brand strategy consultants

 

The Weekly B.S.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Weekly B.S. is a conversation of thought-provoking reports from around the world addressing brands and B.S., otherwise known as brand strategy.

The key to any effective branding effort is to change and take ownership of the conversation.

Marketing today is often little more than the equivalent of shouting on a street corner. When you shout, people tune you out.

In contrast, when you whisper people are forced to pay attention, to lean forward, to become engaged.

Whether you agree with the reports included here, or take a different view as we often do, you are invited to this conversation of brands and the stories they tell.

The Weekly B.S. is hosted by Whisper. Contact us to learn more of how to own the conversation® among audiences you seek to attract and influence.

This week’s B.S.:

From teehan+lax - Toronto, Canada
The experience is the brand
An example of how to deliver on a brand promise.

From Brand Insight Blog - Bend, Oregon, USA
Put some meat in your marketing messages.
For ad agencies, strategy is not a deliverable.

From Advertising Age - New York
How Apple Is Blurring the Line Between Marketing and Service
There’s an unmistakable “service is marketing” mantra pervading every aspect of the Apple Store. And that’s something every brand, even those not as shiny as Apple’s, can learn from. The opportunity to solve problems, find solutions and even address “the darn thing doesn’t work” emotional pain-points all lead to a higher impact-marketing and sales proposition.

From Globe and Mail - Toronto, Canada
The art and science of maintaining, improving brand image
Want more than 15 minutes of fame? Think brand longevity. Companies that grow stronger through the years have a strong sense of their brand; they can figure out what to add and what to subtract from the brand story, and always continue to capture the imagination.

From Ugandan Mass Media and Entertainment - Uganda
Sporting Glory Cannot Create a Nation Brand
Winning medals and sporting accolades alone do not create a brand. A national brand, any brand, is created by appealing to as many of an audience’s senses as possible.

From The Star - Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Wanted: Niche brand for Malaysia
Malaysia needs to find a niche market to sell the Malaysian brand name to the world.

From the New York Times - USA
Yo, Brooklyn Brand, Whassup?
The Brooklyn brand means different things to different people.

From Malta Independent Online - Malta
Reaching out
A brand implies a promise, or rather a set of promises, which a potential client immediately understands when considering buying a particular product.

From Newsweek - USA
The Best Brand? No Brand
While none of us likes to think of himself as a brand obsessed zombie who uses his credit cards to purchase an identity, our behavior often tells a different story.

From Turkish Daily News - Ankara, Turkey
Creating brands only way for textile
Turkey has to get rid of the ‘contract manufacturer’ image and invest in creating brands.

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The Unintended Result of a Hospital “Branding” Attempt

As any oncologist or medical expert will tell you, the best cancer is a dead one.

St. Joseph Hospital has excitedly announced the opening of their new Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment, located in Orange, California.

The public opening next month is the result of a years long effort to bring cancer care to the forefront of this locally respected institution.

The hospital is part of the St. Joseph’s Health System, a ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange.

Yet, rather than dead, at St. Joseph’s new Cancer Center, cancer is arguably ALIVE, as seen in this newspaper insert.

While the decision makers at St. Joseph Hospital might be given the benefit of the doubt—with what one may only assume is an unintended outcome at “branding” their new Center—nevertheless the good Sisters of St. Joseph may wish to ask their hospital’s leadership what in God’s name they were thinking.

The St. Joseph’s ALIVE campaign serves as another illustration of how often organizations may say they want branding, but are often unable to think beyond advertising, and ad agencies.

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The Weekly B.S.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Weekly B.S. is a conversation of thought-provoking reports from around the world addressing brands and B.S., otherwise known as brand strategy.

The key to any effective branding effort is to change and take ownership of the conversation.

Marketing today is often little more than the equivalent of shouting on a street corner. When you shout, people tune you out.

In contrast, when you whisper people are forced to pay attention, to lean forward, to become engaged.

Whether you agree with the reports included here, or take a different view as we often do, you are invited to this conversation of brands and the stories they tell.

The Weekly B.S. is hosted by Whisper. Contact us to learn more of how to own the conversation® among audiences you seek to attract and influence.

This week’s B.S.:

From The Marketing Minute - Des Moines, Iowa, USA
Tim Russert - a lesson in branding
The sign of an extraordinary brand is that we can’t imagine what we’d replace it with.

From Irish Independent - Dublin, Ireland
What’s in a name?
How can it make sense for anyone to abandon a brand with massive recognition and value?

From The Financial Brand - Seattle, USA
Banks: Less differentiated than a bar of soap
For some reason, soap manufacturers have figured out something most financial institutions haven’t. Nearly 100% of soap brands differentiated themselves.

From Inquirer.net - Makati City, Philippines
How branding helps widen market reach
The story of the House of Polvoron.

From Business Week - New York
How P&G Brought Back Herbal Essences
It updated a stale mass-market shampoo brand to appeal to younger Gen Y and Millennial women. “We totally reframed the proposition.”

