place large double spread adverts in the local paper with little more than your logo and strap line on, chances are, people just won’t know your brand enough to understand.

A Case of Benetton

Benetton baby brand advert
Not seen before. In the 90s this had shock value. And it positioned the Benetton brand.

In 1993, clothing company Benetton launched a campaign for their new range featuring images such as a ‘branded’ HIV victim, a newborn, a guy on death row, a dying seagull bathed in black oil, soldier’s graves – basically anything you and I may consider boarder line fascinating / scandalous / tasteless.
Benetton HIV ad
Talking about tabu subjects when nobody else did. The Benetton brand had their own strategy for leaving an impression

Benetton have continued over the years to use their brand to raise awareness of social and environmental issues. They are doing it again now with their ‘UNHATE‘ campaign featuring politicians kissing. Somewhat easier to digest than those older campaigns, they still use shock to create attention for their brand.
Benetton UnHate Merkel Brand Advert
Just one of the series of adverts featuring kissing politicians. In Germany, we called it the 'Bruderkuss' and it was for real!

However, they don’t exclusively advertise like that. There are also specific sub brand advertising campaigns featuring clothes. Brightly coloured, fun and happy – a stark contrast to their other campaigns.
Benetton brand advert
Bright is beautiful. A lighter advertising campaign by Benetton.

What Benetton have achieved is to create an almost instinctual understanding within us about what they represent. This didn’t happen just by placing a series of brand adverts. It’s the result of lots of background activity to instill their values and opinions in the public mind – be it on the environment, RFID technology and Turkish child labour or denim sand blasting practice.
Without the strength and backup of a global advertising campaign programme that runs over many months and communicates your business clearly to the masses, your money will probably be better spent in a more direct approach to gaining new customers.

Creatively Direct

I guess one way to distinguish direct response from brand advertising is the more explicit connection between the advert and the product or service. There may be an offer or incentive, there may be a clear call to action, a listing of features or a value proposition and a strong emphasis on communicating the selling points/differentiation from competitors.
That does not mean it has to be or appear boring, with lots of copy and little ‘white space’ to let the brand identity speak as well as the product. There are some amazing direct response campaigns out there and the web hosts perhaps far more than print advertising at the moment because of the immediacy of possible reactions a mouse click away.
tontine pillow adverts
Levis_curve_1
Dove Direct response ad

Tridos direct response ad

Out of the Question

Going back to the earlier statement of branding being a waste of time for SMEs, I think nothing could be further from the truth. (I have actually just recently written about why I believe SMEs should bother to spend time and money on branding.)
Whilst SMEs may benefit easier and more measurably from response-driven advertising, it’s the branding activities that do the heavy-lifting, that establish a business in the mind of the consumer, influencing buying and response decisions.
Relying on direct sales marketing alone is short sighted. You only need one new local player on the market who is mastering their brand management and without having invested in creating loyalty to your brand, they have every opportunity to take over your position.
A thought-through strategy to get your business present on the market and positioned where you want it to be is as important as the right mixture of branding and marketing activities. You may not be a global brand, but there are lots of local small business brands that shine and there is no reason why yours can’t be one of them.

advertising, Brand Strategy, Branding, SME

SME Branding Lesson #11 – Be Straight in Your Communications

Tesco Pet Insurance Brand Communications
Brand communications that lost them my loyalty and custom.

I received a letter from Tesco pet insurance about the renewal of our policy. The letter suggested an upgrade of the policy and mentioned just on the side the new monthly fee. It was more than double to what I signed up for. I did the ‘usual’ shopping around and found a cheaper offer – with the same or nearly the same benefits. I called and spoke to a chap to cancel the policy and he mentioned that I did have the ‘save 50%’ special offer last year. Sadly, by then my mind was made up.
Why do I mention this?
In my mind, the brand communication went wrong in a few ways. The letter of renewal arrived late and gave hardly any time to consider. It mentioned nowhere the reason for the dramatic increase – e.g. the special offer from the last year – or any reasons why I should renew. It was written in typical lawyers talk mixed with marketing speech and fact I had to hunt down where the actual monthly costs were displayed (ok, so I am blind to right hand column advertising on google and facebook) made the whole experience annoying.
The Tesco brand positions itself as great value for money – their policy communications did not get that brand promise across.
What would I change?

  • Be nice to your existing customers! They have no real reason to stay loyal other than being happy with your product and service – and with the way you treat them. Whether you are a small business or Tesco, customers today expect to feel valued and not just like sheep led along…
  • Be upfront! Explain your charges, why they occur, why they increase, what the benefits are. You can always use the psychology of feeling loss much more than feeling a gain and highlight what the client will miss out on if they leave. Most importantly though, don’t try to hide any money issues.
  • Be creative! How nice would it have been to have received a letter or some other form of communication from Tesco a couple of months before the anniversary, perhaps something pet related, telling me ‘thank you’ (especially since I never made a successful claim) and told me about the new fees well in advance with reasons why and future benefits of staying on. (No claims policy comes to mind!!!) Even some clubcard offer relating to pets would have made a difference and not cost them much.
  • Be flexible! With rate increases comes frustration. Try to find a solution that keeps the customer happy and keeps you as their service provider. Perhaps you can tailor the service to match their budget even if it means they lose some benefits. They may prefer that to moving company. It’s at least worth a try.
  • Stay nice. That’s the only thing I can’t complain about Tesco. The chap on the phone remained nice and friendly and did not try to persuade me as I have experienced with other insurances in the past. If someone has made their mind up and wants to leave, let them go. They will be more likely to keep you in good stead than trying to convince them with more sales banter.

I shall await the new brand experience offered by Tesco’s competitor! Perhaps it will make me stay another year.

attitude, brand management, Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

SME Business Lesson #10 – Be Patient and Grow Slowly

You are busy selling your products or service and business life couldn’t be better – or more exciting. It is at this point that it is tempting to expand your brand offering and to try and get more market share elsewhere.
Think twice before venturing into unknown territory. Your brand will be much stronger and probably more profitable if you concentrate on your core strength first. Make sure you achieve your branding goals, become the market leader or one of the major players in your sector and work hard on getting your unique selling point across.
Unless you like a risky gamble, only when your brand is well established and recognised by your target audience and has enough brand ambassadors to keep new and repeat business coming in, only then would I advise to look into diversifying.
There are bound to be implications for your core business –

  • Starting from the top, your business, brand and marketing strategy need re-thinking and adjusting
  • Not all your stakeholders will buy into your brand extension and may feel alienated
  • New infrastructure requirements will stretch your resources and challenge your existing and new brand
  • Your new brand will need some sort of investment – time or money – before it will be a revenue earner, so cashflow may be an issue
  • You will have less time to dedicate to a particular area of your business which may be detrimental to your existing client base
Brandingstrategyinsider.com has just published this article answering a question of an India based soap manufacturer and whilst it relates to large brands, but I think it is relevant for SMEs also.
“…one must first understand what brand associations are most closely tied to the brand in question. Any brand extension into a new product category must reinforce one of those primary associations without creating new negative, conflicting or confusing associations for the brand. If this rule is followed, the brand extension will actually reinforce what the brand stands for.” Brad VanAuken

You can read the article here: Can Brand Extensions Weaken A Brand?: Branding Strategy Insider. I had also posted an article back in 2010 about some of those weak or failed brand expansion attempts. And here are some more strange big brand extensions:

Donald Trump launched Trump Steaks
Donald Trump launched Trump Steaks

cosmopolitan brand flop
Cosmopolitan owned a yoghurt brand for all but 18 months

Stallone High Protein Pudding
Silvester Stallone gave his name to a high protein pudding. Yum.

barbie_golf_natalie Meyer
Barbie launched a clothing range (Image courtesy of Natalie Meyer)

In essence, businesses naturally need to expand or change to keep their brand and brand promise current, valid and fit for the future. But whilst it may be tempting to diversify early, time will be better spent establishing a strong brand identity and market position – and to truly understand how to apply your existing brand values to the new product or service.

brand extensions, SME

SME Branding Lesson #9 – Why Bother with Branding?

I keep writing about branding and how SMEs could approach the subject – but why should you in the first place? There are many business owners who are wondering why they should invest money into devising a brand strategy and building a brand when business is going well, they have a loyal client base who refer them onto new customers. Why bother changing anything?
1.    What remains of your business when you step out?
Not leaving your business vulnerable
Often, running a small business means you wear many hats, including that of the sales and marketing manager, the new business manager and the human resources manager. Your clients buy into you as much as your product or service. (Especially in the services industry). Imagine you are no longer there. Without a brand carrying your values, will they trust your replacement? Will they still perceive your business as a specialist?
Building a brand gives you the opportunity to transfer and establish your values and credentials into a larger organisation that can successfully represent you and strengthen your perception of being an expert professional.
2.    Differentiate yourself from your competition
Differentiate your brand
You may run a successful business without investing time and money on building your brand, but chances are, your competitor will be a step ahead of you if he does. If you appear as just ‘one of many ‘on the market, you may be seen as a commodity.
If your business has a brand which communicates a perceived value and a promise, it also offers an easy solution to a consumer’s problem without having to tediously find and analyse every other similar service. If they have to do that research, price will most likely be the deciding factor instead of quality, service and expertise and you are likely to lose out on business or on profit margin.
3.     Think ahead – and outsmart copy cats
Chase away the competition
If you have a great business idea, chances are someone will copy you to get a piece of the cake. Of course competition is healthy, but to be sure you stay on top, establishing your product or service as a brand will not only display its core strength, it will also mark your territory and your market position to businesses who have not yet built a brand reputation.
4.    Be consistent
Consistency in brand image
When it comes to building a brand identity, one of the main benefits is consistency. Consistency in how you visually present your company helps consumers and clients to recognise and remember your product or service when they come to make that crucial buying decision. It’s not just vanity, it’s an important part of marketing where you want to ensure that the right story gets told no matter where your clients get in contact with your business. Without a clear strategy and understanding about what that message should be and how it can be visually communicated, you run the risk of appearing undefined and forgettable.
5.    Be proud
Proud brand ambassadors
Building a brand is about ownership as much as about adding value to your business. If you and your team have a clear vision about what your company, product, service stands for, what you strife to do, who your ideal customers are, how you want to communicate with them, etc, chances are, you will all be a stronger team – in service, sales and marketing. When everyone sings from the same hymn sheet, you are well on the way to build a brand that has proud ambassadors among its staff – and businesses like Innocent, Apple, Google or The Co-Operative have shown the power of the people that are proud of their work place.
There are more reasons, some more business, some more design, some more marketing focused. I strongly believe though that whether you are a professional consultant, a small local business or a larger company, defining a brand strategy and getting a grasp of how you can create a lasting brand surrounding your product or service is an investment into your business’s long-term success.

