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In app twist

A lot of apps are very visual these days but we still do have to write things. I'm not even starting to talk about how awful the spelling mistakes are in news apps.

I started using this clever little Instagram grid helper and was actually really surprised to see a typo on the one page that contains instructions. How on earth?!?! The trouble is, it reflects badly on the brand and sows a seed of doubt about the quality. It's easily avoided.

(Last time I checked it was following, not 'follwoing'…)

One of my friends works for a large corporate and I like this footer – 'this email has been typed on a phone and may contain errors'. I like that somehow – it's expressing the frustrating downfalls of predictable text, Siri and other clever tech that's almost but not quite there yet.

As a brand manager, typos are details that should not be overlooked – we may all be accustomed to the quirks of instant messaging and high speed Comms but in my mind it's this attention to detail that will differentiate a brand in terms of quality and expertise.

brand management, differentiation, grammar, typography

Who Will Beat The Amazing Spiderman?

Looking back over some news of now last year, the Brand Channel‘s announcement of the 2013 Brandcameo Product Placement Award Winners and Losers covering movies released in 2012 made me smile – especially ‘The Amazing Spiderman’ for worst product placement.

As with many years, 2012 had its fair share of bad and egregiously bad product placement. Incongruous on-screen brand cameos such as Subway in Wreck-It Ralph and Acura in Avengers are the stuff that gives the practice of product placement a bad name. But while even Heineken’s role in James Bond had a few defenders, practically nobody came out to stand up for Peter “Spider-Man” Parker’s choice of search engines.
Making Bing’s forced Spider-Man placement worse was Microsoft’s inability to spin the negative publicity to its advantage. Ironically enough, Comicbook.com points out that in the comic book, Peter Parker uses Google as his search engine of choice. (A bit like how the film version of E.T. famously featured Reese’s Pieces while, to this day, the novelization uses M&M’s.)

Of course it is easier to mock those who got it wrong but there is something about brands working with characters, movie topics or scenarios and I am bemused that BING considered itself to be the search engine of choice for snazzy Peter Parker, spiky haired, rebellious and secretive…
Looking at what is out there in terms of search engine brands, perhaps the funniest one is DuckDuckGo – with Google being the obvious choice (and apparently what the comic writers had intended). Most search engines just lack the familiarity of Yahoo and the before mentioned Google and BING, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a correct brand match in my mind.
Still, I guess it could have been worse if they accepted an offer from AOL… Roll on 2014…

brand management, Funny, product placement

How Times Have Changed…

Helping family to move house a couple of weekends ago – yes, this is one more reason why I am so inactive on my little blog at the moment – I came across a couple of brand items that struck me as amazing.
Player’s Navy Cut (a cigarette brand part of Imperial Tobacco) has had a very different marketing approach than cigarette brands of today.
Image
“The sales of Player’s Navy Cut Cigarettes for the past twelve months show a substantial increase over the preceding twelve months. Here is definite proof that “It’s the Tobacco that Counts,” and that “Quality will Tell.”
You don’t read that in the papers these days! Nor do you read “very gratified to have given so much more pleasure” on a cigarette advert – in fact, you don’t see cigarette ads any more… which also means that Swan had to change their brand strategy:
Image
“The smoker’s match” seems dated for more than one reason. I spotted this Swan ad on YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7gWAdy7Jwg
Swan Vesta, now part of Swedish Match, has a bit of a hard to believe vision, considering the industry they are in, but it shows that even the most unlikely products can adapt to a changing market:

Swedish Match brand vision and strategy

It’s perhaps a bit of a crass example illustrating the importance of keeping your brand current and relevant to trends in the market, changes in technology and in perception.
A brand health check is just as important as keeping track of your finances, your insurance, policies and business strategy. And as in most areas, working on your strategy a little bit frequently avoids having to consider a drastic shift in positioning because the brand and its vision have lost their ways.

advertising, brand management, Brand Strategy, Brand Vision, marketing

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

All Change! (Perhaps?)

You are working like crazy on building your brand, playing it all by the book, getting plenty of exposure and collecting feedback. Make it a recurring practice to analyse and digest your findings.
We are in the great position that the old communication model of blasting out a message to the masses and hoping some of it sticks on some of the target market is long gone and a much more transparent communication model has replaced it.

