Open space. White space. Unclaimed territory. You often hear these metaphors when discussions of brand positioning are on the table. Obviously, no one is talking about actual geographic positions here. We’re talking about positions in the market’s collective mind, otherwise known as mindshare. But, mindshare alone, as valuable as it may be, is not enough. It only means that the market knows who you are. That’s it. If Oprah Winfrey only had mindshare, it would just mean we know she’s a celebrity. But there’s so much more to know about her. She’s a media mogul, she’s a self-made billionaire, she’s universally beloved, etc. A business want’s to be known, true. But a modicum of fame is not enough to build a powerful brand. You have to be known for something. Like Oprah is known for something. Like Malala Yousafzai is known for something. Like Elizabeth Taylor is known for something. We experience all three of these famous women in unique and memorable ways. We wouldn’t want any one of them to be more like another. That’s how a business needs to be perceived. That leads to a powerful brand.
Remember this guy? Jared Fogle. He became a celebrity for losing more than 200 pounds by eating nothing but Subway sandwiches – for a year, I think. Subway made him a spokesperson for the brand and he appeared in ads that ran from 2000 to 2015. The ads were very successful and Subway only ended their association with Fogle when he was indicted for sexual offenses against minors. He was subsequently convicted and sentenced to more than 15 years behind bars. I’m thinking of Jared Fogle today because of a conversation I recently had with an attorney who represents several cannabis businesses. Cannabis is a commodity, as you know. So all growers are looking for ways to differentiate their crops and tell a compelling story. They need to build brands. The idea is to amass markets, of course, but also to attract the fat-cat buyers – big tobacco and big liquor – who are eating up the sector. A stronger brand means a higher sell price. According to this attorney, every grower’s dream is to attract a celebrity spokesperson as a shortcut to brand stardom and a massive exit package. But they should tread very carefully when making such a move. In a flash, Subway’s association with Fogle turned from profitable to toxic. There is a right way and a wrong way to use celebrity endorsers.
These days every business wants to be known as innovative. Every company wants a reputation for outside-the-box creative thinking. Everybody wants to be the disruptor and not among the disrupted. Trouble is, very few businesses ever really attain that status. Most managers have no idea how to inject innovation into their teams. They can’t imagine how they can ask to see more creativity out of their employees. Fortunately, last year, Accenture completed a study that revealed the answer: Equality. They found that when businesses that had a brand culture of inclusiveness and fair treatment of everyone, employees felt more empowered to strive for innovative solutions.
I have two friends, let’s call them M&M, who run a public relations agency that specializes in crisis management. They keep corporate and celebrity mishaps and misdeeds out of the news. Or, if they do hit the news, they work to get them out of the news as soon as possible. At the very least, they make sure their clients’ sides of the story get told. They mitigate any ill effects of the story – like businesses collapsing and innocent people losing their jobs. It’s a fascinating line of work and they have many colorful tales to tell – not that they’ve ever shared them with anyone. M&M are consummate professionals. Public relations is all about reputation management and that’s a big part of branding. Amazon chief, Jeff Bezos famously said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” That’s not the whole story on branding, of course, but there is a lot of truth to what he says. So you need to think about public relations, whether you handle those duties in-house or retain an agency to drive your brand. But, if you don’t have a brand strategy in place, your PR people are driving without a road map.
OK I admit it. When Google first came on the scene, I really hated their logo. Decidedly ugly, it looked like it had been unwillingly designed by an engineer with no time and even less taste. (Sorry Larry Page, but I guess, today, even you would agree.) Hideous font, bad kerning, childish color palette … and that drop shadow! Yikes! So many bad design decisions. That logo, shown here, was already Google’s third in two years but it is the first one most of us saw. Then, over the next seventeen years, Google changed its logo six more times. In 1998, they introduced the first Google Doodle, which to my “expert” eyes, was another no-no. And then, with their last change, in 2015, they finally adopted a professionally designed, full-scale, visual identity system complete with wonderful animations. (Below) Now Google shines as a perfect example of a fluid identity system. I wrote about those on June 17. But it’s also an example of a serious technology company adopting both a playfully wacky name and a playfully wacky design aesthetic. That’s a trend we’re seeing more and more these days. Question is: Should everybody hop on this bandwagon? No. Right? Well, maybe.
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Does your brand measure up?
The inimitable Denise Lee Yohn speaks on the five dimensions of brand power. A very worthwhile 3-minute video.
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Successful CMO describes taking a well-known brand from good to great.
6 Ways Brands Can Respond In A Recession
This is important and worth sharing. Still, I worry that all this talk about a possible recession will become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Read this one and then no more of this. OK?
Why Culture Doesn’t Eat Strategy for Breakfast
The two exist in a symbiotic relationship. Can’t have one without the other.
New Logo, Identity, and Livery for Canada Jetlines
Very professionally done. But another smiley face logo? Really? IHOP this trend ends soon.
Starbucks New Creative Expression
The public doesn’t often get to see examples of really first-rate style guides. Starbucks makes theirs available to all. Tasty.
The Benefits Of Optimizing Brand Architecture
Thanks, Derrick Daye, for providing much-needed clarity on a topic that is confusing to many.