Brand Strategy, SME

No Feast for Fastfood Superbrands

No McDonalds or BurgerKing
"In our house, no meals from McDonald's or Burger King are allowed. We ask you for your understanding and to refrain from any consumption of the corresponding types of food"

McDonald’s and Burger King may be the fast food super giants that open new restaurants  here, there and everywhere (1,300 McDonald’s restaurants are planned for 2012 – see article in RTT News), but they are brands that are still culturally controversial and their acceptance is debatable.
Here is just one quite refreshing sign that family life and fast food don’t go together – Maxxi is Thuringia’s largest softplay centre with a lot of footfall from toddlers, school kids and their parents. What’s significant is that other food is allowed, so the ‘discrimination’ is clearly brand specific.
It will take more than adding some green and some poignant advertising slogans to change the perception of those businesses and their culinary value.

advertising, attitude, brand

SME Branding Lesson #7 – Start Branding From Within

My husband recently went to a client meeting and couldn’t resist sending me some images of what I can only describe as branding horror.

Branding disaster example 2
Experts behind these doors?

branding disaster
Perhaps they should get some business advice.

Looking at how this company, Business Advice Direct, presents itself to the public is either an experiment of a student group conducting a ‘how not to do branding’ experiment or the unfortunate display of a company that does not practice what it preaches.
If I walk into an office seeking business advice what I am probably expecting is the display of unbounded expertise, of energy, professionalism, an air of reliability and above all, confidence. And this is before I even step into the room.
This visual translation of your brand values is one very important part of brand management and reputation building and a brand professional will probably guide yourself and your team to discover what they think your clients experience when they first interact with your brand:

  • Does your brand appear professional?
  • Does your brand image evoke trust?
  • Does it reflect what you do?
  • Does it invite to engage?
  • Are you proud of it?
  • Are your employees proud of it?

This, in some way, is the easy part. It’s where you can work with a decent brand designer who is trained to translate brand values into a brand identity that will convey all those important subliminal messages that make your business special.
What follows, goes deeper. It’s about business mentality, about culture. In the case of Business Advice Direct, the shocking thing is not that they actually have such an uninspiring, unprofessional brand identity, it’s the fact that the employees sitting in those offices let it happen – probably helped throwing some Blutack at the doors to stick the sheet of paper on.
Why has the company not encouraged their staff to understand their business and to have the ability and conviction to prevent such a display? I recently listened to a podcast of Dave Young’s BrandingBlog with Michele Miller about marketing to women. She mentioned an experience at a hotel where  things went wrong – but where the staff had the authority to rectify their mistake and provide an appropriate compensation that more than made up for the initial lapse in customer service. It reminded me how important it is that a business looks at the culture, the attitude from within.
If everyone working for a business embraces the brand as theirs and considers themselves to be an ambassador that wants to succeed; if the staff are the brand as much as the brand identity and marketing material, then you have a much better chance that no-one will ever even consider it good enough for your business signage to stick a torn sheet of paper on a broken door and put your company name on it.

b, brand management, SME

Hello to Jason Isaacs

Sometimes the unexpected little touches of being human do more for a brand than extensive advertising and media campaigns.

Those familiar with the brilliant Mark Kermode will probably know the somehow a bit of a cult  ‘Hello to Jason Isaacs‘ campaign that has been around for ages now and it is lovely to see how it spreads.

I did really smile when I realised that if you type into google search ‘Jason Isaacs’, it displays the term ‘Hello to Jason Isaacs’ above all content.

Just the little fact that google, master of search, is participating in this communal eccentricity lends the company an altruistic feel and the sense of not taking itself too serious. It’s a nice change from the patent waving, all-dominating super brand image. Image

Nice touch, google!

brand management, Funny

A Brand Extension from the 50s?

Sometimes it feels like the world is going backwards. Just when we think that women are gaining more influence and power, are getting higher salaries and more opportunities in areas not open to them in the past, there comes a brand that turn back to stereotypical patronising sales methods that is slightly bemusing, if not a bit infuriating.
Lego seems to finally have realised a brand extension proposal conceived in the 1950s where housekeeping and raising a family were considered the ideal roles for females and where products and advertising were geared towards this social attitude.

Lego Friends Packaging
A girlie stereotype coming from a Heartlake city near you

In December last year, Lego Friends hit the UK as a new range targeting young girls, featuring five Bratz-like ‘mini-dolls’. They have their own characters, hobbies, likes and dislikes, such as arts, invention and pets. Their home is ‘Heartlake City’ and sets represent the outdoors and urban areas.
There is more information about the brand, the new line and its past in this article from Bloomsberg Businessweek.
Just why Lego believes it has to change their long standing, successful range of construction toys and play sets into doll houses and domestic bliss scenes, I can not get my head around – I grew up with lego and never did it bother me that I did not have sauce pans or kitchens to build, but instead police vans, fire engines and helicopters. I spent many hours creating my own models and letting fantasy take flight without pre-conceived story lines aimed at my gender.
Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of Lego, argues that it would “breathe fresh air into a toy category filled mostly with pre-fabricated play experiences for girls”.
I can’t quite see how Lego Friends will be any different to Barbie, Bratz or Disney Princess – and I am curious if mothers will be keen to get their 5 year olds these rather too polished looking play sets with seemingly unchallenging assembly options and little room for creative diversion.
Quite happy I have two boys! Of course I may be completely wrong and this will be a huge hit, but it seems to be an unnecessary gamble with Lego’s current brand positioning and I wonder if they really could not think of any non-gender innovations to gain more market share.
It would be great to hear what you think about this new brand or similar developments in other areas of the toy/games market.

brand extension, Funny

A brand extension that could be twisted: Listerine Total Care Zero

LISTERINE_TOTAL_CARE_ZERO
Hmmm. Zero Total Care?

I came across this new brand extension from Listerine – with total care and all the usual USPs – but I was wondering if their choice of name was the best one. It works for Coke, one could say, but Coke is not a sub line such as theirs ‘Total Care’ that is then followed by ‘Zero’.
Perhaps the graphic design could have helped with the label. I understand that they can’t stray too much from the other brand labels so they don’t confuse their customers who are used to seeing the brand name in a certain colour and size on the packaging.
If nothing else though, the brand name seems contrived, but I can’t help but twist it around and conceive their latest innovation as something I couldn’t totally care less than zero about.
Now I’ll go and wash my mouth out.

brand extension, brand management, brand naming, Funny

SME Branding Lesson #4 Be Current and Pro-active

We talk about reputation and how to build it. We know it’s nothing that happens overnight – unless one is lucky enough to get featured in the mass media successfully ‘Dragon’s Den’ style. It will take time and effort to show the world that you are an expert in your field and can be trusted with your products and services.
You should always try to seize opportunities though that present themselves in slightly more unusual circumstances. I have been working with a group of surgeons for a while now and we are developing their brand strategy and brand identity – so I am always on the lookout for what could be relevant and useful for their reputation building and the communication of their brand values.

PIP Implant
Image courtesy of BBC Newsbeat

So when the media is full of articles about the PIP breast implant controversy, what better excuse than to voice their expert opinion, give their clients information and reassurance, comment and advise in forums to answer questions and to differentiate themselves from the big corporates by being caring and bespoke.
That’s just a simple example, but if you look around, there will be those little gems out there that will address your market, your audience and give you the perfect opportunity to speak your expert opinion. A few resources for communicating with the media and for monitoring a brand are:

  • Muckrack – what do reporters write about? Muck Rack tracks thousands of journalists on twitter and social media.
  • HARO (Help a reporter out) – Tool for sharing your expertise with reporters.
  • ProfNet – Another expert sharing site
  • Naymz – Watch and grow you brand reputation
  • VRank – Monitor your online visibility

Being in tune with what the media is reporting and how your brand fares right now on the internet, especially in social media, you have the advantage of appearing current and to be proactive when it comes to showcasing your strengths.
I would love to hear about other useful tools for reputation building and managing.

b, brand management, personal branding, SME

After Kodak, Can Old Brands Survive by Re-inventing Themselves?

Kodak logo
Kodak is the latest brand struggling for cash and has filed for bankruptcy protection. The photographic pioneer has over 130 years history – and they seemed to have made a successful transition from old school film and cameras to digital when digital cameras started to go mainstream – with the Kodak gallery as just one example of building brand relations with consumers and offering new products and services online. The problem there is a crowded market – newer and more modern looking versions of online digital photo printing companies have emerged and even the rather dull looking Picassa seems to have much more appeal. There are the obvious competitors including snapfish, photobox, digitalab and bonusprint and of course the almighty iPhoto.
It seems that their aspiration to become the new digital printing specialist, and their strategy to sell printers, even without making any money on them, to later gain profits on the sale and servicing of inks and parts, seems to have over stretched them somewhat and they are now trying to shed assets they can spare.