Old brand communication model
Old brand communication model

New brand communication model
New brand communication model

It’s no longer a shouting match, it’s a conversation (or at least it should be). Many brands have embraced this and it adds an interesting dimension to marketing – the scope for more targeted campaigns to smaller audiences with a higher response rate has increased and is supported by the ever-increasing adaptability of digital print for ‘traditional’ campaigns.
As your brand evolves so will your customers. Vice versa, you have to be able to adapt to changing consumer behaviour due to new technology, politics, the economy, social trends, medicine, etc.
It may mean that advertising campaigns and loyalty programmes have to be adapted to suit changing communication styles, but it is above all a great opportunity for brands to act ‘real’ and show their personality.

brand communication model, brand management, Brand Strategy

Brand Touch Points – Get Your Hands Dirty!

“BRAND IS NOT WHAT YOU SAY IT IS – ITS WHAT THEY SAY IT IS” Marty Neumeyer

Brand strategy and brand building is a vast subject, ever-evolving and ever more relevant to everyone. Brands used to be owned by life stock owners to mark their cattle, by manufacturers to mark their products and assure us of their quality, by advertisers and marketeers trying to push their clients ahead of the competition. It’s only in recent years that brands have had to get their head around the transparency brought by social media and digital, by the immediacy of feedback via smartphones and tablets – and now more than ever brands are owned by all of us, they are made by us and risk being abandoned by us. Brands no longer have segmented touch points – they are interlinked and interactive.
Alina Wheeler made a lovely simple brand touchpoint diagram showing a number of brand touch points. Since I am having a bit of a cup cake theme for the food bloggers conference talk, here is one I made earlier.

Brand touch points
Brand touch points based on a diagram by Alana Wheeler

And if this is hard to read as a diagram, here is a list as well with some added points:

  • Advertising
  • Telephone
  • Social Media
  • Trade Shows
  • Networking
  • Signage
  • Blogs
  • Word of Mouth
  • Direct Mail
  • Competitors
  • Associates
  • Public Relations
  • Websites
  • Newsletters
  • E-Shots
  • Publications
  • Packaging
  • Emails
  • Voicemails
  • Proposals
  • Speeches
  • Employees
  • Products
  • Services
  • Billboards
  • Business Cards
  • Web Banners
  • Exhibits
  • Letterheads
  • Vehicles
  • Merchandise

We can categorise these into internal and external stake holders, into customers and suppliers, partners and the competition – these days chances are that an employee is just as much a brand advocate (or the opposite!) than the media and it is ever more important that the message a brand sends out is the same on a web banner, in speeches, when commenting on subjects in the press, on bill boards or vehicles, internal publications or lovely designed marketing material.
The amount of touch points may seem scary or irrelevant, but it is also a great opportunity for smaller businesses to make their mark because most of these points of engagement with a product or service are now easier to achieve and manage. As usual, it makes sense to have a bit of a strategy in place. Think about where you would ideally like to engage with your customers, then try and build up that ‘touch point’ so it becomes a buzzing hub of brand exchanges.
This part of brand management can be as hands-on as you want it to be. There are lots of examples of brand involvement on a corporate level and as people brands. Think Jamie Oliver. He has a whole brand guideline manual written about him as the person and him as the brand. Both are equally important and interact with a multitude of stake holders on different levels.
He sets a good example of a successful balance of blatant product placement and social engagement for the ‘greater good’, corporate responsibility on a ‘one man band’ level one may say. The apparent consistency is part of the strength of his brand strategy and something to aim for if you are in a similar position as an expert in your field wanting to raise your profile and reputation.
Jamie-Oliver-personal brandJamie-Oliver-personal brand
There is so much that can be explored. If your central focus of featuring your products is on a website, for instance, think about different avenues to interact with your target audience with the underlying strategy to increase traffic to your site. It won’t be an overnight project, but there are many options to engage the public.
Here are just some thoughts on how to network around a website.
ONLINE Reputation building