From Emirates Business 24/7 - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Banks in the UAE suffer image problem
Banking institutions are facing a perception dilemma with about 75 per cent of UAE consumers thinking all banks in the country offer the same services. One of the reasons is the “not yet matured” strategy of branding and advertising firms in the region.

From find creativity in the world - Toronto
A Brand: start with one word
If you want to ensure you’re developing a brand that works then make it an authentic reflection of your organization. How do you start? Start with one word.

From mjblog - Toronto
Finally! An intelligent and optimistic view of Canadian brands: Ikonica
Canadian companies can win globally on the basis of our own particular brand genius.

From The Chronicle Herald - Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Never underestimate the power of a brand
The power of branding was never more evident in Canadian circles than in the last week with the drama surrounding that decades-old Canadian favourite, the Hockey Night in Canada theme song.

From the Toronto Star - Ontario, Canada
Unlocking the desire code
The most meaningful objects (are) rarely chosen on the basis of some intrinsic, rational property, like marketplace value, quality, simple aesthetic pleasure, or anything that an economist might describe as ‘utility.’

From TheDieline.com - Los Angeles
Branding is Like Dating
Branding really is like dating. It requires a lot of hard work, truth, self-confidence, and growth.

From 코리아타임즈 / The Korea Times - South Korea
Korea’s Image, Brand in Trouble
There is something more important sinking equally as fast. It is the image of Korea. Korea’s image and brand are falling in the global society in the midst of pandemonium here.

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Whisper | A Brand Demonstration

We are often asked of the origin of our name.

Whisper is our brand name, the name of our company, a reflection of our brand promise and a demonstration of effective branding.

The story behind the creation of our own brand demonstrates how we think of brand opportunities faced by most any organization and more importantly how, by turning to us, an organization may solve them.

Whisper was created to assist and guide companies through what are often complex issues of brand evaluation, brand creation and brand deployment.

In addition to the usual struggles of getting the positioning pitch perfect—the marketing industry is so large and the lines between advertising, public relations, graphic design, and branding are so often blurred, we knew finding a “between-the-eyes” audience connection would be vexing.

We relied upon storytelling.

The 5-Second Story

The key was to develop an entry point into the minds of those we seek to attract and influence—an effective 5-second story—to prompt a mental stop allowing further engagement in a real conversation about their needs and how we would address them.

Our 5-second story had to instantly induce our audience to pause and internalize the story, prompting a desire to “pay” to hear more—literally “paying” when they pay attention, paying with their time and mental effort.

Whatever our 5-second story might be, it had to offer something new and authentic, a never heard before narrative. Ours had to offer the equivalent of electric shock therapy to snap preconceptions about the discipline of branding, providing a now we’re paying attention moment for our firm to frame itself. Because such preconceptions are strong and not easily brushed aside, the audience needs to come away questioning their assumptions, their stereotypes, as if to say, “THIS is branding? Wow, I had no idea.”

Playing By The Rules

Our story had to demonstrate how to successfully play by the rules.

World class brand strategy honors certain inalienable rules. These rules, or Laws of Branding, cannot be ignored or dismissed IF a brand creation exercise is to be successful.

Ignore the Laws of Branding, and any so-called “branding effort” devolves into a far more expensive advertising campaign of little long term effect.

It is one thing to advocate certain laws, and not follow them. Our brand had to demonstrate how an adherence to the rules, through an effective process discipline, creates a successful brand.

Positioning, Positioning, Positioning

Whether creating a new brand or rebranding an established one, a branding project is really a positioning project—first develop the brand positioning, then name that positioning. Since branding is about demonstrating ideas and advertising is about explaining them, we needed a market position that demonstrated rather than explained the Why of our firm. The brand name also had to work on a multinational, cross-cultural basis.

The best means of engaging a consumer is through a one-on-one communication. It’s intimate. It’s personal.

Getting inside the head of your consumer is the objective. This personalized intimacy is far more credible and effective than any mass media in building a long-term relationship.

To drive this engagement, great brand positioning results in a tip-of-the-spear name and often tagline, the crucial first point of audience contact for any organization, product, or place.

Smarter than Advertising

Our business objective was to develop a brand position leading to a name and tagline driving awareness—without the support of advertising dollars. We were, after all, a start-up business. As with any entrepreneurial venture, we had to make every dollar count.

Our brand had to open a window into the minds of organization decision-makers we seek to influence, who when finding us on the Internet or by word-of-mouth are moved to ask for more about us and how we work.

A brand position demonstrating an intuitive reason to learn more about us would tap into stories and layers of imagery existing within the human mind.

Branding Is Competitive Sport

We developed a competitive analysis, necessary to understand the competitive context of any brand. What names and key messages are owned by competitors, and how effective are they?

While many firms say they offer branding services, their brand names and key messages do not demonstrate storytelling expertise.

