• Home
  • Brand Strategy

Tag: Brand Strategy

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

Be an Original Brand Builder

Another brief exploration of what it takes to change a product or service to a brand. It’s not rocket science. It’s about being different, adding personality, style and content. It starts with the name – whether you are looking at a blog, product or service.
What’s your name?

Naming a brand
Name your blog. Name your URL. Name your products.

It’s a bit like giving birth. Think about the name for your brand in the context of today’s market, your brand positioning and target audience, but also about how it will sound in a few years when you are more established and spread out across lots of brand touch points/different media.
Make it as future proof as you can… and above all, make it unforgettable.
What’s your identity?
Think about the whole brand identity as a reflection of your vision and values. What does your logo say about you? What do your colours mean? How is your layout? What’s your photography like? Are you minimalist or exuberant? Identify your brand with a style that sticks and then stick to it! Ever changing visual representations may be fun to develop with a designer, but they are guaranteed to leave your customers perplexed and confused.
As well as photography and colours, your writing style also defines what your business stands for and helps to build your brand. Be different! Research your market, find a niche or a gap – or be better than the rest! Think about the tone of voice and how you can emphasise this with suitable typography.
Sometimes it helps to envisage your product as a person. If your brand was a celebrity, who would it be? Or which famous person would be the ideal brand ambassador for you?
Don’t shy away from trying something daring or from using humour if it suits. As long as you develop an identity that is easy to understand and easy to recognise, you are on a winning streak.
What’s the brand architecture?

When you are trying to create a long-lasting brand, it makes sense to envisage a future where you may want to grow the business into different areas and have sub brands or affiliates that nest under the same mother brand. This brand architecture does not have to be put into action straight away, but making sure that a brand identity can cope with expansion can save future headaches when it becomes a necessity.
There are three common types of brand architecture.
1) Freestanding pluralistic brand structure

  • unconnected brands, the consumer is not aware that there is a holding company connecting them all
  • Each brand has to develop its own reputation, has own brand management strategy
  • Brands owned by the same parent company may be competing in the market place

Different TradeMarks
Brand architecture pluralistic brand structure
 
2) Hybrid solution

  • a main brand will associate itself with another brand
  •  as a synergy, both will be affected if things go wrong though each coud create their own strong market position

Trademark by / powered by
Hybrid solution brand architecture
 
3) Masterbrand

  • a strong main single masterbrand
  • public is aware of the masterbrand when dealing with any of the sub brands
  • Trust in the brand has greater effect on a buyer than benefits of the individual sub brand
  • works on brand loyalty, the master brand reputation is developed at all times

Trademark and descriptive name
Trademark and trademark
Masterbrand brand architecture
Virgin master brand architecture
fedex-logo-blog-post-1
No matter what you decide works best for your business model and goals, adding passion and originality into every aspect of the experience you give people with your product or service will work towards creating an engaging brand with a recognisable character people can learn to value and trust.

brand architecture, Brand Strategy

Building a Brand with Research and Strategy

If you are serious about building a brand for your business, blog or product, here are some thoughts on what to consider.
Start building your strategy by thinking about who you are, what you do and why anyone should care. Imagine a personality for your brand. Be different, be it by product selection, service offering, way of communicating or anything else you can think of. Build a reputation. Are you an expert? Is your product a specialist item that solves a need? Can you prove your superiority? What’s your market? What are your opportunities and threats within that market?
Brand strategy is powerful, and as so often, the simplest strategies are the best.
The power of the ‘big idea’

Coca-Cola Brand strategy
Sharing happiness and bridging the gap between in-store promotions and social media campaigns…

Coca-Cola. Everybody knows it, loving or hating its omni-presence. Most will say they love it because of the way it makes them feel. That’s an amazing effect to have as a drink! Coke promises fun, freedom and refreshment – and whilst the brand is ever evolving, it combines its nostalgic heritage with cutting edge campaigns centred around ‘sharing happiness’ which resonates with millions and connects consumers to the brand.
‘Always coca cola’ may have changed over the years, but Coca-Cola reinforces its values through celebratory promotions – like recently celebrating its 125th-year anniversary (“Sharing Happiness”) and the London Olympics (“Move to the beat”).