  • Exposure on expert sites (Linked in Answers, Wiki, squidoo, hubpages, alltop etc)
  • Online PR
  • Social media to share content and relevant information (FaceBook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr etc)
  • Online reputation building platforms (Proscore, Klout, etc)
  • Social bookmarking (Reddit, digg, delicious, folkd, etc – see a list of the top 1000 kindly provided by genius optimizer here
  • Blog about related subjects setting you apart as an expert (in-built, wordpress, tumblr, blogger etc)
  • E-newsletters (mailchimp, maxmailhq, campaign monitor, constant contact, sendy, answerbag etc)
  • Guest article writing, blogging or commenting
  • Online networking (LinkedIn, SunZu, etc)
  • E-book or self-published book about your expertise
  • Advertising (google, bing, etc)
  • Reviews on other blogs or e-magazines

‘Traditional’ marketing

  • Networking / business breakfast clubs (Business Scene, Bob Club, etc)
  • Conferences and trade shows (various depending on subject)
  • Competitions or awards (enter or create your own)
  • Charity support
  • Advertising campaign in relevant publications
  • Marketing collateral to promote via direct mail or at trade shows
  • Merchandise (corporate gifts, loyalty giveaways, etc)
  • Collaborating with other businesses
  • Generating partnerships and affiliations with similar aims
  • Teaching about the expert subject
  • Holding open days or events

This is just a small selection without paying specific attention to the business or service in question – its specialism will dictate which engagement channels will work best and most effective.
It’s never good to put all eggs in one basket and brand engagement certainly is one of the subjects where you have to keep hatching out new ideas and ways to keep your brand in the conversation.

brand management, Brand Strategy, online brand management, reputation building

Brand basics - Food sign Brand basics - Food sign Brand basics - Food sign

From Marking Cattle to Marking Expertise – Branding Benefits

branding-sheep
I love walking in Derbyshire and the Lake District, experiencing unspoilt nature, raw countryside and the feeling of going back to basics – and I always get a bit of a shock when I see red, pink and green patched sheep skip around fields. My kids are now asking why someone painted them so funny and I have to explain that they are marking which sheep belong to which farmer. Make that a bit more sophisticated and you have the origins of branding – marking products or livestock with a branding iron.

branding iron - history of the word branding
“The word “brand” is derived from the Old Norse brandr meaning “to burn.” It refers to the practice of producers burning their mark (or brand) onto their products.” – Wikepedia

We’ve come a bit of a way since then, but perhaps more in evolving the meaning and using it to define our lives and cultures than in the actual act of differentiating one product or service from another.
Brand basics - Food sign
Back to basics. Though we all have a feeling that this type of ‘food’ is not necessarily winning health food awards…

It used to be enough to simply name the product. With competition, the market share decreases and suddenly it is no longer enough to ‘bake the bread’ in the village, you have to ensure people understand that your bread is better than that of the bakery down the road, and you have to try to sell their product as more than just a price-driven commodity that is worth paying a premium for.

Marketing has shifted from communicating FEATURES ‘what it has’ (1900) to BENEFITS ‘what it does’ (1925) to EXPERIENCE ‘what you will feel’ (1950) to IDENTIFICATION ‘who you are’ (2000) – Marty Neumeyer

brand basics - shopping isle
Where is your brand and how can your customer pick you out from the mass of competitive items?

Today’s overwhelming offers and information on products and services at our fingertips makes it ever more important for businesses to break out of the low margin – high competition cycle and to create a name for themselves that goes beyond packaging.
Brand basics - what sticks if the label comes off
“Branding is about everything.” – Tom Peters

Once people seek out your brand in overcrowded supermarket shelves or in business directories because they trust you, they relate to you or they are proud to be associated with you, that’s when brand strategy comes to fruition. When more than the label sticks, you know your brand message is being received and working for your business.
Of course not every business is built on a product that can be packaged and marketed in the ‘traditional’ sense. Much is being discussed about personal branding and reputation building for experts – and the benefits of branding are obvious even for writers, speakers or trainers that are consultancy based or have more intangible products and services.