For example, consider firms with names such as Wolff Olins, Landor, Prophet, MarketShare Partners, Brandtrust, GSD&M, Interbrand, or FutureBrand. What do those names convey? Is it:

    • A law firm?
    • Cigarette?
    • Venture capital group?
    • Alphabet soup?
    • Trucking company?
    • An indefinite time forever unreachable, a promise forever unfulfilled?

Each name misses the tip-of-the-spear opportunity to demonstrate competitive difference, and must be explained before understanding the “why” of the organization the name represents.

None map back into the fundamental basis for the existence of the branding discipline—communication.

Naming Narcissism

There is another, often counterintuitive, consideration. A brand name should turn the focus away from the organization or product it represents, and instead serve as an introduction to the benefit a customer may receive.

Rather than a chest thumping brand name blaring “Me, Me, Me”—for example, a founder’s last name, or a presumptively self-flattering capability such as Prophet—a name should intuitively tap into a benefit of significance to the intended audience.

The principle is basic to human behavior and response. For example, at a social gathering one creates far more goodwill by speaking in terms of interest to others, rather than the tiresome bore who speaks constantly of himself.

Building the Customer Relationship

As our competitive analysis revealed, no brand consultancy had yet developed a self-propelling evocative brand name. This result pointed to our market opportunity, further defined as assisting clients in thinking of brand as an asset rather than expense, and brand development as a powerful and cost-efficient customer relationship tool.

Like many others in our business, the intellectually lazy way out of naming ourselves would have been to use the last names of our founding partners — Cranford, Manning & Jurisch — or by an acronym such as CMJ. However, founder-based brand names are chosen primarily to stroke the egos of the founders, and demonstrate a complete lack of strategic thought.

We might also have chosen a functional name such as BusinessBrand, invented name such BrandFly, non-English name such as Sermo (Latin for conversation), or an experiential name such as CompetitiveAdvantage Partners. However, whether a functional, invented or experiential brand name, none offer the self-propelling emotional imagery and narrative creating natural, and inevitable, human engagement.

When the human mind discovers an instinctive solution properly labeled, the discovery serves as a prompt for the mind to stop, lean forward, examine closely, and seek more information. Accomplish this, and a brand name shows up daily and goes to work without advertising.

Breakthrough

Rather than positioning our brand with a built-in need to explain our relevancy, we zeroed in on this thought, “The key to any effective marketing or branding effort is to change and take ownership of the conversation.”

Marketing today is often little more than the equivalent of shouting on a street corner, with the shouters believing the loudest win. When you shout, people tune you out.

In a culture saturated with messages being screamed at consumers from every direction, employing superlatives like “best”, “number one”, “leading”, “favorite”, “great”, “unique”, and so on, it’s no wonder that people have evolved highly sensitive and effective BS indicators.

When you whisper, on the other hand, people are forced to pay attention, to lean forward, to become engaged. To whisper is to exchange valuable, privileged information, to communicate intimately, emotionally and strategically, and to make yourself heard as human rather than as a product, all without yelling yourself hoarse.

Competitive Separation

Branding must create long-term competitive advantage to increase market share. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Our process pointed to a brand position that could get us inside the mind of our target audience and keep us there. This position would demonstrate a different mindset and approach, and tap into a wealth of existing imagery. It would penetrate the human mind by successfully navigating the white noise of marketing industry self-promotion, and frame the answer to “Why we exist” as one of personal one-on-one immediacy.

Following the same process we use with clients, we had no choice but to name our company Whisper. The name moves across borders easily, creating engagement whether in the United Arab Emirates, or the United States. And because our positioning is all about looking at branding as balance sheet asset creation, by changing and taking ownership of the market conversation to grow market share, it became obvious our tagline should be Own The Conversation.

One of the most important accomplishments of the best brands is being thought of as greater than the functional goods and services offered. “Nike - Just Do It” helps the company rise above selling sneakers. “Apple - Think Different” taps into far more than computers. “Las Vegas - What Happens Here, Stays Here” is bigger than a vacation destination.

These breakthroughs lead to a transactional narrative where the organization, product, or place speaks for itself.

As for Whisper, we don’t think there’s a better name out there demonstrating branding thought leadership.

And that’s our story.

It’s a strategy validated many times since by, among others, this futurist and author.

Turning To You

You should always have the highest expectations for your brand, and the story you share.

When looking for a partner to assist in developing your own brand, and the best means to attract the audience you seek to engage, ask yourself:

How did the firm I am considering brand themselves?

The insight gained from the answer will prove invaluable, IF you are unwilling to settle for incrementalism for building the reputation of your organization, and if you seek the fullest development of your brand assets and the opportunity to grow market share.

Let’s talk about your story, and how to own the conversation within your industry.

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The Weekly B.S.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Weekly B.S. is a conversation of thought-provoking reports addressing brands and B.S., otherwise known as brand strategy.

The key to any effective branding effort is to change and take ownership of the conversation. You are invited to this conversation of brands and the stories they tell.

The Weekly B.S. is hosted by Whisper. Contact us to learn more of how to own the conversation® among audiences you seek to attract and influence.