Loosing that Kodak moment

It may now cost them dearly that they did not focus more on increasing their brand value – more than 10 years ago, branding specialist Interbrand ranked Kodak number 16 of the most valuable brands in the world, estimated to be worth around $14.8 billion. Since then, the Kodak brand has fallen in both rank and value. 4 years ago it no longer appeared in the top 300 list with an estimated value of only $3.3 billion.
I am also not convinced by their strategy to become a digital printing specialist – is this really a future-proof market? With the emerging tablet market, reading news, books, etc and viewing photos has become so much simpler and more accessible already, with progress in the digital market how much of a need to print will there be?
Would it not be wiser to use the brand value they still possess and team up with another company to create something innovative and different, still capturing ‘that Kodak moment’?
We will have to see what they do about it now and if this latest move will help them to re-invent themselves with a good enough market share to thrive once again.

An innovation race – can Filofax still compete?

Filofax
Filofax still occupies shelf space at WHSmith – but will it last?

I came across Filofax a couple of months ago when browsing through WHSmiths and I thought ‘must research what their brand strategy is as they have become largely irrelevant with the rise of smartphones and tablets as digital organisers and diaries…’ And just as I sit down now to look into it, I am finding press releases regarding their new strategy. It all sounds very clever and positive… but it does make me wonder if it is a short term fix without a long term vision for the brand.
Jon Morse at Filofax says in an interview:
“With so many working days spent at a computer, we have seen many customers crave the tactile feel of pen to paper. Filofax offers the user a quiet, private moment and a solid hard copy of personal information.
Our strategy is not to compete with technological advances, but rather, to position ourselves as a fashionable, luxury paper-based product for those moments away from the screen. We find many customers using both a smartphone and an organiser.”
Gordon Presly, CEO of the Filofax Group, comments, “Our collaboration with Temperley London for Filofax was a natural development given Alice has a real passion for Filofax and importantly shares many of the qualities of our customers, as a creative individual, successful business woman and mother with a busy and fulfilled personal and work life. We were intrigued to give Alice full rein to create a bespoke collection that would give birth to her vision of the perfect Filofax for others to use when juggling busy lives, yet with a desire to look stylish. We take a long term view to our partnership with Temperley London as part of a wider fashion focused strategy, positioning Filofax as the ultimate lifestyle accessory for creative and self-fulfilled individuals.”
It seems an interesting repositioning strategy to aim at the luxury market – and collaborating with fashion designers such as Alice Temperley is an interesting interpretation of that strategy and allows to set a higher price point to the diaries, creating desire and establishing it as a sort of fashionista insider must have accessory. If this catches on with the young generation, and if their business can be profitable within the luxury sector (perhaps they could where they may sell less but for a much higher price and more margin), it may all be just lovely.
But I am a bit doubtful about the longevity of this strategy. Smartphones won’t go away any time soon. They come accompanied by an army of accessories – some luxury, some tat, so the ‘bespoke’ need in smartphone users is easily satisfied among a lot of different market segments.

Finding a point of difference

What does a Filofax do that a smartphone or tablet app won’t (other than the feel of the paper that you will curse when you have left it at your favourite hangout or in a taxi after a champagne reception at an exclusive art gallery…)?
With applications such as Evernote, where you can collect voice memos, notes, photos, videos, anything really and it is synced to your computer, with those invited to share the documents, and backed up, I can’t shake the suspicion that Filofax is going to be a victim of technology just like so many other brands that have vanished from our high street.
It is amazing how the brand has managed (and keeps doing so) to cling on to the executive and gift market – one can hardly describe this with ‘by re-inventing themselves’. It is more of a sense of familiarity, tradition and safe choice for the ‘more mature’ generation, but if they are sufficiently enthused brand ambassadors to pass on that passion for a paper diary to the next generation is to be seen. This Filofax site gives some great insight into the passion of the brand followers.

Hesitation – for and against the brand

I can’t see myself carrying one around a Filofax as well as my smart phone. It used to be quicker to just leaf through a paper diary and jot a note down but the latest models of smartphones are so interactive and easy to use, it takes longer to find a pen that writes than it takes to instruct SIRI.
As for the ‘creative individual’ – I do not leave the house without one paper based product which I use for gathering thoughts and observations; my sketchbook. But it would be hopeless as a diary and I would not see the point in spending a premium on it as a fashion item. When it comes to a sketchbook, for me personally, it is content over form.
However, there is the element of social and business etiquette where it may be frowned upon to pull out your iPhone or Blackberry during a consultancy meeting or a presentation to a client, but it would be acceptable to scribble notes in a branded, leather-bound diary. This is where I still see relevance for the product, and certainly for the brand, given that they offer well-designed, bespokable inserts to the leather cases.

So, what could a long-term strategy be?

Could they bring back production to the UK and make it a true luxury brand that becomes an executive status symbol? Perhaps they should also re-visit their website design to create a more luxury feel and to better translate their current brand strategy.
Certainly the luxury brands have many advantages of premium and budget brands. They are less likely to be hit by economic fluctuations. They play with the human basic instinct – which include ‘envy’ in some shape or form. They become status symbols we use to align ourselves with a certain group of people we want to belong to – they are tribal and due to the price factor this can be a very exclusive tribe that is a great aspiration for those not part of it.
Linking to the fashion industry – and making it more about the ‘outside’ and working on the ‘inside’ to be extremely customisable and clever could be a good strategy after all.

Another thought for long-term innovation

BlackBerry-Porsche
The BlackBerry Porsche is just one example of a collaboration of brands

Whilst I would not invest in Filofax even with their new strategy, here is a thought that I find much more exciting (and challenging of course). Mr Letts develops a product with an Android tablet that is created to service future Filofax lovers – with bespoke diary keeping software.
That way, the leather bound, high quality, board room suitable tablet cases would be the link to the old. The bespoke software – it will need to be excellent – would be the link to the new. Bespoke collaborations are nothing new – remember SMART when Mercedes-Benz has not yet pulled out and the Blackberry Porsche is just a recent example.
It will be interesting to see where the brand is in a year’s time – and if they want to hire me, I am available from March onwards 😉

Brand Strategy, differentiation

SME Branding Lesson #3 – Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate

This subject really deserves a much more detailed post, but sharing just one example of how a strategy can translate in the most unexpected areas of a business and aid a brand to stand out, here is a snapshot of a busy display at TK Maxx ‘showcasing’ a selection of kitchen utensils.

Circulon brand differentiation
Standing out amongst the crowd

Circulon, known for their non-stick cooking ware, are using aluminium labels embossed with their logo type instead of the typical card or paper versions from competitors. The result: Instant visual differentiation and recognition. But there is more to it – this little detail also strengthens the consumer’s attitude towards the brand and adds to their brand experience.
(Clearly, the guys from Circulon are all about quality and design if they pay that much attention to even just the label of their product. It must be trustworthy and reliable.)
Circulon Label
It's all in the detail. An unusual label design creates a feel of quality and reliability.

It will have added some costs to the production, no doubt about that, and in the volumes a company of that size this will be insignificant, so is this a good example for branding for SMEs? I believe so because the details don’t have to cost the world – but they can make all the difference. Whether you are paying particular attention to which paper you use for your stationery, what colour envelopes you send your invoices in or if the blinds in your meeting room reflect your brand identity – there are lots of ways to bring your brand to life and to share your values and beliefs.

Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

Would you vote for this man?

20120114-112629.jpg

Much has been written about personal branding and how important it is to grow and maintain a professional image especially when one is closely observed by the media and public.
So you’d think that a party leader would be extremely careful to show his brand as reputable and reliable. It seems as though Ed Miliband had a little snooze during the labour party’s brand management training and just woke up with a messy tie and weary eyes amidst a press conference with youngsters looking far more alive and professional than him!
It’s not like this was an unfortunate snapshot of an awkward moment caught on camera – it was an orchestrated photo shoot! It just beggars belief how he could ever have the stature of a leader.
Personal brands, just like consumer brands, evoke a gut feeling about a person, service or goods – sadly, looking at this little boy lost in the big world, mine is ‘not in a million years!’.

brand management, Funny, personal branding

SME Branding Lesson #2 – Know Who You Are

No matter how small or large your business and no matter how small or large your marketing budget is, one of the most important issues to resolve is finding out who you are – your brand essence.
One good technique to obtain an insight and a concise representation of your brand essence is by listing the product or service benefits and then ‘working up the ladder’ to arrive at a very concise word or statement that sums up the brand.

Innocent Smoothies
A brand that knows who it is

Innocent have been a great case study of a small business expanding into a multi million pound turnover venture without losing their identity, but rather building a strong set of brand values including:

  • Sustainability
  • Purity
  • Staff culture and support
  • Giving back to the community
  • Creativity

For Innocent Smoothies, the differentiating product benefit could be:

  • Pure, natural ingredients, from sustainable sources, without any additives or colourings, with recycled packaging – and targeted at children as well as adults
    –> for the consumer the benefits are
  • Worry-free consumption, guilt-free purchase, feel-good factor for health and environment – and the kids love it, too
    –> or in other words
  • Innocence

YMCA Rebrand
The Forest YMCA had lost its way a bit over the years and the brand needed to be re-defined.