  • More brand awareness = more opportunities
  • Commercial success from increased exposure
  • Personal development, confidence and motivation
  • Sense of achievement

The magic of it all is that even if you are developing a personal brand (hello Jamie Oliver), it won’t stop you from transferring those brand values on a business or range of products you endorse. With all the complicated layers of shopping offers and packaging, ultimately you mark your brand in the mind of your clients as the synonym for the one category they are shopping for so they know if they think FOOD, they think YOU (if that is what you are selling of course)…

brand experience, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message, Brand Strategy

What brands do – when they get it right…

What-do-brands-do
“A brand that captures your mind gains behavior. A brand that captures your heart gains commitment.”
– Kent Huffman

We are creatures of habit with some basic instincts subconsciously dictating every day actions and decisions. Even in our oh so cultural society, it often feels that we are just a very thin layer away from our ‘uneducated’ ancestors we would now call wild. We remain  territorial and most of us seem to have an underlying desire to find a partner with certain attributes (depending on male or female preference), to have children, to gain a position within social and work circles. (It seems to me that ultimately pretty much all of our behaviour can be tracked back to the innate desire to find the best partner and pass on our genes).

Homo sapiens has remained a naked ape nevertheless; in acquiring lofty new motives, he has lost none of the earthy old ones. This is frequently a cause of some embarrassment to him, but his old impulses have been with him for millions of years, his new ones only a few thousand at the most—and there is no hope of quickly shrugging off the accumulated genetic legacy of his whole evolutionary past.’ – Desmond Morris, The Naked Ape

Businesses can tap into this unshakeable heritage of emotions and rational/irrational behaviour and build their brands to answer the basic needs of their clients.
In a nutshell, brands are about:

  1. BRAND AWARENESS – Most people don’t like  making choices. Brands add familiarity and a sense of comfort when picking a product. Our memory is selective and limited. Standing out and being in the mind of the consumer at the time of purchasing or decision-making is paramount.
  2. BRAND EXPERIENCE – Giving consumers confidence into their choice of product or service. Get it right, and you have won half the battle to get point 3. Better still, a happy customer will probably recommend you – but beware, there is the thought that people experience loss about ten times as much as gain, so better they see interaction with your brand as a benefit, not a disaster!
  3. BRAND LOYALTY – Evoke aspirations – inspire consumers to want to become part of the brand’s ‘tribe’. Would someone buy a t-shirt with your slogan on even though you have nothing to do with fashion? Is it ‘cool’ to be associated with your business? Are your products status symbols or attract a certain audience? People don’t like to be proved wrong, they don’t like to regret their buying decisions. Brand loyalty is a difficult one to get especially if your product is seen as a commodity, but if you can break into the world of being seen as a brand with added reputation and values instead, loyalty is a key factor to evolve and adapt to changing markets or consumer needs.

Perhaps, if a brand can create comfort, confidence and connections, it is doing so by being less of a manufactured product and more of an expression of human personalities. Bring on passion brands!

attitude, brand loyalty, brand management, Brand Managment, brand message

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

We Fuel Progress – Just Not at This Petrol Station…

I mused about this strap line from petrol brand Esso not long ago in this post and when I filled up at the very same station where I first came across the slogan, I had to smile when I saw this new info sheet hung on each petrol pump, advising that advanced fuels are not sold at this station. It’s just one confused brand message in my mind. What do they sell now? Normal fuels? Advanced fuels? And what does the strap line have to do with it all if not the obvious?

Esso-Brand-Advertising
All that progress, just don’t expect to see any of it where you fill up…

I wonder who made them clarify – and I wonder how long they will stick with this in my mind saying a lot without saying anything really tag line of Esso.
Perhaps the tiger will be back in our tanks sooner or later – or perhaps these days animal rights campaigners will have to say a thing or two about this as well…

advertising, brand management, brand message

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

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

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

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

Levi Roots Has a Brand Message…

Sometimes I feel like officially complaining about the undervalued state of the branding and design industry.
Lament lament – every now and again the BBC does us a favour.
In the latest episode of The Apprentice – You’re Fired, Levi Roots explains that it was all wrong because of the marketing and the branding. Not just about the spelling mistake of the brand name, but about the visual messages not coming across.

Bellissimo Spelling mistake
Cringe factor. Wrong brand. Wrong brand message. - Photo from BBC

Levi nicely pointed out the importance of a professional image especially when dealing with other businesses in the trade industry.
Levi-Roots-on-Branding
They didn't get the message across.