“According to a survey released in July by Research Now, Coca-Cola scored over 90% in brand awareness among respondents from the US, Canada, UK, France, Germany and Australia. One of the few marketing platforms that are relevant to a global audience, the Olympics have allowed Coca-Cola to solidify a powerful association in the minds of billions. Through its consistent presence at the Games, Coke, a sponsor since 1928, continues to build its brand strength, reach, and impact every time the Olympic torch is lit.” – Interbrand

Coca-Cola has another attribute that is vital for a successful brand – despite being a giant corporation, it remains flexible,  innovative and reactive, working with local knowledge and respecting its heritage. It embraces new digital media as much as traditional promotions and has created connections far beyond the world of drinks to ‘common sense’ audiences in the events and music industry.

“Coca-Cola may be 126 years old, but with more than 50 million fans on Facebook, 1.8 billion Coke products consumed daily and 3,500 beverages in its diverse portfolio — Coke’s still got it. – Interbrand”

Create a Legacy

Create a legacy- apple brand
Still thinking different

Brands live on even when those who have defined them are gone. Look at Apple and Steve Jobs’ legacy.
Create a legacy- cottage industries built on apple brand
iPhone stands are just one of many products designed to serve Apple…

Steve Jobs managed to create a brand that is so well-respected and loved that it has sparked off a whole cottage industry of Apple accessories, affiliate shops, goods designed to look good with Apple products – and despite new challenges the brand has having become a household name with their iPhones, iPads and Apple TV, his legacy lives on.
That’s the magic of creating a brand rather than just a service or product.
If your business is a blog that becomes a brand, you can have guest writers, or ghost writers – as long as the values you introduced to the brand are still respected and the experience is consistent, people will follow the brand rather than just you.
gold-star-netmums
Once a forum, now a trusted brand…

NETMUMS are an example for that very effect – it’s a forum that has evolved to a trusted brand and is now pretty much an institution for anything family related, companies paying to advertise on the site or to have their products reviewed.
 
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6VzhDE1Wso&w=560&h=315]
British Airways did a FaceBook campaign during the Olympics in London 2012 which invited viewers to see the plane on your own street at http://www.facebook.com/britishairways #HomeAdvantage. The message was to stay home and watch the Olympics, which didn’t work for everyone – but the idea was nice…
Marmite brand campaign
Love breakfast, love Marmite?

Marmite has always had the simplest of strategies – Love it or hate it. Its Facebook campaign is once again a personal approach to brand messaging with changing page profile image of Marmite lovers or haters. Emotional! (And fun…)
And why should you care about all this?

“Only one brand can be the cheapest. The rest have to use branding. The stronger the brand, the greater the profit margin.” – Marty Neumeier

Brand Strategy

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

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

When Thinking Backwards is a Step in the Right Direction

fitflops-covering-beach-with-logo
What are they saying?

Imagine a vast landscape covered with your logo, visible at every step. Would be nice? Meet fitflop, the brand who had the chance to do just that, but decided not to.
fitflops-beach-branding
Turns out, they are saying nothing at all! What a pity, ’cause they could have had their logo plastered all over the sandy beaches of the world…

Their fashionable take on flip flops with a ‘special’ sole has been present on the UK high street for a while now and has become another summer shoe brand alongside Crocs .
On the bottom of their shoes emblazoned in large letters is their logo in a distinct type. It seems that nobody in the product design department saw the potential of the beach shoes spelling out the brand message on Britain’s sandy shores and overseas. Instead, they leave a rather uninspiring ‘golftit’ or just a jumble of what could be letters.
It seems such an apt carrier  for their brand message (beach, sand, sandals, big letter logo…) I can’t believe no-one jumped at this opportunity!

Brand Strategy, Branding, graphic design, typography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brand Strategy, Branding, buying cycle, marketing effectiveness

An Extremely Challenging Choice of Brand Name

Challenge-extreme brand name
Is it a sports brand? Equipment for mountain expeditions or marathon runners?
No! It’s a DIY tool… Puzzling.

Challenge-extreme-DIY-tools
A challenge too far?