I worked with a client on the re-brand of the YMCA in East London and remember during a workshop to scope the project, one member of staff answered the question ‘What does the YMCA mean to you’ with ‘What it is, is the red triangle staring at us from outside the window.’
It was a curious comment because that was not at all what most other people saw the YMCA stood for. In fact, they all felt something very different depending on which department they were from. And this was exactly the underlying issue leading to the need for a re-brand. Who are they really? What do they really stand for and how can they communicate this in a way that is understood by each and every member of staff and other stakeholders.
Together with the management team we interrogated their vision, mission and values and created a new brand identity designed to connect all the different aspects of the brand and to present it as a strong organisation that knows what its brand essence is.
Without quoting large brands and their brand essence, has anyone got examples of SMEs that have a strong set of values that makes them ‘the ones to watch’? It would be great to hear from someone with some thoughts.

Brand Identity, Brand Vision, SME

SME Branding Lesson #1 – Show the Right Attitude

You’ve spent months fine-tuning and testing your brochure copy. Thousands of pounds were spent on a new website with a new logo and brand identity. You have a new set of exhibition stands with the latest business information and how you differentiate yourself from competitors. Your brand strategy is clear and your marketing material is translating the strategy into a powerful and engaging message. Life should be good!
That is if it’s not just you that understands and believes in your brand promise, but all the people representing your business. No matter how hard you try and how much money you pay a professional to get your image right, if you have someone show the kind of attitude as captured below, you don’t stand a fighting chance against competitors eager to deliver a great brand experience.
At the end of the day, it is the customer that makes your brand and they will form their opinion not just based on slick marketing, but predominantly on how your staff represent your products and services.

Branding is more than a logo
What does a man reading a book slumped on a chair tell you about the brand he represents? Quite a lot – just perhaps not what the brand manager intended...

If you have any samples of a disparity in brand strategy and the realisation of it in some kind of visual format, please drop me a line, I’d love to include it here.

attitude, Brand Strategy, SME

Brand Management Trends for 2012

If I could read a crystal ball that had the future of brand management embedded in it, I wonder what it would say for 2012.
Without making too wild a guess, and perhaps this year will prove me completely wrong, I have the feeling (or perhaps this is wishful thinking) that whilst a lot of things will stay the same, there will be some aspects of branding and marketing, businesses will wake up to in the next few months.

1. The Message is Key

The economy is not great. We may see another recession here or in Europe. China is starting to struggle and with the global market still coming to terms with the downturn of recent years, brands are ever more challenged to expand and dominate their sector.
And whilst traditional advice on marketing budgets and spend may have been good for the marketing industry, I hope marketing professionals do not forget one thing – it is not just about budgets and increasing marketing or advertising spend in this economic climate will not guarantee success. The message is key.
A business may not need to do the latest and greatest of everything – but instead it could re-focus its core abilities, re-evaluate its brand strategy, mission, vision and values and make sure that all those thousands of pounds spent on brochures, websites, SEO and social media actually tell the right story, differentiate the brand from competitors in the most memorable way and that it’s not just about producing something with the company logo on it but to infuse it with passion, dedication and expertise that will make the brand grow in reputation and likeability.

2. Using Local Knowledge

China mene
Global brand with local knowledge

HSBC have done it. McDonald’s are famous for it. Brands that show their understanding and respect for local culture are usually onto a winner. It may have to do with a tribal instinct, but ‘when in Rome’… does work in most circumstances. I don’t know how and who but it would be great to see some more brands using a localisation strategy to stand out from global competitors – perhaps even on a much smaller scale (Wales vs Scotland…)
If anyone knows of some more samples, please let me know, I’d love to learn more about this subject.

3. Identifying Influencers

Stephen Fry
Influencers as brand ambassadors. Image from geekosystem.com

This is not so much a prediction but an anticipation of which brands will rise this year and which ones will fall out of favour: Sometimes a brand suddenly reaches a boiling point without anyone really knowing what happened. Malcolm Gladwell describes different scenarios in his book ‘Tipping Point’ – and one aspect of it is that of ‘Influencers’.
It will be interesting to see which brand manages to find such influencers, not just it in the celebrity, sports, the arts and fashion industry, and to convert them into brand ambassadors that humanise and create empathy with large corporations.

4. Designing Brand Engagement

The world has woken up to mobile marketing and 2011 has seen more than ever before the rise of brand building via games, videos and other apps on smartphones and tablets.
And more often than not, brand narrative and storytelling will drive engagement with a company in traditional, social and mobile marketing. We love it when a brand shows its personality and makes us one of theirs, part of the ‘in’ crowd, and what better way to draw people in than by telling a good old tale that evokes emotions and invites to be passed on.
Maternity underwear designer HotMilk has created a series of adverts that are using humour and storytelling to spread their brand message in a fresh and entertaining manner.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WAQFpxVYaM]
Shangri-La used it with their campaign ‘To embrace a stranger as one of our own. It’s in our nature’.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jF6ASWjMQY8]

5. Personalisation

I don’t mean custom printed envelopes and direct mail campaigns. I am more thinking of businesses understanding their customers and other stakeholders well enough to send different messages to different people – but creating the same ‘gut feeling’ about the brand by providing a very bespoke brand experience. Businesses could implement a strategy that talks not to different segments of their target audience, but to different individuals. OB Tampons did a great viral campaign following a bit of a disaster in their production line.
[vimeo http://vimeo.com/33449844]
Not a campaign but something that shows what’s possible has been the portable northpole – www.portablenorthpole.tv – which has been surprising for both grown-ups and those still believing in Santa.
It’s an opportunity to truly talk one-to-one to stakeholders and to react to trends such as twitter being used more and more for customer service enquiries instead of traditional methods of telephone or email.
I’ll be especially excited to see what will happen in the world of viral and personalised brand messaging. It’s a creative and technological challenge.
The year may prove me wrong – but if anything I will be very excited following the world of marketing and brand management to see what will come up on the horizon.

brand management

You know you’ve made it as a brand if…

… you are part of this game from Drummond Park. It’s a Trivia board game that includes 400 cards with 1600 questions and has the aim to identify images and answer questions based on logos, products and packaging of the UK’s most well-known brands.
I’ve not been inspired to buy it to find out who’s in it – but from the packaging it looks like the major household brands are featured, including the likes of Heinz, Birds Eye, Walkers, Pampers, BMW and National Express.

Logo Game
Brands in a box - and the consumer's mind

It does make me smile considering how brand savvy we are these days – enough to persuade a games manufacturer to release a whole entertainment spiel surrounding brands. Are you in it? Should you be in it? Maybe it will have to go on my Christmas wish list!

Games

Clever Dove Flies with the X-Factor

There’s been a bit of clever brand management last week following the press articles about Little Mix’s Jesy from the X Factor having been bullied about her weight. Dove posted a response on their FaceBook page and probably got a lot of brownie points for their brand strategy – campaigning for real beauty.


Facebook page for Dove
Posting an article to support Jesy, one of the contestants of the X Factor

It’s one of the examples where your brand strategy goes hand in hand with your brand’s actions and re-actions to what’s happening in the world. And this does not just apply to charities as Dove has beautifully shown. Simple – and clever.
Twitter

Brand Strategy

Steve Jobs – And what we can learn from the master of brand management and innovation?

I am astonished actually how much Steve Job’s untimely death has affected me. I could explain it being due to a recent personal loss and that is probably the real reason, but the feeling remains that the world is a poorer place without him for he had vision and, without any scandals, loudmouth behaviour and eccentricity, he has changed the world.
Don’t get me wrong, there was plenty of theatre and drama. As a brand visionary, he’s been a master of creating the substance behind those weaving the Apple cult. Without his innovations, the brand would probably just be another ‘Evesham Computers’ or (whatever is happening to) Dell?
His products made the brand happen. Not overnight, but year after year until suddenly not just those funny designers who want their own PCs knew of the name.
He has been a true master of brand strategy and I can learn a lot from him.
Eight brand principles inspired by the man behind the Apple.

1. Be True

… to your brand values. They are at the core of a brand and create the link to the brand promise. Ensure you have a rounded view on your brand, including knowledge of what stakeholders think of your brand and what you want them to feel when they engage with it. Once established, communicate these brand values consistently and with believable passion that reflects your belief in the brand. That way, you can inspire others to see the brand’s true values.

Be true
Is everyone drawing the same brand image?

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.
Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” Steve Jobs

2) Be innovative

… and dare to take risks. One of the most talked about factors in the survival and thriving of big brands is innovation. Research and development has been vital for years and businesses like Apple have shown the real potential of innovation for the growth of a brand.

Be innovative
Focus groups may have called for a faster horse at the dawn of the automobile industry.

Be it via in-house teams or through ‘open innovation’ via collaborations, successful brands don’t rest on their laurels but keep pushing and changing their products/services. One aspect of R&D, the focus groups, have been debated for a while now. Especially in this economical climate, they seem to be the number one tool of marketers. People like Steve Jobs realised the foresight displayed by Henry Ford: “If I had asked my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.”
Don’t rely on focus groups. Dare to pursue your idea. See point 5 if it doesn’t work out.

“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Steve Jobs
“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” Steve Jobs in Businessweek, 1998

3) Be creative

… but not just for the sake of it. In brand design, we don’t just want to be ‘painters and decorators’. The visual translation of the brand values and ultimately the brand promise goes deeper than a fancy font and some photographs from a cheap stock library (no offence meant, iStock!)

Be creative
Levis did something different...

If the brand itself is not creative in its approach to communicating with the public, there is only so much even a well-designed brand identity can do. Creativity goes beyond the marketing department and should, like innovation, be one of the foundations of a strong brand.

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.” Steve Jobs Interview with Fortune Magazine, 2000

4) Be in love

… and share your passion. We all will have had an experience with a brand where we felt disappointed by the lack of engagement with the brand’s representative – a snotty reply from a sales person; a less than enthusiastic assistant; a form wielding ‘this is the protocol so there is nothing I can do’ manager… It sticks. But it will also be contagious to others within an organisation. A brand lives inside and outside – and those who represent the brand are the vessels that carry the life blood through the body. Make sure you infect them with your love and understanding for the business and that they understand your passion and can translate it in their own work.