Thank you Mister BBC and Levi Roots! Apart from the entertainment, it is very nice to be in a sector that once in a while is appreciated as a key factor in the success of a business. Made my day!

brand management, Branding, typography

SME Branding Lesson #13 – The Power of the Niche

Widely publicised in recent years, one of the most popular choices for entrepreneurs is niche marketing. Whilst I would be careful with the trend of ‘finding a niche and building a website around it’, I think if a business has established a differentiating factor that sets it apart, the targeted approach of a niche brand may be the next step in securing brand loyalty and higher profit margins.

What is a niche brand?

In simple terms, a niche brand is a brand that addresses the need for a product or service that mainstream brands don’t provide for. It is a very specific brand appealing to a subset of the market.
Niche brands often withstand market forces better because they have increased brand loyalty and a prime position within their market segment.
A niche could be a luxury brand, such as Rolex or Hermes who only target the richest consumers – or it could be a shop selling household products for people with dermatitis, e.g. catering for a very specific need.

Some niche brands on or off the high street

The following are just a few samples I would consider niche brands – though some have made the break-through into the mass market.

Under the Nile clothing brand
Under the Nile is an organic clothing company for kids. Niche and boutique.

Trunki
Another niche brand that has grown to be part of the high street. After initial Dragon's Den disaster, Trunki is synonymous for bright, fun travel accessories for kids.

MeisterSinger
MeisterSinger is a super luxury niche brand. Don't ask how much it costs!

Hot Milk
Hot Milk lingerie is a refreshing maternity lingerie brand that is not afraid to put some humour into pregnancy...

Even Hotels
The hotel that is looking after your health. A niche with potential.

EO niche brands
Another niche brand in the beauty market

Ellas Kitchen
If you have children, you will probably know Ella's Kitchen. It's a regular in the supermarkets but an independent brand – a bit like Innocent.

Crocs
Everyone knows Crocs now – but the brand started as a niche and perhaps still is...

Avene niche brand
Avene has a beauty reputation

How can you find a niche?

Start with market research. If you don’t have a specific product yet, you can use a variety of online search tools to find out what consumers are interested in and if there is a range of products or services that can cater for their demand. You can use free tools, such as the Google keyword tool, to find out how many people search for a specific keyword and to find related terms to give you more ideas. Find something that has a good balance of demand and supply, so you can easily become the market leader and have sufficient interest in your product.
If you already have a product or service, consider the following: Which market are you in? Who are your customers? Think about to whom your product mostly speaks. What problem does your brand solve? Is there a recurring customer profile that works for your business?
Without trying to please everyone, you can become a market leader in a specific sub group and compete through your expert knowledge of your customer’s requirements.

Why should you find a niche?

In terms of branding, a niche means you automatically target a very specific segment of your target market, and thus you will be presented with some great opportunities of engaging with a willing crowd of enthusiasts. I just remember my interview with Steve from phILOFAXY, which gave me great insight into the nature of those Filofax fans – you could not wish for better brand ambassadors!

Filofax
A niche with continuing appeal – Filofax

Niche brands have the appeal of being expert and serving the individual, so you can benefit from better margins if your brand is right and from stronger loyalty if you fulfill your brand promise.
That also means that niche brands are often more resilient in a more difficult financial climate. And if your business is built on being profitable without needing mass sales, a drop in purchasing is not going to affect you as severely as mass product brands that suffer when the general public tightens their purse strings.
Building a niche brand also means that you have more opportunities within a chosen sector to become the expert, the market leader, the one to beat – and benefit from interest where big brands won’t bother because it is not worth their time and investment.

Any help out there?

There are a number of pod casts all around niche branding which are very interesting to listen to and who discuss a wide array of subjects relating to finding and marketing a niche brand. Of course you can always talk to me, too… 🙂
ViperChill
Internet Business Mastery
A lot of niche websites rely on internet marketing which both these pod casts address nicely. Any more gems out there, please let me know!

brand management, niche branding

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 Branding Lesson #8 – Be Great and Stay Great Especially When You Are Wrong

It takes a long time to establish a brand and to become publicly known to the extend of some of our high street retailers, such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis or Habitat.
It’s also a known fact that it is hard to ‘stay on top’. But what amazes me is the amount and magnitude of schoolboy errors such incredible brands make on a branch level.