This week’s B.S.:

From Business Line - Chennai, India
The sin of retail
Through discounts a marketer is boosting temporary sales volume, but denting his brand image. Discounts have never built brands, and never will.

From The Marketing Fresh Peel - Oklahoma City, USA
Brand Strategy a World Apart
When it comes to building strong brands in Asia, you’ll find a consistent strategy repeated again and again. And it’s very different from how Americans tend to approach brand strategy.

From Law.com - San Francisco
Without Trump Name, Buyers of Luxury Condos Want to Back Out
Donald Trump says he’s “honored” to be a subject in a lawsuit brought by about 80 buyers of luxury condominiums who say they’re victims of a fraudulent sales program. “Everybody wants to have the name Trump,” he said.

From Cool Marketing Stuff - Seattle, USA
Cool Blog Branding
Even though blogs are a great way to communicate with your customers and gain an online presence, most companies still don’t have a blog. One example of a company that is not afraid to experiment is Dry Soda.

From The Wall Street Journal - New York
Gap to Combine Brands In Single Stores to Save
Gap Inc. plans to close a handful of small stand-alone GapBody, GapKids and babyGap stores to test a new strategy of consolidating Gap brand offerings in its namesake stores and reduce its square footage. A Gap spokesman says they see a “great halo effect when we have all the sub-brands together within Gap.”

From AdWeek - New York
These Tags Are It
Can a return to popular taglines of yore help restore a brand’s luster?

From Business Week - USA
How Will Bill Clinton Manage His Brand?
Clinton said he lost the “battle of branding” to the Republicans during his Administration. “[The Republicans] were brilliant at branding. They said they were about values…Everybody is a values voter, but they got the brand…they said they were against the death tax…God, what a great brand.” The former President went on: “I did a disservice to the American people not by putting forth a bad plan, but by not being a better brander, not being able to explain it better.”

From Business Week - New York
A Practical Guide to Branding
Define your brand identity—your product’s “personality”—before you spend a dime on advertising or marketing.

From the Detroit Free Press - Detroit, Michigan, USA
Chrysler gears up to use criticism to address shortcomings
ChryslerChairman and Chief Executive Officer Robert Nardelli fired off an e-mail to all company employees, saying that instead of putting up defenses, Chrysler workers should seek to understand the harshest critics of the company. And then get to work on solving the shortcomings cited by those critics.

From Advertising Age - USA
Build Your Brand by Thinking Like a Fighter
A brand’s most valuable customer is no longer the loyal one who purchases a lot and often; it’s the one who may buy little but whose blog postings, online product reviews and favorable word of mouth influences others.

From CNNMoney.com - Bentonville, Arkansas, USA
Wal-Mart doing well by doing good
CEO says the retailer’s efforts to be more responsive to social concerns appears to be paying off at the checkout.

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The Brand Strategy of Warren Buffett

Warren Buffett loves cheeseburgers and cokes.

He also loves brands.

Buffett is a brand investor, with an investment strategy that reads like a branding primer, in this from the Washington Post:

From his growing list of acquisitions, Warren E. Buffett seems to be investing like the world’s richest 10-year-old boy, if that boy lived in 1955 America.

He is Coca-Cola’s largest shareholder. He owns Dairy Queen. Last year, Buffett got a train set, buying into Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway. And in late April, he bought a piece of the world’s largest candy store, sinking $6.5 billion into the Mars-Wrigley chocolate-and-bubble gum merger…

In the eyes of many, the Oracle of Omaha…looks like a brand investor.

Brand investors buy companies with well-known or well-regarded names — Apple, Tiffany, Disney and McDonald’s, to name a few…

Brand name companies…can often charge more for their products than their less-established competitors and weather tough times more smoothly because of their loyal customer bases. They also have the ability to leverage their name recognition to increase business — whether it’s expanding operations by attracting more Marriott hotel franchisees, launching a new flavor of Crest toothpaste or extending the Clorox brand from bleach to moist towelettes…

“Brands…[provide their owners] pricing power that allows the business to maintain margins throughout varying economic periods. Secondly, you get repeat business. And those two things lead to consistent earnings.”

Branded products companies have a higher propensity to pass along price increases when they have increasing costs themselves…

“The consumer is buying more than just the raw material… They’re buying something else, whether it’s a trusted relationship, or confidence in the product, an acknowledgment of a higher quality.”

In recent weeks these pages have explored the links between brands and authenticity, otherwise known as trust.

Rather than a slogan or logo, the process behind effective branding is about creating and reinforcing confidence - trust - in the benefits offered by an organization, product or place.

Brand investors agree.

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Branding Wisdom From Malaysia

According to K.C. Tan, managing director of Signature International, having a strong brand has everything to do with a company’s success:

“When you invest in branding, you invest in the future of your business. I firmly believe that business success and brand strategy go hand in hand.”

We agree.

Effective branding and business success are inseparable.