Be in love
Innocent's brand message goes beyond the consumers.

Until a few glitches recently, Apple always had staff that were fans, they were happy and eager to represent the business and added their own personal passion to the brand we’ve all fallen in love with.
Finding and selecting the right people to work together within an organisation will always remain a challenge. But by injecting culture into the business, by ensuring the different levels of management and workers know what it’s all about, by caring about them as brand representatives, you can harness the power of word of mouth and add value to your brand’s reputation.

“When I hire somebody really senior, competence is the ante. They have to be really smart. But the real issue for me is, Are they going to fall in love with Apple? Because if they fall in love with Apple, everything else will take care of itself. They’ll want to do what’s best for Apple, not what’s best for them, what’s best for Steve, or anybody else.” Steve Jobs

5) Be defiant

… and don’t give up. A brand does not ‘happen’ overnight. The big players have been around for decades and it does not mean they are safe from failure (remember the loss of high street brands such as Woolworths, Adams, Northern Rock during the credit crunch).

Be defiant
The e-car that finally hits the masses. It's not the first - but the first one to capture the people.

But then there are those like Apple who innovate and inspire. It’s hard to think of other examples that have changed the way we interact with technology to the extend apple has but there are those that had breakthroughs – Google, Skype, Groupon, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, Nissan
They all took time, caused controversy and perhaps doubt, but ultimately they kept going and have proven their worth.

“Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.” Steve Jobs

6) Be focused

… on your brand’s core strength. Brand extension may seem good in the books and a money saving exercise for marketers, but it can easily dilute a message and alienate consumers and the media.
Many have tried (and failed) to extend their brand – Jack Daniel’s mustard?Coca Cola’s water? Kellogg’s streetware?

Be focused
A brand extension that works. The good grip pen from OXO.

In the end, no-one knew quite any more what Woolworth stood for. And Dell is on a slippery path at the moment. It worked for Virgin, who have a whole host of extensions within their monolithic brand architecture. Oxo moved into the office supplies market with their good grips pens. It can work, but it’s not the easy way to get more ROI out of your brand.

“It comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much.” Steve Jobs, The Seed of Apple’s Innovation

7) Be different

… and embrace the mavericks. When everyone zigs, zag. Especially in larger companies, where the original founder or owner has been replaced with a board of directors, shareholders or a management team with a very different decision making process, it is ever so important to have a team in place that embraces change, that will take risks and dares to try something new. Brands evolve naturally, and they gain or fall out of favour with the changing market – but sometimes it takes someone different to shake it all up.

Be Different
A graphic showing brand attributes including those of Steve Jobs (courtesy of brandinstinct)

When Burberry struggled with the loss in brand reputation due to the chav stereotype but Christopher Bailey has brought the brand from strength to strength. In fact, they are the first fashion designer label to release a single. That’s a bit different!

“Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.” Steve Jobs

8) Be human

… cause that’s what branding is trying to achieve. The brand experience begins and ends with the people engaging with a company. Consider them in all aspects of your brand strategy and you won’t run the risk of alienating your clients because your actions are conflicting with your brand promise.

Be human
Being human and acting with responsibility should be part of the brand DNA.

Think about their culture, their acceptance of the product or service and the company’s capability. Tell a narrative people can relate to and follow. Invite them to become a ‘member’ of your tribe – but then be an honest like-mined partner for them. There is no point pretending to be something a brand is not because you will be found out – today’s consumers are experienced and not bedazzled by brand glitz. It’s easier to alienate them then to gain loyalty.
Of course there are exceptions to this, but in general, if you try your best to ensure brand stakeholders are king, they will keep your brand with them on the throne.

“Our DNA is as a consumer company – for that customer who’s voting thumbs up or thumbs down. That’s who we think about. And we think that our job is to take responsibility for the complete user experience. And if it’s not up to par, it’s our fault, plain and simply.” Steve Jobs

brand management, Brand Strategy, marketing

Angry Birds Blown Up By T-Mobile

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jzIBZQkj6SY?rel=0&w=560&h=315]
Just came across this video showing a live version of Angry Birds being played in Spain in May this year. It’s promoting T-Mobile’s smartphone brands. Quite an interesting concept to position their brand with the popular game. Once again, T-Mobile appeared to be the front runner in the use of viral internet videos and both the phone company and the game producers will have felt the positive impact the connection had on their brands. This is one good example how brand reputation building can be a great big show of fun.
It does remind me of the hay days of Red Bull using crazy events such as the flying days as a vehicle to create a brand philosophy around their energy drink that has since spread far beyond the realms of special events deep into the racing world and kept Redbull on the supermarket shelves.
Viral is still a very effective way to get a brand talked about. It’s perhaps one of the most honest forms of communication because the idea has to be truly brilliant, crazy or otherwise different to stand out enough to be contagious.

Funny

I must, I must develop my… errr… brand

Brat and suzie
A fashion label without a strong brand

Another weekend, another Dragon’s Den. This week saw two rejections due to brand related issues. The blatantly obvious one was that of fashion duo Brat and Suzie. I am still not sure why they arrived with a rail of clothes and not much else. If they did want to use it as a publicity stunt even without getting funding, why not show the label, some of the PR coverage, some models – anything to make them appear as an upcoming brand? As it was, they showed their tops, informed the public that they only pay £20 per illustration and left both the dragons and the audiences thinking ‘why don’t we do this ourselves?!’
The problem? No brand gravitas. As the dragons eagerly pointed out, the designs could easily be replicated by others and there is no real established brand to keep customers loyal to them instead of another high street retailer.
brat and suzie brand identity
The visual side of the label - why did they hide it?

Their website actually gives a better feel of their business than their pitch and their logo is a kind of naive illustration – cute and visual – which makes me even more perplexed as to why they did not play with it in the presentation. Perhaps they could have gotten a few kittens in or something! It worked for Ted Baker with the dogs a few years ago.
Talking of animals, the other pitch that got the no due to danger of ease of copying was that of the fish spa. Again, it is was not enough to have a good and innovative product, they had to be established enough – and different enough – to withstand the dreaded copying factor once a product or service is launched into the market.
fish spa
The dragons didn't bite...

Still, we got to see Peter Jones’ feet being nibbled by fish…
I liked them both but wished they’d push their brand image more to get ahead of the competition. Good luck to them all!

brand, brand management, Brand Strategy

The end of an era, the decline of a brand?

We are all holding our breath in the apple user community at the news that Steve Jobs has resigned.
The news have resulted in apple’s shares falling. Despite that, I hope that the brand will keep to its core values – a bit of a challenge since they broke into the mass market with their revolutionary iMac, iTunes store, the iPod, iPhones, iPads… I’ve had my ups and downs with their brand since they’ve ballooned to occasionally the richest company in the world, or a business richer than America as it was reported the other day.
When they were still much more niche, creatives aspired to own their own mac, the OS was so much more intuitive and slick that it became part of the design process. Being a designer and having well-designed work tools hit a mark and their engagement with the creatives clearly worked and it became the brand of choice for agencies and home offices within the design and marketing industry.
Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore my iPhone and the iPad is pretty cool, too, but the rise of the brand has had some ‘customer support’ downsides. Dealing with the iTunes help team when my account was hacked was a frustrating ordeal to say the least. After days and days I finally had a decent support chap on the phone who not only helped me re-instate my account but also showed a bit of  sympathy and apologised for the bad communication (I have yet to use the song credits I received but it was the gesture that counted.)
My husbands’ iPhone stopped taking phone calls – and since it was out of warranty the best they could offer is a reduced replacement phone – something tells me that if this was ‘the old days’ they would have replaced and investigated it just purely out of pride.
Perhaps we have just been unlucky, as charts like the below (screen shot from the BBC article) show the rapid rise of the brand.

chart for apple growth
A brand on the rise...

We hypothesised for some time now ‘what if’ and when the news hit, I think we were both mainly sad. There are not many people who have revolutionised the way we work, play, think, see, capture and share the world – and do so by creating truly high quality, thought-through products. And despite the above-mentioned reservations I have regarding recent dealings with their customer service and niggles with their products, compared to other equipment they remain much-loved and superior as a brand.
Typing away on my MacBook, I will hold my breath and await the next move. Steve Jobs leaves some big shoes to fill. Should Apple subsequently lose out, perhaps they will address their core market again; it was certainly a winning strategy to target those that appreciate good design and sell them well-designed products at premium prices. It also works as a brand extension strategy where the same people will have no problem spending money on things like iPhone apps where others, such as the Android marketplace, struggle. Statistics show the monetary value of the app store –

  • Android users spend 1/7th of what iPhone owners spend on in-app gaming purchases
  • Android users have an average of 17 apps on their phone vs 28 apps for iPhone users
  • Android users pay for apps much less frequently than iOS users.
So, for the past, thank you, Mr. Jobs. It’s good to hear he’s still around as chairman and we will excitedly await what’s coming out of Mr. Cook’s kitchen. 

Apple

Dragon’s Den and the value of a brand

Catching up with the latest episode in the den, I was surprised just how much those dragons have become branding ambassadors. Not of a specific one, but of the value of an established and thought-through brand.

Brand-importance
The mexican brand was not strong enough for the investors

Monterrey-born Marcela Flores Newburn pitched her Mexican food range but whilst she was complemented on her achievements, getting her product into Waitrose one by one they all said the dreaded words  ‘I am out’.
Peter Jones summed it up just nicely – “I actually think you’ve gotta go back as a start-up again because you need that brand. So I would go back to the roots and find that name.”
Once again we are reminded of that big hurdle any blossoming SME has to jump at some point – to start to create a communication / brand strategy that will allow them to compete with the big boys and to evolve their brand identity and marketing material accordingly. Budget is usually the show stopper, which is such a shame because it means eventually they will have to invest much more than if they started perhaps with very basic brand collateral  – but with a plan behind it.
I admire what Marcela has done – and I am sure after this show there will be hundreds of brand strategists and brand identity designers knocking on her door so I’ll watch this space!