Yesterday, I had one of those moments where you see something, walk past, stop, walk back and smile in disbelief. No, it wasn’t yet another Banksy display – not here in sunny Sutton Coldfield! – it was the packaging displaying the brand name ‘Challenge Xtreme’ and the realisation of the content: a lawnmower.
Little did I know then that the brand also comprises more home grooming products, such as a grass trimmer and a screw driver. Is it just me or is there a disparity between the brand name and the product? Should trimming or mowing your lawn be associated with ‘challenge extreme’? What does it tell me about the brand? Is it an extreme challenge to operate? Will it always break or is it challenging to store? I just want a lawn mower that is  ‘extremely easy’ or ‘the quick and simple’.
There are of course other lawn mower brands and a quick search on Argos reveals the following list:

Black and Decker, Bosch and Flymo are brand names that connect with attributes such as quality, reliability and technology. Especially Flymo stands for ease and comfort when keeping that famous English lawn neat and tidy.  I am not much of a gardener, so the other brands are unknown to me and, apart from Qualcast reminding me of the “It’s a lot less bother than a hover” controversy against Flymo many moons ago, they don’t evoke much feeling or reaction. Challenge and Challenge Xtreme, however, stick out like sore thumbs and I don’t quite get the brand strategy surrounding the product name.
Are they targeting a nichè of ninja gardeners? Is there a secret society of cutting-edge DIY practitioners who will require the emotional backup of a Challenge Xtreme screwdrivers to conquer those plasterboard walls and hang up some pictures?
Perhaps I should hang out in garden centres a bit more and see who goes for the Challenge or Challenge Xtreme – it may be one surprising tribe to belong to in and outside the house…

brand names, brand personality, Brand Strategy

The Brand as an Asset – As Proven by Ford

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

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

brand icon, Brand Strategy, emotional brand

A Fashion Item to Chew On

It’s a far stretch in my mind, but it seems the creators of Kellogg’s are the next brand to enter the world of fashion. Their first special edition designer handbag by Australian fashion designer Kirrily Johnston was announced this week.
It does have a pocket for holding the Special K snack bar but I am somewhat bemused and curious if this will be a sell out or just a fad…

Kelloggs special k handbag
What if I put my Mars Bar in the pocket?!

The cost of the handbag, which is made from calf leather and has a handcrafted detachable tassel for a key ring, is around $750 and I will be really interested to see who will buy this. At this price point, is a cereal brand really attractive enough to make a woman who could spend that money on an established handbag or fashion brand to splash out on the Kellogg’s handbag?
Maybe they will and it’s genius. Maybe they won’t and it will move to the section of ‘brand extensions that didn’t work out’.

brand extension, Brand Strategy, Branding, product development

SME Branding Lesson #15 – Be Generous

20120426-220713.jpg
It’s been twice now in recent weeks that I have been surprised by the generosity of businesses who didn’t have to, but did go beyond expectations.
I was about to travel with my youngest son to see the great grandma quite a long way away and someone made me aware that my break lights stopped working. So I headed to the local garage since I never had the opportunity to do that type of car DIY myself and asked if they could change the bulbs for me. The mechanic booked me in and we got the pushchair put so I could take the kids home and leave the car there. (Hurray to truly local businesses).
What happened next was sweetly unexpected – he came back to me fumbling in his pockets and pulled out two pound coins. One for each son to put in their money box – for good luck.
My car was fixed for less than 10 Pounds within the hour and I was left happy and ready to send any car owner their way!
It wasn’t that they had some marketing theme, some ‘buy one, get one free’ offer or a prize draw for getting more customers – they were simply human and tried to make my life easy and put a smile on my face.
At the weekend we visited York and ventured into a board game shop to get an expansion for Dominion. My husband joked whether they would give a birthday discount (it was his 40th that day) and a few seconds later the shop manager came out of the wood works (ok, the window sill) and told his staff to give us 10% off. How nice was that!
Again, there was no email subscription offer, no referral scheme, just good old customer friendliness and unexpected generosity.
It’s something I think any brand can learn from. We spend all this time, effort and money to give brands a human face but sometimes the simplest human interaction is worth a hundred campaigns. It doesn’t have to involve money, and it’s not about just giving away things, it’s about relevancy and an appropriate response that allows people to feel connected to your business.
Think about how you can add value to a customer’s purchase. Can you train your staff to be able to take liberties and react to enhance a purchasing experience? Is there another way to engage with shoppers apart from the age old ‘can I help you with something’ question?
Put yourself in your client’s shoes and try to create an experience with your product or service that will keep your brand in their mind and on their tongues when recommending you to others.