You can read more about Mr. Tan’s company and his thoughts on brand positioning and business success in The Star from Malaysia.

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The Weekly B.S.

Friday, June 6, 2008

The Weekly B.S. is a conversation of thought-provoking reports addressing brands and B.S., otherwise known as brand strategy.

The key to any effective branding effort is to change and take ownership of the conversation. You are invited to this conversation of brands and the stories they tell.

The Weekly B.S. is hosted by Whisper. Contact us to learn more of how to own the conversation® among audiences you seek to attract and influence.

This week’s B.S.:

From The Marketing Spot - Waco, Texas, USA
Launch a Brand Campaign Instead of an Ad Campaign
Ad campaigns are temporary, brand campaigns invite customer relationships.

From Career Management Alliance Blog - Peterborough, New Hampshire, USA
The Fiercer the Competition, the More Branding and Differentiating Yourself Make Sense
A recent article by Lisa Belkin in the New York Times highlighted the stories of a few job seekers who went to unusual lengths to stand out above the competition. These risk-takers may not have been aware that they were branding themselves, but the hiring-decision makers considering them certainly were. Having the courage to be different really paid off for them.

From DearJaneSample.com - Where in the world is…?
Fun with brands - Jane’s Brand-timeline Portrait
Have you ever thought about how many brands you use in a typical day?

From The Wall Street Journal - New York
Pity Party
Mr. Bush has squandered the hard-built paternity of 40 years. But so has the party, and so have its leaders. If [Congressional leaders] had pushed away for serious reasons, they could have separated the party’s fortunes from the president’s. This would have left a painfully broken party, but they wouldn’t be left with a ruined “brand,” as they all say, speaking the language of marketing.

From BBC News Magazine - London
Sweet sweets nostalgia
Why are adults so fascinated by the sweets of the past? At the Museum of Brands, Packaging and Advertising…Curator Robert Opie says the reaction of visitors encountering the most insignificant piece of packaging shows the emotional resonance that sweets have.

From the Ottawa Citizen - Ottawa, Canada
‘God’ needs name change
God needs an image makeover — and there’s no better place to start than with God’s name.

From The Persuader Blog - Wellington, New Zealand
A brand plan makes better sense than a business plan
It’s…more sensible writing a branding…strategy, bringing in how one should manage perceptions, [than a business plan] because it’s through these that customers and audiences will decide whether to bring you any business.

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Brand Trust An Oxymoron?

Are the concepts of brand and trust contradictory? Charles Green of Trusted Advisor Associates ponders this and related questions:

What’s the difference between trust and branding? Or are they the same? Is Brand Trust an intuitively meaningful term? Or an oxymoron?

While the folks at Brandtrust may recoil from a characterization of the phrase brand trust as an oxymoron, these are valid questions, particularly as we see a direct link between great branding and truth telling.

Green suggests that branding be considered “in terms of [his] Trust Equation: a mix of credibility, reliability, intimacy, and low self-orientation.”

So, the real question becomes: do we or do we not trust the people behind the brand? Do we believe in the integrity of the organization putting out the product or service? Do those people in that company really believe what they say? Do they mean for their product to serve us? Or could they just as well be in currency trading or reinsurance as well as whatever they’re doing, because they’re just in it for the money?

That makes sense to me. In the traditional, personal sense of trust, I trust a brand because of what I believe about the people branding it…

Then Green offers this, the money quote:

Branding may be the social version of the individual connection we call trust. It’s accessibly meaningful in narrow senses like reliability. And, it can have that personal meaning when it comes to the authenticity and trustworthiness of those behind the curtain—the ones charged with delivering the brand.

We could not agree more.

Rather than an oxymoron, branding at its best is all about developing trust.

The outcome of effective branding confers upon a product or place a very human ability to rely upon — to trust — a haloed reputation in selecting among competing choices.

Green’s idea that branding is the social version of personal connection commonly referred to as trust is extendable.

One example. Recently we were asked to explain the differences between the branding of a product, and of branding a place, in this instance a city.

Our answer — there is no difference as both engage in efforts to attract and influence people — may have surprised our questioner, as authorities and consultants with assumed expertise often claim a difference, on occasion confusing advertising with branding.

However, places are like companies — those with effective branding find it easier to sell their products, services and experiences, and easier to attract people and investment.

As with a product, a place can offer personal meaning when it comes to the authenticity of those behind the curtain—those charged with delivering on the experience of a place.

As Green suggests, it’s all about trust.

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The Weekly B.S.

Friday, May 30, 2008

The Weekly B.S. is a conversation of thought-provoking reports addressing brands and B.S., otherwise known as brand strategy.

The key to any effective branding effort is to change and take ownership of the conversation. You are invited to this conversation of brands and the stories they tell.

The Weekly B.S. is hosted by Whisper. Contact us to learn more of how to own the conversation® among audiences you seek to attract and influence.