M&S Logo Reflection
Diffused Brand Perception. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

We went suit shopping for my husband a while back in one of the largest Birmingham M&S stores. Anticipating the quality and service the brand promises, we were disappointed to find a badly organised suit section without any mirrors and with badly displayed garments that did not look in any way cared for.
We went to the changing rooms and frankly, by that time we were so frustrated with the experience that we thought it may help to talk to a floor manager to point out a few things and to ask for some assistance. Behold, we did find someone – but the lady was chatting to her colleagues that she just rushed past us explaining she was too busy to talk to us.
We thought it was a glitch in the brand matrix… We did not get a suit.
A few days ago we went shirt shopping (slightly less sophisticated) and it was a repeat just in a different town. The shirts on display were no longer clean, fresh and pristine looking but instead covered in a sprinkle on dust (and it wasn’t sparkly star dust) which made them appear dirty and old. They were laid out like a thrown together pile and the shop floor appeared uninviting, abandoned and unloved. When my husband made a member of staff aware of the dust bunnies and the fact that you could not find any system in the display of sizes, they just pretty much shrugged their shoulders and left him to it.
He didn’t get a shirt. But this time, he lost something else – the trust and positivity about the brand. Next time he needs either a shirt or a suit, M&S will be very low on the list of shops to invest his time in.
Costa coffee cup
I had a similar experience in Costa at a service station. (Nothing to do with shirts.) It was the weekend and we were driving down to Devon on a Friday night. It was cold and rainy. We sprinted into the service station with toddler needing the toilet and baby not wanting to stay alone in the car. I ordered a takeaway decaf coffee and the lady took my payment with my card and only realised when she came around to fulfill the order that they had run out of decaf coffee. She then asked me to wait and looked around the shop for a while to see if she could spot any more hidden away somewhere. After an uncomfortable long wait she asked someone else to check. They confirmed that unless I had a caffeinated coffee they could only refund the money.
Fine – I can’t take caffeine – so I expected my refund swiftly and was looking forward to putting baby back in his seat. But no – a refund to a card can only be issued by the manager. Someone went to find out where he was and returned after another long wait saying he had some stock to look at (no kidding, start with decaf coffee powder) and would be around 15 mins. It is then that my acquired English politeness went out the window and in came the German resolute warrior baby held fiercely as a weapon. A short exchange of ‘this is unacceptable…’ and I was about to march myself to the manager.
What saved the day was a quick-thinking – well, he did have quite some time to anticipate this and figure it out  but nonetheless – colleague who had overheard the discussion and concluded the lady give me back my money in cash and they could sort out the paper work later without me hanging around.
This may seem a bit of a long-winded way of making a simple point but I hope it illustrates a difference in approaching customer complaints. M&S were clearly not trained or authorised. The guy at Costa might not have been either, but he did have the guts and the compassion to do something to help me out.
Especially if you are a small business, it is super important to try to react to a ‘crisis’ or mishap in a professional manner that will re-instate any damaged trust in your brand. It is often the case that only in a crisis or when something unexpected happened a brand has the opportunity to show its true colours, the brand values that matter to consumers and clients. And in a lot of cases, if the company reacts in a forthcoming, professional and just manner, they will find an increased sense of loyalty and appreciation from the customer.
It can of course go the other way.
Here are just a few thoughts to consider when dealing with a brand crisis – be it a simple error or a major PR disaster:
1) Be Fast
It’s no good starting to respond weeks later when you get around to a customer’s complaint or concern. Be quick and you stand a much better chance to be in their good books again.
2) Be Compassionate
We are all humans, despite being hidden behind technology at times. Put yourself into their shoes and see how you would feel if something went wrong for you. Even if you can’t offer an outright easy solution – and even if the fault may not at all be yours but ‘user error’, showing compassion gives your brand a human voice and helps the conversation.
3) Be Genuinely Honest
If it was your fault, own up to it and work on a solution quickly. It is usually much better to own up when an issue is still resolvable then to put up the defenses and turn it into a much bigger thing. Trust relies on honesty and trust is one of the cornerstones of a successful brand. Being honest about an error is as important as being genuine in  your response so be careful how you react especially if tempers start flying high.
4) Be the Solution Provider
You thought this may happen, so you’ve written a plan (a long time ago…). It’s no good having strategies written out about how to deal with customer complaints if nobody bothers to adapt them – or has the ability to act on them with confidence. Train your staff to deal with different situations. Think of ‘what if’ and of potential answers. Try to ensure your client feels his issue matters to you and you are working on a solution.
5) Be a Fast Learner
You’ve resolved the issue and all is well, your client or customer has stuck with your brand and the future looks great. Repeat the mistake and you may not find yourself in such a good position. Bad news travels fast – even faster with social media tools – and when something appears to be happening time and time again, your brand risks creating a mental divide between what it appears to stand for and what it actually does. Prevention is the best medicine. After that, it’s vigilance once a problem has been identified.
Hope this helps!