Brand Strategy

SME Branding Lesson #14 – The Downsides of Niche Brands

Having written about niche brands and why they are a great way to dominate the market place, demand higher prices and have the ‘expert factor’, here are some thoughts on potential issues with being so specialised and targeted.
Don’t Get Stuck in a Niche

Brand diversity
Niche can be too niche...

I have a vast portfolio of work within the hotel and leisure industry as well as arts and culture. However, was I to concentrate on these sectors alone, a number of issues would occur, including the number of clients I can work with without causing problems with competition, the fear of clients that my work may be repetitive if I am not exposed to other markets, the danger of the industry being in trouble and marketing budgets being cut; not to forget my own personal longing for diverse problem solving within a multitude of industries and company sizes.I guess it is about finding the right balance between being a ‘Jack of all trades’ and a master of not a lot of industry.
Whatever your niche market, make sure your product and service are far reaching and adaptable to a larger playing field.
Keep Your Eye on the Mainstream 
Mainstream brands
Step out of the niche and into the world of household brand names

Starting out as a niche, you may find yourself comfortable and secure – but it may be a good idea to strive for a larger market long-term. We all know the typical global ‘household brands’. Apple, for instance, used to be very focused on the designer’s market alone before breaking into the mainstream with their innovative iPod and iMac many years ago now.
Being a niche brand, you may never consider that step – but it’s a good one to aim for if you want to grow into a global brand with the relevant advantages of a much larger market and influence.That’s not to say mainstream is the ultimate solution for brands – BlackBerry are just abandoning the consumer market in favour of going back to their roots in targeting businesses, Dell is another example that struggled with trying to be everything to everyone.
Sometimes though, a niche (such as FairTrade for instance) becomes relevant and popular with a large part of society and is the next step for a brand.
So, if it suits your product, service and the demand on the markets, mainstream is a viable aim. On the upside, retailers are discovering more and more the power of niche brands and are offering smaller brands valuable shelf space.
Innovation is Key (again…)

brand Innovation
Make sure your niche has its place in the future

Even though you may be the expert in your field and have a great reputation, without innovation and pushing your brand and its boundaries, the competition will catch up and overtake you in the long run.Purchasing preferences even in specialised sectors change and evolve so be aware and step out of your comfort zone to explore new value-adding products and services – or markets.

Brand Strategy, niche branding

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

… advertise that is the question.

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

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

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

A Case of Benetton

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

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

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

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

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

Creatively Direct

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

Tridos direct response ad

Out of the Question

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

advertising, Brand Strategy, Branding, SME

SME Branding Lesson #11 – Be Straight in Your Communications

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

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

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

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

attitude, brand management, Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

SME Branding Lesson #9 – Why Bother with Branding?

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

Brand Strategy, SME

Homebase Rebrand – Rebel Without a Cause?

This week saw the launch of the new homebase brand, designed by Design Bridge. The result was received rather lukewarm with a hint of disappointment at least by the design community.

Homebase_logo 2012
"Initially the brief asked us not to change the logo, but as the project developed it became clear that the logo required an evolution to reflect the creative look and feel and tone of voice that we developed for the brand." (Design Bridge)

Most agree that it is certainly an evolution instead of a revolution – if rebrand is indeed the correct term for this logo development.
Homebase Logo
Flat and one dimensional. And now much better – apparently.

I wonder if we are missing some information here. Why did the company feel the need to change the graphics? Some speculate that Homebase is attempting to better align itself with the newly acquired Habitat brand.
If they are trying to position themselves as the duller, more conventional brand of the two, perhaps that’s a job well done – but I don’t feel that this logo change alone is going to actually change the perception of the brand sufficiently enough.
It was perhaps not the wisest move to make it a big piece of PR as the usual comments of those just looking at the result will inevitably be along the lines of ‘I could have done that in five minutes’ and ‘how can they spend money on this’.
Tropicana rebranded packaging
Where is the brand name? And what makes this look any different from supermarket's own brands?