This week’s B.S.:

From the New York Times - USA
Banksable
How Tyra Banks turned herself — fiercely — into a brand. Like her hero, Martha Stewart, Banks wants, most of all, for her name to immediately suggest a distinct point of view. Her brand, like her trademark “tough but still smiling” smile, is consistent in all her shows: serious about the frivolous; empathetic and empowering; and always, always aimed at young women, across all races.

From New Vision - Kampala, Uganda
Sport missing out on power of branding
There exists a dearth of strategic marketing thinking in corporate Uganda. There is little effort to position brands, products and companies, to differentiate them from competitors, make them stand out from the crowd.

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer - Seattle, USA
Amazon finding money in the ‘cloud’
Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos simplified the business of Amazon.com — which has ventured into a whole new arena of computing services — by breaking down its customers into three groups: consumers, third-party sellers and developers.

From The Wall Street Journal - Paris
Dior Pulls Ads With Sharon Stone
French fashion house Christian Dior SA has pulled its advertisements in China that feature Sharon Stone after the actress suggested the country’s earthquake was retribution for its treatment of Tibet. The fact that Dior has become embroiled in Ms. Stone’s political storm is emblematic of the risks for brands that tie themselves to a celebrity’s image.

From mikestopforth - Gauteng, South Africa
When Brand Promises And Experiences Collide…
It’s not often the brand promise matches the brand experience, but when it does, the impression it leaves is priceless.

From The V.Blog - Little Falls, New Jersey, USA
The Trouble With Branding, Why Doing It Right Pays
What’s the trouble with branding? The problem is that branding is being peddled as a brand in itself. Like a hot commodity, entrepreneurs and businesses rush to stock up.

From MarySchmidt.com - Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Why “Branding” Shouldn’t Get Any Respect
IHOP will change name to DineEquity, Inc.

From Forbes - New York
Are Customer Testimonials Smart Marketing Tools?
Customer testimonials are a tried-and-true method for promoting your company. Surely potential customers take notice when those you’ve served in the past are eager to step up and recommend your company, right? Maybe, but there are right and wrong ways to do it. Rather than take the brief book-jacket approach to customer testimonials, try a full-blown case study.

From Kipp Report - Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Branding’s spanking new idea
In Dubai, a new crop of indie branding agencies are bucking the factory trend and looking to compete with the industry giants. Can they make a difference to the branding business?

From Advertising Age - New York
TV Ads ‘a Waste of Money’ for the Back-in-Black Gap
The brand once known for its peppy, elaborate commercials has struggled in recent years to attract consumers in an increasingly competitive retail environment. But now that it’s shelved TV advertising — the brand has been off the airwaves for several quarters — and is focusing on merchandising initiatives, Gap seems to be on the right financial track.

From NEWS.com.au - Sydney, Australia
All in the branding
Company branding is not just a logo. It’s all about perceptions, how your customers or clients view your company and the products and services you provide.

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A City Branding Charlie Foxtrot

If looking for an example of how an attempt at branding a city can devolve into a meaningless exercise, look no further than the experience of Peoria, Arizona.

Peoria retained the services of a so-called “branding” firm that seemingly approaches the process of branding as the development of a tagline or a logo.

As readers of these pages know, a logo or slogan is not a brand.

As reported in The Arizona Republic, the Peoria “branding process” has devolved into this:

Peoria’s new branding slogan is catching flak from members of the public and the City Council.

Peoria has so far spent more than $100,000 in developing a logo and the catchphrase “Naturally Connected” to better market itself… Peoria’s priorities include attracting a major corporation, medical center and college.

A graphics firm was hired for $30,000 to develop the graphics standards such as colors and style for the logo’s use. Another $81,000 was paid to a consulting firm to develop the tagline and logo. “I do have a real concern with the tagline ‘Naturally Connected,’ ” said Councilman Ron Aames… “I think this is off-mark. I think this is a strikeout.”

Aames said at Tuesday’s study session that North Star Destinations Strategies “missed the point” when it created a tagline that is confusing because it can mean so many different things - that Peoria is naturally connected to Lake Pleasant, its rivers and trails, employment opportunities and amenities.

Instead, Aames said, a tagline should be immediately recognizable, such as Budweiser’s “The King of Beers,” Coca Cola’s “It’s The Real Thing” and Home Depot’s “You Can Do It, We Can help.”

Aames recommended more community input on the city’s branding.

Councilman Aames is correct that Peoria’s new tagline, Naturally Connected, is off the mark. But respectfully, he is wrong in suggesting the solution is “more community input.”

However, beyond the reactions of the many airing opinions in the Arizona Republic - the City Manager, members of the City Council, the Economic Development Director, and city residents - the cautionary tale that is now Peoria’s is an example of how often well intentioned city and place branding efforts go awry.

The Peoria experience reveals how the intelligence of an community becomes negatively focused when a consultant offers a brand solution without a tested process discipline, permitting otherwise smart people operating in a redundant fashion to take potshots at each other, without the individual responsibility for a successful outcome. It is of course, a reflection of the leadership of the organization, or upon the leadership of the consultant with presumed expertise, or both.

