Boardwalk co-founder, Harriet Breitborde, is one of the most talented graphic designers I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. She told me of an assignment she had before we formed our partnership. She had been lead designer on a logo redesign for Wilsons Leather. Using the standard winnowing process, where you start out with dozens of candidate logos and narrow the options down, they had finally arrived at two finalists. Wilsons CEO, at the time, could not choose between the two designs. He liked them both. He asked to have a week before deciding. During that week he showed the designs to as many of his employees as he could, asking each one to vote for one of the two options. Then he chose the option that lost the vote! He reasoned that a new logo should seem a little off, a little uncomfortable. If the design is too easy to vote for, if its too familiar, then it won’t have the kind of edge it needs to attract attention and get noticed. Not sure I’d advise anyone to choose a logo that way but there is some value to his reasoning. Be that as it may, there are definite things to consider when you select a logo for your brand.
I know quite a few professional types – lawyers, CPAs, bankers, etc. So I often hear of their struggles to differentiate their firms from their competition. A bank is a bank is a bank, right? They all offer the same checking accounts, savings accounts, lines of credit, safety deposit boxes, home loans, car loans, etc. They all hit you with fees one way or the other. Mid-sized law firms and accountancies often also suffer from this kind of apparent sameness. In a world of conservative suits, how does one stand out and become known? Other types of businesses, mostly in B2B, manufacturers and the like, also view themselves as “parity” brands. So I thought I’d jot down a few notes about the possible ways these kinds of businesses should reimagine themselves for distinction. You have to start by knowing your market.
I was in Paris once and ran into a family of American tourists. They had just arrived that very day and were tired, stressed and hungry from their travels. They asked me if I knew anywhere good to eat. First of all, this was Paris. There’s good food everywhere. Serving a bad meal in France is practically a capital offense. But this family was really in luck because I knew just the place. “Yes!” I was happy to help, “I happen to know a fantastic little bistro right around the corner from here. Ask for Marcel. He speaks English. He’ll take good care of you.” But all I got from them were blank stares. Then the mom explained they were hoping for a restaurant more like from home – something like McDonalds. Such is the power of branding that Micky-D’s was their top choice in a city world famous for its spectacular gastronomy. After parting, I felt sorry for this family. I kept thinking of them as missing out on a wonderful life experience, sampling Parisian cuisine. And I started wondering how McDonalds does it. How does their brand wield such power so far from home? But of course I knew the answer because for one week of my life McDonalds held that kind of sway over me, and it was when I was traveling.
I recently met a woman who is a conflict resolution professional. She works with management and employees to address disparate approaches to corporate culture. When is an employee just not fitting in? Who needs to change to achieve a better fit? How can we mediate that change to everyone’s satisfaction? Add to that, over the holidays, I finally got around to reading Fusion, an excellent book by the inimitable Denise Lee Yohn. In it, Yohn shows how good companies fuse their external brand with their internal cultures to become great companies. (That goes along with what I continually preach – The same brand strategy that attracts your best customer also attracts your best employee.) These occurrences, so close together, made me want to revisit the very nature of corporate culture and improve my understanding of what it is, how it relates to branding, and how brands and cultures can be used to transform one another.
Many young people feel that voting in political elections is an exercise in futility. But those same young people, brand savvy as they are, can be quick to organize the boycott of a business if they think that by doing so they can bring about social change. It’s hard to say just how effective those tactics are. But, more than ever, people feel that brands have the power to improve society. Indeed, many believe that brands have more power even than governments in this regard. This is why brands have to keep in touch with their markets. This is why we say businesses have to share the values of their customers. Because, cash-carrying customers have feelings about the businesses they patronize. And, as a business owner, you want those feelings to be good ones. One way to share those values and elicit those good feelings is to champion a cause that is important to your market. But there’s a right way and a wrong way to curry favor in that way.
Sign up – Brandtalk
Best Branding Reads
Week of January 28, 2019
How Brands Lead In Times Of Need
Written during the shutdown, this is article shows how brands are outperforming governments.
Focus On Your Company's Brand Before Your Personal Brand
Sales people, especially, should be led to emphasize corporate brand first, their own personal brand second. Otherwise, they’ll take all the brand loyalty with them when they leave.
Why Do Your Customers Buy From You?
People describe what they do by describing what they sell.
When’s the Right Time to Revitalize a Brand?
Excellent article. Worth signing up if you have to.
All the brands in Super Bowl 2019 so far
Here’s your sneak peek at the ads folks. Some pretty good ones this year.
New Logo and Packaging for Grado Lab
Another instance where I don’t care for the wordmark alone but It shines in the applications.