Secrets of the Superbrands

I watched Alex Riley’s second part of the BBC series ‘Secrets of the superbrands’ and it is a fascinating programme that spells out a lot of the findings of brand practitioners.
This episode was about fashion brands and whilst it all pretty much hit home as expected, I did wonder about one aspect of the research: They did a scan of the brain of a student that is into fashion and checked how her brain reacted to images of handbags by different brands.
It first shows the cheap brands and measures the response to the images in the brain scan.

Branding Test - Primark
Cheap but not too stimulating...

Branding Test - George-Handbag
The 'cheap' end of the handbag brands

After that, the girl is exposed to the luxury brands – and as expected the scans lit up brain areas connected to excitement.
Branding Test - Mulberry
Branding Test - Gucci
I am, however,  wondering is how much of this was actually the brand identity reflecting the brand’s reputation and values and how much the product.
Branding Effect - Raised Brain Activity

Would the girl have identified the brand by the product alone (exclude Burberry chequers)? Is the brand reputation as important as the product? If there was no logo but they would have said the name of the brand, would that have had the same impact? (I would imagine so because after all the brand identity is a reflection of the brand and visually translates the brand values, connecting the consumer and the product).
I obviously can’t ask Alex Riley to conduct this research for me so it is going to remain guess work, but it seemed that the visual representation of the company was very much part of the value of the brand.
So once again I can only stress to any businesses reading this that it is such an important part of brand building to spend time (and thus money) on developing a professional and long lasting brand identity that can grow with the product. A brand is not just a product – and not just a logo.
The scans will prove the success!

brand management, Brand Strategy

Belfry Misfires Billboard Ad

The Belfry in Sutton Coldfield has a bit of a name in the leisure industry – Golf tournaments, fine dining, beautiful surroundings…
However, something must have gone terribly wrong when someone in their marketing department signed off this billboard ad.

Belfry brand advert misses the point
Truly uninspiring. On any occasion...

No matter how cheap they got it – it looks like a waste of time. Even as a small newspaper ad this just isn’t good enough for a brand name like the Belfry!
The ad is not only positioned badly (perhaps excusable if they had a special deal), the type is way to small to be read by the drive-by traffic (this is on a busy stretch of road with only a few pedestrians), the layout is more than awful and the message – well, the message reads ‘this brand does not care to communicate in a sophisticated way with its customers at any occasion’.
Sorry Belfry, but whoever commissioned and signed this off, do you not have aspirations for your brand? Is there no brand management in place? It’s a typical showcase for missed opportunities. Let’s hope this was just one occasion. I’ll keep my eyes peeled.

brand management, graphic design

BBC plugging blackberry? What is it about product placement?

blackberry on the BBC apprentice
Was it blatant or just a prop? And do we care?

So “The Apprentice” is back and back are those much-loved shots of the best British business talent holding their smart phones like an alien tablet in front of their face as if holding it by the ear is impossible (perhaps someone can explain this to me at some point!) But hey, what’s this? A new controversy of the BBC apparently plugging the blackberry phones. I am swaying between ‘who cares’ and ‘hey, finally a brand other than apple managed to get themselves featured in a show!’.
The history of product placement as we know it
According to the historians, product placement has existed for centuries in the publishing world. Modern product placement has been around since the late 80s and and in the US this unconventional way of advertising has been used for more than 15 years.
The name is Bond. The watch is Omega.

Probably everybody will remember the blatantly set-up promotional scenes for brands in James Bond. GoldenEye promoted BMWs new Z3 model. Sales of the Z3 surged as the movie shot up to the top of the box office. There are lots and lots of other examples, some more artistic (or tasteful) than others…
House has branding inside.
An apple a day keeps the doctor away?

Apple laptop in twilight movie
In the light of the apple...

Could it be any more obvious?

There is a great YouTube video on the history of product placement.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wACBAu9coUU]
Until recently, product placement was not allowed in UK productions, and brands that were featured as props had to rely on the enthusiasm and goodwill of the production companies. (Apple never seemed to have a problem being featured anywhere and I personally have used their laptops as props in hotel photo shoots just from an aesthetics point over other brands.)
Brand / product placement logos from Ofcom
Do the UK public need brand placement alerts 'health warning' style?

In February this year, Ofcom set out the rules and guidelines and have thereby potentially opened the doors to a whole new advertising industry. The logo that TV channels must use to signal to viewers when a UK-produced programme contains product placement “must appear for three seconds at the start and end of programmes, and after any advertising breaks”.
Why would a brand consider product placement?
Product placement is clearly an investment for brands and gives them access to niche audiences to subtly ‘bond’ with products, to associate them with subjects they are interested in naturally and to increase brand awareness without the blatant ‘this is an advert and we are trying to sell you something now’ stigma.
It has worked for brands such as Absolut Vodka, VW, Hewlett-Packard (who have taken over from Apple in the IKEA office display areas), actually, the list is endless and includes probably pretty much every top brand in some shape or form.

Five Reasons for product placement
1. It’s not an advert as such
2. It’s exclusive and sought-after
3. The TV/film characters themselves become associated with the brand
4. Global audiences that stay ‘tuned in’
5. Fits in with the overall marketing strategy of a brand
You can track its success with basic quantitative and qualitative systems used to determine the cost and media value of a placement. Rating systems measure the type of placement. On-screen exposure is judged by recall rates of the viewers. There are different levels of exposure – from hardly identifiable to being linked to the main character – all important factors for the success of this method.
It may seem like a ‘revolution’ in advertising and marketing, but we have been exposed to product placement and brand integration in shows and movies from the US for such a long time, I am a bit surprised that Ofcom enforces the use of a ‘warning’ logo.
I wonder how this will benefit us viewers – or if we might just become blind to it and let the producers and actors have their way with us to turn us from observers into consumers (unless of course we only watch BBC shows who only use props)…

brand management, Brand Strategy, product placement

When the image compromises the message

They say a picture says more than a thousand words. Once more reason to pay extra attention that an image does not drown the message of a communication piece.
Anyone who has ever watched the series ‘My name is Earl’ will remember “Darnell ‘Crabman’ Turner”, innocent and fun, and very involved in the hilarious stories Earl recounts.
Oh, here is a picture.

image of the crabman from the series My Name is Earl
Has crabman started a new career in modelling for the 2011 Census?

So when the 2011 Census posters went up in Birmingham, I was amused by the choice of model and the effect it had on not just myself – rather than re-enforce the message of the Census, it did quite the opposite and those asked about the content of the poster could all but remember Crabman and his part in the American series…
Census poster for 2011 campaign
The message was drowned by the resemblance of the male model and a character from a tv series

A perhaps even bigger shame is the use of the concept of ‘paper’ changing the UK – the stethoscope just doesn’t visualise this message the same way some of the other posters and materials do. (Not sure about the football, either.)
It made me once again realise what a fine line we tread as design practitioners when choosing the right images to support, not hinder, the message intended. Especially for organisations in the public and charity sector, images are often a visual nightmare rather than a visual aid. Is it PC? Is it featuring all ages, sex, ethnicity, (dis)abilities etc without looking staged?
Some organisations I’ve worked with do prefer not to show people at all but rather use illustration or abstract images to avoid these issues, or they rely on their own photo shoots, which is usually the better option but requires a substantial amount of investment, dedication and vision. Images, like fashion, date with the seasons and mastering the delicate balance between a message and a picture working together instead of distracting from what they are trying to say.

Brand Strategy, Funny, graphic design

Special Offer! Spend £10 on Marks & Spencer food and we’ll give it to this woman who is clearly starving!

 

Picture of ultra skinny marks and spencer model
Does M&S not pay its models enough to eat?

 
Is the M&S brand painting the wrong picture?
This poster really made me laugh – especially since my husband pointed the ridiculously skinny looking woman out to me – and, after all, attracting men is one of the subliminal drivers to buy into brands, fashion and, well, shapes.
Is this M&S answer to rising food prices? Or is it a funny twist on asking you to buy more food to then look better in lovely lingerie?
Whatever the thinking behind this poster, I hope they paid the poor woman enough so she can tuck into a (of course) healthy meal…
 
 
 
 
 
 

brand management, Funny

Building Brand Reputation

You are working hard on your products and services, management, quality, workflow, customer relations etc. Inevitably, this will build your brand’s reputation, but it will take time and news spreads slowly unless you use the technology at hand.
Here are just a few sites and thoughts about how you can use them to increase your brand reputation:
Why should you have to?
There was a time when the marketing department had the power to tell a brand’s story – and they alone had the majority of influence over what was communicated to the public via different media (advertising, print and DM etc.)
It all changed with the rise of social media and the readily available gadgets that support it (iPhones and other smartphones, free wi-fi in cafes and shops, tablets and laptops to name but a few.) Suddenly, ‘Word by mouth has become word my mouse’ (or touchscreen) as Lula Jones said so nicely. The new order is transparent. People can review, comment, share, debate, celebrate and ditch brands all from the palm of their hand.
So looking after a brand’s reputation is not just vital from the point of trying to increase its value but also to protect it from false statements or accusations of poor performance that can damage your brand.

Brand dialogue before and now with social media
Alina Wheeler's Brand Dialogue diagram shows the changes at a glance.