brand management, SME

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

SME Branding Lesson #6 – Be Incredibly Credible

Nanoblur brand advert
Buy this… because 45 people have said so.

We are all just too familiar with the tempting voice of adverts and the seductive messages of point of sale installations that convince us to part with our money and feel good about it. This is one of the finest artforms of brand advertising and marketing – but there is also the danger to turn an incredible statement into a incredibly laughable one that could have the opposite effect.
I am not saying that nanoblur is not working or not flying off the shelves at Boots, but their small print had the opposite effect of reassuring and supporting their sales pitch. 45 people tested it and therefore it must be true that it makes skin flawless in seconds? Would it really have cost them that much to at least do 100? Better more? (I have no idea about clinical studies so perhaps it is unachievable for brands to do that but it seems such a small number of people, I wonder if they were better off making their statement a bit less incredible but not having to spoil it with ASA ruling copy that makes it sound a touch ridiculous.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGD_pxuHhwM]
The Vauxhall Lifetime Warranty adverts sparked off complaints about being misleading and were subsequently forced to change their campaign following a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Quite a different area of ‘business’, the church of Nottingham had to change a claim they were making in one of their flyers.
Nottingham Church Leaflet
Claiming the un-claimable.

Dennis Penaluna from the Nottingham Secular Society said he was shocked by the leaflet.
“I couldn’t believe the overarching, ridiculous, unfounded claims they were making. They can’t be substantiated,” he said. “It’s a dangerous nonsense. People who are ill or vulnerable can be easily persuaded. They will grasp at anything.”
Read an article about this on the bbc news website.
Another brand that promised more than it could keep is Baby Einstein, a Disney product extension targeting babies and toddlers giving parents the idea that the DVDs are educational. “There is evidence to show that screen based activity is bad for the brain.” says Pippa Smith, founder of lobby group Mediamarch. The company decided to offer parents a re-fund for DVDs purchased in the last 5 years – certainly not a great indicator for success.
babyeinstein logo
Disputed educational tool

Nurture brand
Unsubstantiated claims of health benefits in formula

Similarly, Heinz was reprimanded following ‘ridiculous claims’ in their infant formula ads. They said that its product could support the growth of infant brains, bodies and immune systems. The ad voiced that each child needs a “special combination of nutrients to sustain the incredible growth in its brain, body and immune system.” It added that Heinz had produced Nurture specifically in order to “provide for those three essential aspects of growth.” The commercial concluded by saying that Nurture would help “nourish, protect and develop your baby.”
The ASA rejected Heinz’s claims and ruled that the advert falsely implied specific health benefits instead of general nutritional content. The ASA said: “We concluded, therefore, that the claim was unsubstantiated and the ad was unacceptable.”
So, it seems that whilst it is understandably tempting to use provocative and attention-grabbing headlines in brand advertising, there are a few things to bear in mind.

  • Be realistic about what you are promising and what you can deliver
  • Don’t rely on great statements without backing them up with great evidence
  • Don’t patronise your customers – respect their knowledge and experience even if you are the expert in your field
  • Use marketing methods, such as money back guarantees, as a way to instill confidence in a purchase
  • Be clear, simple and concise in your brand messages and offerings (KISS your Brand)
  • Be creative in your copy. In fact, be amazing. Use engaging details to tell your brand story and shine a spotlight on how your brand is different – but be honest

I may be on my own feeling like I am being taken for a fool with the ‘nanoblur 10 years younger claim’, but if I part with £20 for a small tub of face cream, I would prefer to be reassured by more than a busload of people. As it is, the product has settled as nanoblurb in my mind and makes me smile, but not buy it.

attitude, brand management, Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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