Perhaps they were trying to avoid a branding disaster of the scale of Tropicana. Like so many others, the brand, owned by Pepsico, intended to bring their classic packaging design with the widely recognised straw-in-an-orange image into the 21st Century.
However, they seemed to have forgotten that a successful rebrand involves not just the design of a new logo or packaging identity, but includes re-evaluating and adjusting a company’s goals, brand message and, importantly, company culture.
Instead, they rolled out completely new packaging without any other evidence of re-positioning and with the added flaw in that their consumers did not recognise the new packaging as Tropicana’s because too many elements of the design had moved.
The original branding for the Tropicana carton
The straw, the orange, the brand name bang in the middle. It was familiar and it worked.

The packaging  was no longer familiar or easy to spot on the supermarket shelves. After lots of complaints and plummeting sales, the company did a u-turn and went back to the old design, proving the power of the consumer and that we are all creatures of habit…
Changing things too much certainly won’t be  an issue for the Homebase logo. Which brings me back to the question ‘Why do it at all and so publicly?’
Design Bridge says, ‘Across all touch points, we have injected depth and light to move from flat, primary colours to a more natural and optimistic palette.’
That may be so – but did they have to plop it in yet another circle? I really wished I could see the creative cleverness in this – but then again, retail has its own science behind its success and this may be just the right mixture of keeping the brand identity close to its past whilst adding some new elements to ‘play with’ in different touch points.
It remains to be seen how the brand is rolled out across the website and company literature and perhaps it will complete a new picture Homebase and is going to paint.
In the meantime, I am afraid it looks like yet another rebrand without a cause – be it because it was death by committee, fear of bold change or lack of inspiration. I wonder what B&Q will do next!

Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Logos

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

SME Branding Lesson #5 – Define a Brand Promise You Can Keep

Trip Advisor brand logo
The slogan is promising:  “reviews that you can trust”. But following a host of media attention in recent months, it seems Trip Advisor has to re-think its brand promise following a ruling of the Advertising Standards Authority that they should not “major on trustworthiness if fake reviews can appear”. More information can be found in this BBC news article:
TripAdvisor rebuked over ‘trust’ claims on review site.
A brand promise is the brand’s essence – a single minded statement that sums up the brand. Phillips is ‘sense and simplicity’; Apple ‘Think Different’; Starbucks ‘the third place’; Volvo stands for safety and Coca Cola for ‘refreshment and happiness’. So if a company like Trip Advisor positions itself as the source of ‘over 50 million honest reviews’, it better live up to its promise or risks damaging both reputation and trust. It will have to be seen how the brand will react to the ASA ruling and if it can maintain its top position in future.
It takes a long time to instill a brand’s essence in the minds and hearts of consumers. It takes just one incidence to break it. Remember Gerald Ratner who in 1991 wiped out a 500 mio fortune with one speech?

Ratners
Ratner said: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.” And he added that his stores’ earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”.

BP’s ‘Beyond Petroleum’ was a challenging promise at the best of times but really came to haunt the oil giant when disaster struck.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/MTdKa9eWNFw?]
During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where 11 rig workers lost their lives,  an unfortunate remark made by CEO Tony Hayward (‘I want my life back’) added fuel to the fire of the actual accident and led to the company dropping out of the top 100 brands index because the difference between their strategy and reality became emphasised and highlighted the fact that it could not keep its promises.
So, when you define your brand essence, make sure you don’t make promises you can not fulfil. It’s easier to improve on an offering and to add value to customers than to disappoint and backtrack.
I guess a key factor is to truly understand where your value lies for your customers today and in future and to identify where you are different to your direct and indirect competitors to create a memorable brand promise that will live up to its meaning.

Brand Strategy, Brand Vision, SME

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

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

Loosing that Kodak moment

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

An innovation race – can Filofax still compete?

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

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

Finding a point of difference

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

Hesitation – for and against the brand

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

So, what could a long-term strategy be?

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

Another thought for long-term innovation

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

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

Brand Strategy, differentiation

SME Branding Lesson #3 – Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate

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

Circulon brand differentiation
Standing out amongst the crowd

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

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

Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

SME Branding Lesson #1 – Show the Right Attitude

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

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

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

attitude, Brand Strategy, SME

Clever Dove Flies with the X-Factor

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


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

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

Brand Strategy

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

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

1. Be True

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

Be true
Is everyone drawing the same brand image?

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

2) Be innovative

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

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

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

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

3) Be creative

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

Be creative
Levis did something different...