Useful sites to start your reputation building
LinkedIn
This professional networking site has a few bits of technology that let you shine… Firstly, you can set up a company profile and even add products or services in a portfolio. You have plenty of space to let people know about what your brand stands for.
Then there is your own personal profile, detailing your education and employment past and connecting you to other professionals you’ve crossed paths with. It is an online CV that supports your business brand as a professional, trustworthy organisation.
Better still, you can get recommendations from those you have worked for or with in the past.
This is a powerful tool as it is as close to the truth as you would imagine – a bit like product reviews for people.
Brand product reviews
We are used to comments and reviews of products, from sites such as Reevoo or Amazon, but the same applies to businesses and individual professionals.

Ecademy
Another online networking portal, a bit like BNI, but very web driven with different membership options and networking tools such as virtual boardrooms. It is encouraged to network offline, locally and online in combination with ‘giving back’ to the community via blogs and articles. Again, pretty good for marking out your territory in the SME business world.
It is, unlike LinkedIn, fee-based if you want to benefit from the more useful tools, so it does require some commitment to actually use it on a regular basis.
Obviously there are hundreds of other online networking platforms out there, such as XING, UK Business Labs, UK Business Forums or the American FastPitch – but with all of them it helps to have a strategy to push your brand as otherwise it can be a big time investment for not much in return.
Twitter, Facebook and Co.
Twitter is a great broadcasting tool for quick updates, links you want to share and be associated with, and it has become very much part of the social media landscape and can be used for brand building.  I personally find twitter easier to use for business than Facebook, which still has a far more social side to it, but some will disagree and swear by Facebook. It will very much depend on who you are trying to talk to and what your business is into. And then there are of course whole armies of social bookmarking sites, from delicious, Digg it, stumble upon and Technorati to sites like YouTube and MySpace.
Your social media strategy will reveal how to best utilise any of these platforms and sites so it is not just all a big time investment, but a vital part of your overall brand strategy.
Brand-Reputation-Recommendations
Reputation building and social media tools

Brand Image/Brand Identity
With all the chatter about online reputation building and networking, one thing that can easily be forgotten but should not be missed remains the actual brand image, derived from and supported by your brand strategy, mission, vision and brand values. They may seem idle terms, but if you try to note them down, it will make you realise how important they are – and if they are in fact communicated in your brand image/brand identity.

  • Is your message consistent throughout different brand touchpoints?
  • Is your message clear?
  • What is the ‘big idea’ that communicates your brand?
  • Is your marketing plan and design material in tune with the brand’s vision and values?
  • Is your brand understood internally and externally in the same manner?
  • Are you and your staff proud of your brand?

It may be a bit bamboozeling to take all these aspects in, but it’s by no means an ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ scenario. The public today is media savvy and they will pick up on the details – especially of anything to do with your brand identity. Remember the scandal a few months ago with the new The Gap logo and now the mixed reviews and opinions surrounding the Starbucks brand development?
Image is not everything, but a picture speaks a thousand words and how your brand is visually presenting itself plays a major part in how your brand’s reputation is perceived.
What else?
Brand building is of course not just about reputation. It is about trust, loyalty, professionalism and of course the fulfillment of the brand promise. Your reputation will only ever be as good as the products or services are that you provide. So that’s where it’s over to you as the expert!

brand guidelines, brand management, Brand Strategy, graphic design

A Brand New Start for 2011

These days, brands are constantly exposed to external market forces, consumer opinions, loyalty issues, competition and trends – and most of those household brands have dedicated teams of brand managers, consultants and brand agencies constantly crafting, exploring, analysing and implementing to accommodate all those changes.
Brands can be re-aligned on a variety of levels. It may be purely strategic to start with, getting internal communications up to speed, auditing and understanding stake holder opinions and devising a communications/marketing plan to engage better with the target audience. You may never know from a visual point of view, but rather feel a change in attitude and media exposure resulting in a well-implicated action plan.
More likely however, a company will choose to show any internal changes with an updated brand identity design and thus gain the first bit of exposure as part of a new strategy. Usually, it’s either ‘Revolution’ – a complete re-design of the old identity – or ‘Evolution’ – a crafted update that adapts the design to new emerging communication channels, applications and emerging visual trends without completely changing the look and feel and thus potentially alienating customers.
Here are some of both from 2010.
Strapline and Sparkles
Wembley stadium revealed their new identity middle of last year. It introduced a strapline and a far more ‘flamboyant’ logo design geared to work with the ever increasing opportunities in digital and social media.
“The new identity is an important part of our long-term strategy to drive even greater engagement with our Club Wembley members, commercial partners and huge spectator base” says The FA Group Head of Marketing Simon Freedman.
“We are moving into a new stage in our lifecycle and the new identity is more reflective of the dynamic and multi-purpose nature of the stadium” says Wembley Managing Director Roger Maslin



Wembley Stadium Re-brand
The old and the new brand for Wembley Stadium

Never mind the Gap
US clothing retailer Gap introduced its new brand in October – and it went down like a lead balloon.  After more than 2,000 comments were posted on the company’s Facebook page on the issue the new logo was scrapped. Focus group testing gone badly wrong? Misjudgment of the target market’s taste? Or simply a clever marketing plot to get the brand back in the headlines? Anyone got any sales figures following this re-branding exercise?!
Gap Re-brand
The old and the new - and back to the old again for Gap

GMTV becomes Daybreak and night falls on the ratings
Curious. It was hyped up, promoted and prepared with the arrival of new presenters Adrian Chiles and Christine Bleakley. Yet, just before the end of 2010 the press reports that ratings have plummeted to an all time low. ITV has apparently been left ‘shocked’ by a recent set of ratings.
The GMTV brand was launched in 1993. Off air, it has disappeared as a corporate entity, with the company GMTV Limited being renamed ITV Breakfast.
One can only guess whether the re-brand itself caused the problems the show is now facing or whether it is a combination of the show’s new setup, the presenters and the loss of trust from the original GMTV audience who may feel sold out for the sake of publicity.
GMTV Re-brand to Daybreak
More than a logo, this re-brand is about the programme itself and seems to have it not quite right yet...

Oil of Olay
Not apparent on the UK website, Oil of Olay have had their identity and ‘cameo’ changed last year. The changes are subtle enough to create a fresher visual appearance without changing the general mood of the brand. It seems ‘tidied up’ and more flexible in its use.
Olay Re-brand
An brand identity evolution with some distinct type features

olay_press_image
Press kit image featuring the new brand identity applied

Google
Maybe it was about time that the brand dropped that drop shadow. Being all about clean, functional and simple design when it comes to their applications, this seems to be a logical visual conclusion to express the brand’s values without rocking any boats.
Google Re-brand
Coming out of the shadows - the new google identity design

Dell
Dell revisited its brand positioning “while analysing why the brand value had been declining (most notably) in the past five years.”
The visual result of the re-positioning is subtle, but as their Creative Director says:  “The brand redesign was not intended to be a radical revolution, but rather a practical evolution based on our established equities and alignment to the repositioning of our brand.” Tommy Lynn, Dell CD
Dell Re-brand
The old and the slightly new brand identity design

MySpace
A curious one in my mind as I am not sure what to make of it in terms of progress in style and communicating any brand values. Apparently it is a clever visual aid to reflect the ‘my space’ philosophy but I am not sure about the execution.
Myspace Re-brand
The old one wasn't super - but does the new one say it all?

Price Waterhouse Coopers
It was a bit of a mouthful – and now it’s changed. The emphasis on a new brand reflects PwC’s desire for a more unified representation across its global network. “Our decision to make this change now is because over the last decade PwC has continued to grow and evolve and a concise consistent Brand position makes it easier for people to appreciate who we are, what we do, and how we operate across markets,” said Moira Elms, PwC’s global leader of brand and communications.
Price Waterhouse Coopers Re-brand
Long name no longer - a new brand identity for PWC

There are many more – and uncountable brand identity changes happen on a more local business level.
For further insight into how an identity design project is structured and how it can help your brand, please refer to this article on brand identity on the Reflection Marketing blog: What makes a good brand identity design?

What I find interesting is the choice of brands to opt for either evolution or revolution and the consumer reaction to the outcomes. Interesting to see what will happen in 2011! Re-brand away…

brand, brand management, graphic design

F’ART and Giggle

I stayed in London a few weekends ago and leaving through a magazine left me literally in stitches. A glossy lifestyle magazine (Indulge) had an article about Food Artistry – and whilst the headlines seemed like nice copy writing playing with words, one of the quotes pulled out of an interview with Sam Bompas is just too good to be true!

Indulge article
A glossy lifestyle magazine with beautiful photography and interesting copy writing... what could possibly go wrong?

Indulge F_art
Is it just me or does that not read very appetising?

Funny

Am I missing something?

Whilst having a stroll with my husband and son through the isles of Boots (yes, strolling with a 22 month old toddler does get that exciting) Steven points out an advertisement to me that made us both wonder and ponder. Could it be a hidden message? Did we misunderstand the product? It just made us laugh, so here it is, a strange decision of art direction and design – apart from the fact that the model looks like he will only need to touch a razor once in a blue moon…

Wilkinson Shaver
Did we misunderstand the concept of how to hold a razor all those years?

Shaver picture
... Or is this a new product that in fact makes men's side burns appear?

Funny

What is a brand audit and why should you have one?

Whilst we are all familiar with the terms ‘financial audit’ or ‘tax audit’, there is some confusion and mystery surrounding a brand audit. It is quite a simple concept if you accept that your brand has a value that can and should be managed and increased over time – an asset of your business just like your production facilities, finance and human resources.
The trickier bit is the actual execution of a brand audit.
A typical cycle could be described as this:

Typical cycle of a brand audit
A typical cycle of a brand audit

It may seem a bit daunting how to start the process. I like the analogy my friend Maria Ana uses when she talks about how to start a brand audit, comparing it to planing a trip.
So here is a quick picture journey describing the first step. Once all this information is collected, a brand consultancy will be able to scope the project costs, tools and timelines and get the ball rolling.
A brand audit is a journey
Where do you want to go (tomorrow)?