In the case of Peoria, evidence points to the consultant as the cause of this train wreck.

Why?

When a “branding firm” plagiarizes - unintentionally or no - work found elsewhere, such as how Peoria’s Naturally Connected is also the tagline for a community in Nova Scotia, it opens a window into how a firm works to develop solutions for its clients.

When the CEO of the same brand consultancy is credited with thinking such as this - “[H]e would be hard-pressed to find a negative to two communities having similar slogans” - while the same CEO’s website claims - “…each North Star client faces a unique challenge that requires a unique solution” - the problem comes into sharp relief.

Perhaps the dilemma is best summed up by this tongue-in-cheek press release from a marketing communications agency broadcasting their eagerness to make obscene amounts of money for mediocre creativity:

“From our perspective, there must be something in the water that’s making them overpay for all levels of mediocrity. We sense a real opportunity to make the most of this.”

For Peoria the result is a Charlie Foxtrot and, unfortunately, a waste.

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The Weekly B.S.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Weekly B.S. is a conversation of thought-provoking reports addressing brands and B.S., otherwise known as brand strategy.

The key to any effective branding effort is to change and take ownership of the conversation. You are invited to this conversation of brands and the stories they tell.

The Weekly B.S. is hosted by Whisper. Contact us to learn more of how to own the conversation® among audiences you seek to attract and influence.

This week’s B.S.:

From ERE Media - New York
Southwest Airlines Blog Taps Best of Web 2.0
Labeled “probably the best employment branding site we’ve ever seen, the airline is chatting with you, your neighbor, and your potential next star candidate about lots of Southwest-related things in a new blog, aptly titled Nuts About Southwest.

From The Engaging Brand - Leeds, UK
Does Thinking of a Brand as a Promise Cause a Lack of Ambition?
Many companies cannot articulate what their brand stands for, other than standard lines that cover [1] “Desire for quality,” [2] “Our people are our greatest asset,” [3] “Exceeding customer expectations,” and [4] “Partnering with our customers.”

From the Star-Tribune - Minneapolis, USA
AOL, long associated with dial-up Internet, sheds brand identity to lure specialty audiences
You’ll likely miss the fact that the new Asylum Web site for young men is a creation of Time Warner Inc.’s AOL. Same for WalletPop on personal finance, Spinner on indie music and StyleList on fashion.

From BusinessWeek - USA
Dissed Online? How to Fix Your Brand’s Rep
Today’s consumers don’t hesitate to post their comments, good and bad, on the Internet. Here are some tips for damage control.

From the San Francisco Chronicle - USA
Schwarzenegger calls for ‘rebranding’ GOP
“The Republican idea is a great idea, but we can’t go and get stuck with just the right wing,” California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says. “Let’s let the party come all the way to the center.” “The Republican brand is terrible right now,” said Bill Whalen, a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. “It’s been damaged by a weak presidency … and the various legs on which the Republican platform rests have been kicked away.”

From Harvard Business Online - Boston
Why Zappos Pays New Employees to Quit—And You Should Too
Companies don’t engage emotionally with their customers—people do. If you want to create a memorable company, you have to fill your company with memorable people.

From Advertising Age - New York
Hey, That Nutrasweet Looks Like Splenda
“Sweetener users have been trained to look for the color packet that represents a certain sweet taste profile,” said a spokeswoman for NutraSweet. “Consumers use sweeteners by color. Our goal is to improve each color.”

From Advertising Age - Chicago
Coors Soars as Consistent Cold Train Steams Ahead
In the past year Coors’ brands on the top, middle and bottom shelves have dramatically outperformed their competitors, in some cases by exponential margins — and it’s all credited to a single-minded, if mind-numbing, obsession with brand attributes.

From the Chicago Tribune - USA
Change boosts P&G’s Febreze; nearing $1B sales milestone
A brand needs to stand for something distinctive and authentic in the consumer’s mind.”

From the New York Times - USA
Can a Dead Brand Live Again?
What determines whether a brand lives or dies (or can even come back to life) is usually a quieter process that has more to do with mental shortcuts and assumptions and memories — and all the imperfections that come along with each of those things.

From Bizcommunity.com - Cape Town, South Africa
Engaging your people to turn brand strategy into action
When it comes to brand congruency, one of the biggest challenges businesses face is how to get employees to live out what the brand promises in its adverts and external marketing campaigns. The key lies in effective internal communication that brings about particular behaviours in employees that actively reflect and live out the brand promise.

From Colin Walker - UK
A brand is a promise
Blogging is a strange beast, there is no contract between the blogger and the consumer but by setting out your stall and publishing a feed there is an implied promise that your brand will maintain a certain quality.

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CEOs Take Note: Branding Is Big Business

Brands and branding are big business.

A handful have clearly understood this truth all along.