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

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

4) Be in love

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

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

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

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

5) Be defiant

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

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

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

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

6) Be focused

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

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

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

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

7) Be different

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

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

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

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

8) Be human

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

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

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

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

brand management, Brand Strategy, marketing

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

BBC plugging blackberry? What is it about product placement?

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

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

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

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

Could it be any more obvious?

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

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

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

brand management, Brand Strategy, product placement

When the image compromises the message

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

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

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

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

Brand Strategy, Funny, graphic design

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HUMAN RESOURCE SYSTEMS REVIEW

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

STRATEGY REVIEW

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

MARKETING RESEARCH REVIEW

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

EMPLOYEE INTERVIEWS

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

PROPRIETARY BRAND RESEARCH

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

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

brand, brand audit, Brand Strategy, Branding

KISS your brand

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

Lost brand values
Woolworths alienated customers by trying to please everyone

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

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

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

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

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

Brand Strategy

Enter The Thinking Hotel

brand strategy in the making
A collaborative journey to define the thinking hotel

I’ve been to London on Saturday to take part in a prototype day for ‘The Thinking Hotel’, an initiative to develop a brand strategy business model run by Maria Ana Neves and her colleagues.
Hidden away in London’s busy West End is ‘the loft’, a friendly, trendy meeting space that hosted the event. We checked in midday and went through a series of mini workshops to define The Thinking Hotel’s brand personality, typical character of a customer, the actual customer journey and the influences of trends based on the current state of politics, the economy, social behaviour etc.
It was creative thinking and collaborating at its best. Sharing thoughts with other makes you realise how many different angles there are to even the most basic problem or task. How important in terms of branding it is to really dig deep and understand who you are talking to and what you are trying to say. How if there is no clear strategy behind a brand, there is no real substance and the whole identity becomes a house of cards ready to be blown over. Equally, how powerful a business can become by employing a design-led, creative strategy to engage with their customers/clients and thrive by having a holistic model of communication.
I was very much focused on the actual ‘container’ the name suggested, eg you arrive at a proper physical building, check in, go to your room and through a series of events pre-defined to take you on your journey.
What I learned very quickly is that as a model it can work a much more varied number of ways – a collaboration portal that you enter online? A mixture of online and offline meetings? Something from creative thinkers for creative thinkers? Or for corporations who are stuck in their ways? A spa for the mind? Or an adventure day out for the mind? Something you pay for? Something you pay for with ideas?
It will be great to see the outcome of the workshop, what the other participants made of it and how The Thinking Hotel will take shape as a business.
Congratulations to Maria Ana for once again pushing the conventional practices of brand strategy and developing new tools to help both creative thinkers and business owners keep up with the 21st Century.

Brand Strategy, Branding, creative collaborations

YMCA US – New Brand Lacks Decisiveness and Vision

… well, in my mind, anyway. Having just worked myself on a new brand vision and brand design for the Forest YMCA in East London, I had heard about the ongoing re-branding exercise of the US equivalent, and was eagerly awaiting their approach.

Now that it’s here, I am somewhat underwhelmed. Yes, it is more colourful, thus easier to work with in a brand management sense. Yes, the shape is more pleasing and gives a sense of direction rather than a warning sign.
The approach of treating the ‘Y’ as the main icon flew out of our concepts pretty much stage one lacking the spirit, drive and innovation the Forest YMCA in East London wanted to be associated with. That may not be relevant for the US branch, but typographically the new visual looks like  a compromise that is not quite working on the web when the logo is a small size. Why is the organisation not confident enough to do what it says in the press release and be ‘The Y’ without including the original initials YMCA on the side of the logo? They look out of proportion,  like an afterthought, and they shift the balance of the logo to be bottom heavy.

It seems an odd decision that may well be due to ‘death by committee’ – and may have caused the designers involved to tear their hair out in despair, or it may be a very different vision and understanding of the brand this side of the Atlantic.
Whatever the reasons, I personally think it is a shame that an organisation of such statue, history and positive drive has shied away from a truly innovative brand strategy and has decided to use a design that is pushing the identity merely into the 90s (of the last century that is…)

Brand Strategy

Get in touch

We'd love to have a chat – feel free to drop us a line at info@essence-design.co.uk

Copyright © 2018 Essence Design Ltd