What is the destination
Do you have a specific problem you wish to answer with this brand audit?

Who will join you
Who's involved in the brand audit? Are they able to take part in meetings and workshops to aid the research process?

What are the time scales?
Is this a quick turnaround or a more complex project which benefit for more time intensive research, such as university studies?

Economy, business or first class?
What budget can you assign to this project? This is the missing piece in the jigsaw of selecting the tools and methods of the brand audit.

What’s in your suitcase?
Depending on the objective of the audit, time scales and budgets, a brand consultancy can start putting together the tools and methodologies to complete the audit with the best possible brand insights and recommendations.

There are many components of the actual audit, which brandingstrategyinsider describes as the following:
COMMUNICATIONS REVIEW

  • Advertising and promotion materials
  • Other brand marketing elements: pricing, packaging, merchandising, distribution, direct marketing, sponsorships, flagship stores, etc.
  • Press kit
  • Press releases
  • Sales collateral materials
  • Internal communications
  • Business cards, letterheads, etc.
  • Website
  • Intranet site
  • Employee training programs
  • Employee orientation
  • Manager training
  • Sales force training

I would also add (this list is a few years old now) the whole subject of social media and how the brand is exposed via social marketing and even phone apps.
EXTERNAL INFORMATION SOURCE REVIEW

  • Competitors’ press releases, advertising and promotion
  • Industry analyst reports
  • Customer comments
  • Business partner comments
  • Marketing vendor interviews

HUMAN RESOURCE SYSTEMS REVIEW

  • Organisation charts
  • Department mission/vision statements
  • Department objectives
  • Common objectives
  • Recruiting criteria
  • Individual competency dictionary
  • Succession planning criteria
  • Planning and resource allocation systems/processes

STRATEGY REVIEW

  • Business plans
  • Marketing plans
  • Brand positioning statement
  • Brand plans
  • Creative (or agency) briefs
  • Media plans

MARKETING RESEARCH REVIEW

  • Brand positioning research
  • Brand asset studies
  • Brand equity measurement system (awareness, preference, usage, value, accessibility, relevance, differentiation, vitality, emotional connection, loyalty, associations, personality)
  • Brand extension research
  • Product/service concept testing
  • Logo recall & recognition testing

EMPLOYEE INTERVIEWS

  • Corporate officer interviews
  • Marketing employee interviews
  • Sales force interviews
  • Customer service employee interviews
  • Front line customer contact interviews
  • General employee interviews

PROPRIETARY BRAND RESEARCH

  • Brand asset research
  • Brand equity research
  • Brand positioning research (qualitative and quantitative)

PHEW, what a list! It is complex and it quickly shows that a brand audit is a process that will take time – but Rome – and those big brands we all know- were not built in a day and not by one single person either.
A brand consultancy will guide you through a program that is tailored specifically to your objectives and will give you the insights to define and deploy a strategy for change.
So why should you do it?
Typically, a brand audit will:
–      give an insight into your brand architecture/business structure and portfolio
–      help to connect your visual communication efforts with financial returns
–      discover and assess your market positioning
–      define your brand stakeholders and competition
–      improve brand management and marketing
–      assist in securing and enhancing the value of your brand
I think that these days the value of increasing brand equity is much more apparent and thankfully so is the need for keeping track of your brand performance as much as you keep track of all other important aspects of your business.

brand, brand audit, Brand Strategy, Branding

KISS your brand

A friend asked me to review their first draft of a new website launching their business. A difficult task (since it is a friend) by all means, but my professional opinion quickly dominated the eagerness to compliment – I’d rather blame some blunt criticism on my German heritage and hopefully raise some questions that help the business.
What struck me most was that the business was trying to be everything for everyone. Words like ‘whatever you want it to be’ or ‘could be anything’ made me feel like they perhaps didn’t know themselves. It made me understand why so many successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common – their brand proposition is simple, their product or service offering clearly defined and ‘what you see is what you get’.
It is fascinating how an unclear vision, be it in terms of business or brand strategy, reflects on the visual impact a brand makes when the strategy is implemented online or in print marketing material. So once again, the KISS comes in very eloquently and gives a good basis for future expansion.
It worked for Subway who keep sticking with what they are good at despite the temptation to sell people other goods whilst they are in the shops. It is also a good recipe for niche companies such as Hotel Chocolat, Bravissimo, Innocent and Ella’s Kitchen.
Starbucks struggled when they expanded the number of their shops in 2007 and added much more than just coffee to the once clear offering; thus watering down their brand (with some consumer reports concluding Mc Donalds coffee tasting better!).

Lost brand values
Woolworths alienated customers by trying to please everyone

Woolworths lost its brand identity pretty much completely prior to leaving the high streets of Britain. They tried to be everything for everyone and instead as a consumer you ended up being unsure what they were actually good at.
Their brand position was quickly snapped up by Wilkinsons who seem to successfully fill the gap selling budget household goods and so far not venturing into too many other product lines.
Coca Cola Water
Bad publicity or just a bad idea? The Coca Cola water.

It is always tempting to use your brand reputation to expand – but being successful with one target market does not necessarily mean any new product will be a success. When Coca Cola introduced water instead of coke, it went down like a lead balloon.
Consumers didn't like the healthy Pepsi drink

Similarly, PepsiCo experienced its own fall from grace when it launched Crystal Pepsi in 1992.
Jack Daniels Mustard. It didn't last.

Jack Daniels Mustard never quite made it onto supermarket shelves as a favourite.
Off the menu. The Arch Deluxe didn't have enough bite.

Equally important is to stay true to your core customers – as Mc Donalds found out when they tried to gain new customers by introducing the ‘Arch Deluxe’ as a sophisticated burger to set them apart from other burger bars. It’s no longer on the menu.
Whilst I am by no means promoting a ‘one trick pony’ approach to brand building, I believe that as a minimum, the brand proposition has to be consistent and clear. Companies such as Virgin, BMI, Apple, Tesco and even Ebay, Amazon or Google thrive despite their many products and service offerings.
Something worth a big kiss on the ego of the brand strategists behind their success!

Brand Strategy

Branding – and when you have to let go…

I am not sure that you really should have to, but once you have completed your part in the branding process, there inevitably comes the point when the new brand spills into an organisation and gets absorbed by their own marketing department – for better or worse. Guidelines, you say, yes, guidelines are there for exactly that reason, but, as I found out last week, no guidelines can prepare you for the pure shock and horror induced by the ‘creative’ approach from the budget saving ‘small man down the road’.
I’ve been lucky in the sense that our client discovered what was happening in one of his departments when they outsourced some new promotional item to be designed by a cheap local design firm. Every rule laid out in the brand identity guidelines had been not just stretched or slightly twisted but torn apart and broken in an unfixable manner. How whoever designed this (neglecting all the blatant inconsistencies in grammar and type) could look at their draft 1 and find it a good match to the client’s brief I do not know – but I really am appreciating that we had the chance to take this over and start from scratch.
Branding doesn’t just happen, well, it does, in a sense, but not necessarily how you want it to. It’s a slow, delicate process and it needs time, resources and money to re-brand an entire organisation that goes beyond the initial consultancy and creative process.
We never shut the door but think that an ongoing brand management relations ship is of most value to the client, but of course budget restraints cause situations out of our control. I am not sure yet what the solutions are – we can’t lower our rates paying for highly professional and creative talent to compete with those who don’t even deserve the title artworkers – so once again it seems to come down to educating the clients to realise a false economy.
On this occasion, our client had the insight and understanding of the importance of a consistent design approach even if only for the first of each publication to set a standard to be followed, but I despair at some others who ‘diy’ with our identity designs and do more harm than good. You have to just hope their brand is resilient to the apparent drop in quality of their communications material. A very similar problem happens when a client does the internal communications themselves but outsources the externals. The discrepancy is drastic and often you wonder how bad a customer must feel when they have been called in with great looking designs to receive forms and information on site that looks more like they just started their business with a comic sans flyer template and have no idea what they are doing.
There is the argument that ultimately it is the product and service that sells and not the presentation but if we think of brands as people, we are all very much relying on our judgement of the first impression a person gives us and we continue to observe if what they preach is what they do – only then do we start to trust someone.
Anyway, I could go on… but have to actually go back to the design of above mentioned piece… so I will let go – for now.

brand guidelines, brand management, graphic design

Brand Guidelines – Why?

We looked after our neighbours’ kids’ sunflowers whilst they were on holiday – and as before we managed to actually keep them alive during the absence of their prime carers. They had intact, if perhaps slightly tainted by worry, plants back in their house and so it continues.
It made me think that brand management is perhaps a bit like handing over the carefully nourished sunflower pots when you personally can’t always be around to tend to the needs of the brand. We managed to guess the requirements of a healthy sunflower, but for brands that is most certainly a more complex issue.
It is also one little step to ensuring the success of the continuous nurturing are the brand guidelines. You’ve just been through the process of analysing your brand, establishing the mission, vision, values and associated strategy and have completed a branding design project; out came a new visual identity supported by your organisational brand implementation and methods of internal brand communication. Then there comes the point when you have to delegate the use of the brand, the further shaping of the brand, and brand guidelines simply help to manifest the core of those values and ensure the visual, the language, the brand experience does not get individually (mis)interpreted by stakeholders dealing with it.
I quite like the analogy of a watering guide for your brand. And hopefully, with decent guidelines, you have every chance of returning to visit and finding a blooming brand instead of the results of something that was ‘tinkered with’ with the best intentions but with ill effects. Just a thought…

brand, brand guidelines

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