Now another respected voice is saying the same thing, in this from Brands in the Boardroom: Key branding issues for senior executives, a publication of Intellectual Asset Management Magazine:

The world’s most famous brands have values that can be measured in tens of billions of dollars –real sums that can be realised through securitisation and other methods of monetisation. You need only look at the interest generated today by techniques for calculating brand value to see that brands are now recognised as corporate assets to be audited and managed along similar lines as a company’s more traditional, tangible revenue generators. Employers, investors and other stakeholders expect those running companies to understand the major principles that drive and sustain brand value: after all, we are talking about what can often be the single most important asset a corporation owns.

We agree.

There is more, of course:

Without question, a brand’s ability to communicate an instant message to target audiences is where much of its power and value lie. A strong brand instils trust in consumers, making them feel confident that the choice they are making offers them high levels of consistency and quality. And a strong brand needs to have an identity and a personality that can be protected in all markets where its owners operate or may wish to do so in the future.

Could not have said it better ourselves.

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The Weekly B.S.

Friday, May 16, 2008

The Weekly B.S. is a conversation of thought-provoking reports addressing brands and B.S., otherwise known as brand strategy.

The key to any effective branding effort is to change and take ownership of the conversation. You are invited to this conversation of brands and the stories they tell.

The Weekly B.S. is hosted by Whisper. Contact us to learn more of how to own the conversation® among audiences you seek to attract and influence.

This week’s B.S.:

From the New York Times - New York
Judge Sides With Red Cross Over Trademark
A decision by Johnson & Johnson, the giant health care conglomerate, to sue the American Red Cross last year for commercializing the Red Cross symbol may be turning into a bit of a disaster for the company

From Ted.com - New York
Where does creativity hide?
Novelist Amy Tan digs deep into the creative process, journeying through her childhood and family history and into the worlds of physics and chance, looking for hints of where her own creativity comes from.

From Conde Nast Portfolio - New York
Buying Chanel (All of It)
A back-of-the-envelope calculation of how much the luxury company everyone would love to buy may actually be worth.

From MarketResearch101.com - USA
Small Businesses Need to Project a Consistent Brand Image Too
How Butterfield Market in New York City developed a brand strategy.

From Business Standard - Mumbai, India
Fund houses jump on the brandwagon
If you think that clothes and watches are the only products that need a brand name to cash in on, then think again. Experts believe even mutual funds need a well-known and dependable image to woo investors.

From The Wall Street Journal - New York
Does Being Ethical Pay?
In our tests, consumers were willing to pay a slight premium for ethically made goods. But they went much further in the other direction: They would buy unethically made products only at a steep discount.

From the New York Times - New York
Citi’s New Slogan Is Said to Be Second Choice
Perhaps the next Citigroup tagline should be “Let’s Get It Right.” Three decades after Citicorp introduced “The Citi Never Sleeps,” Citigroup is borrowing from its past. A “Citi Never Sleeps” campaign began being shown in heavy rotation Sunday. But Citigroup’s marketing brain trust passed on that same idea about a year ago, said people with direct knowledge of the branding initiative.

From the Los Angeles Times - Los Angeles
Mercury may be coming to the end of the road
Speculation is mounting that Ford Motor Co., preoccupied with reviving its Ford and Lincoln brands, might decide to retire the Mercury nameplate rather than spend scarce resources trying to restore its former luster.

From The Faculty Lounge - Philadelphia
Is Starbucks Seattle’s Best Coffee?
I may be the last person to the party on this one, but until this very morning, I thought that Seattle’s Best Coffee was a competitor of Starbucks.

From The Moscow Times - Moscow
Rebranding Gazprom
The transfer of presidential power to Dmitry Medvedev will likely mark a turning point in how the world views Gazprom. As much as anything else, Medvedev is expected to preside over the “rebranding” of Russia on the global stage and of its energy sector. This inevitably means a major rebranding of Gazprom as well.

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The Shrinking Advantage of Advertising

At Harvard Business Online, a discussion of the shrinking advantage offered by traditional advertising models:

Quick – what’s the top brand in the world? Coca-Cola? Nope. IBM? Nope. One of GE’s stable of brands? Wrong again.

GoogleLogoAll these players are near the top. But the most powerful brand in the world today is…Google.

Now, that might seem superficially logical. But from a strategic point of view, it’s nothing short of astonishing. Why? Because every other player in the top ten has spent decades – if not literally centuries, as for P&G and Coke – investing billions in advertising to build a brand.

But where these players invest on the order of 5-10% of revenues on advertising, Google’s advertising expenditure is almost exactly zero.

Stop and think about that for a second: the top brand in the world belongs to a player that…uhhh…doesn’t advertise.

The author confuses advertising with branding, when they are in fact two different disciplines. That said, we like his column, as it leads with a demonstration of the differences and surfaces a number of real world questions. And, we agree with the author’s definition of brand.

As quoted previously on this page:

Advertising…is the tax you pay for an ineffective brand.

Let’s talk if you want to further understand the differences, and how you can materially decrease and even eliminate that 5-10% expense line.

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