Eleven Branding Lessons: Keeping a Sharp Eye on Your No.1 Asset
Once the heavy lifting in creating your brand is done, basic care and ongoing maintenance to preserve and protect it must not be overlooked. “Nurture your brand as you would a child,” says brand expert Jagdeep Kapoor, author of the bestselling “Twenty-Four Brand Mantras.” Just like all living things, a brand requires nurturing to remain healthy and to grow.
From creation through to end-of-life, a brand can encounter unexpected challenges arising from all sorts of corners, not just from the competition. From a poorly planned campaign to a corporate takeover, and from an outspoken CEO to a badly chosen name, a few examples that made recent headline news are worth a closer look to form takeaways and lessons learned for brand owners and managers everywhere.
Case Study: Rhode Island Is Not Iceland – Tourism Campaign Has Too Many Mistakes, Says Governor
America’s smallest state ought to know that details matter. When Rhode Island set out to create its new $5 million integrated tourism and new business promotion campaign, big guns were brought in. Who better, you might think, than Milton Glaser, the graphic designer who created the iconic I ❤ NY campaign?
Lesson #1: Politics matter! Milton Glaser and Havas PR North America, chosen for the PR contract, are New York City firms, not Rhode Island firms.
The newly launched campaign featuring a slogan “Cooler & Warmer” left many people cold…and guessing. What does it mean, they queried across social media channels. One Commerce Corporation board member said he saw “no emotional connection” and “no personal brand to the state or the people.”
An ATOM Media executive in Providence, RI said, “Usually a slogan is something that people know instantly and understand. I think the fact that you need to explain it could be a little problematic.” That sentiment was echoed by the owner of a Newport, RI marketing and graphic design agency, who said the slogan, “Doesn’t make any sense to me. In order to create a good tagline you have to have a brand strategy.”
Lesson #2: Brand strategy comes before name, tagline and logo creation.
Lesson #3: Graphics must reflect and express a brand’s persona, and that must be one that resonates with people, not one that needs to be explained.
Lesson #4: Social media matters! A tagline containing a special character or symbol (such as the ampersand in Cooler & Warmer) won’t function as a hashtag. Ever.
That wasn’t all. A YouTube video released with great fanfare was yanked within 24 hours when it was pointed out, “Hey, that’s not Rhode Island — that’s the Harpa concert hall and conference center in Reykjavik. Iceland.” Other footage featured a highly acclaimed restaurateur who had already moved his operation to Boston. And the video also claimed 20 percent of America’s historic sites are in the little Ocean State, when it’s actually 2 percent.
This was the ‘alternative’ Rhode Island Cooler & Warmer ‘spoof’ version produced by The Wonderful Show!
Lesson #5: Accuracy matters! The state’s marketing director resigned. Media partners are returning their contract fees to the taxpayers. Cooler & Warmer was scrapped.
After an initial attempt — picked up internationally, even by The China Post — Governor Raimondo took a different tack at a news conference, saying, “One of the things I’ve learned from listening and engaging with people is that there should’ve been more public participation in this thing from the get-go.”
With that in mind, Newport Buzz posted a public contest, pitting “Cooler & Warmer” against the previous slogan, “Discover Beautiful Rhode Island,” and a local amateur entry, “Sea to Believe.” With 15,000 votes in so far, the local resident’s idea is clear away the favorite with 80 percent, versus the traditional one at 18 percent and the costly new-fangled entry coming in dead last at 2 percent.
Lesson #6: There’s no room for ivory tower decision-making. Consultation is critical, brand audits are essential.
More Takeaways: All brands should consider geographical location of their contractors and supply chains when performing due diligence in order to avoid potential embarrassment. The look and feel of the brand via tagline, logo, adverts, all brand collateral, media and all touchpoints must resonate with its audience, make an emotional connection and be authentic. The importance of fact-checking and the need to eliminate exaggerated claims cannot be overstated. Handle a brand crisis with carefully thought-out strategy, not something to poke fun at.
Case Study: Brand Takeover – Richard Branson Reacts to Virgin America Sale
Sir Richard Branson is himself a brand who runs a brand that has sub-brands. The self-made billionaire wasted no time addressing the Alaska Airlines purchase of Virgin America — just in case of any tarnish rubbing off on the overall Virgin brand name.
Image via www.virgin.com and Virgin America
Well aware of the fierce loyalty of Virgin America fans for what they consider a superior product at parity prices, Branson let everybody know, “I would be lying if I didn’t admit sadness that our wonderful airline is merging with another. Because I’m not American, the US Department of Transportation stipulated I take some of my shares in Virgin America as non-voting shares, reducing my influence over any takeover. So there was sadly nothing I could do to stop it.”
Lesson #7: Confront a brand crisis. Deal with it, manage it, communicate about it professionally and do not hide from it.
In a statement that’s a pleasure to read in its entirety, due to the passion readers can sense, Branson goes on to discuss the importance of the brand, “…once Alaska witnesses first-hand the power of the brand and the love of Virgin America customers for our product and guest experience, they too will be converts and the US traveling public will continue to benefit…”
Even in the face of a forced merger, the rest of the Virgin brand received immediate reinforcement from the top. “Our Virgin airline has much more to do, more places to go, and more friends to make along the way,” Branson stated.
Lesson #8: Find the silver lining. Notice how Branson uses this corporate takeover event as an opportunity to reiterate the ongoing benefits of a Virgin travel experience.
Case Study: Tarnished Brand – Trump Empire?
In his run on the US presidency, Donald Trump’s raucous attention-grabbing style and statements is affecting custom at Trump Collection branded apartment towers, hotels, resorts and golf courses.
Image via http://www.npr.org
Polling and consulting firm Penn Schoen Berland survey results found that 45 percent of respondent US residents with annual earnings of $200,000 or more will make a point of not visiting a Trump hotel or golf course over the next four years. Within that group, 77 percent indicated they would actually boycott the Trump brand.
Lesson #9: From the CEO to front line employees to the back of the house operation, your brand is represented by everyone in each and every customer (and potential customer) interaction. Everyone is, or should be, an ambassador for your brand.
Case Study: Stay Relevant, For The Times They Are A-Changin’
In the 1980’s, four-time Olympic diving gold medalist and five-time world champion Greg Louganis was passed over for one additional honor — an appearance on the Breakfast of Champions Wheaties Legends cereal boxes. Louganis is openly gay, HIV-positive and an LGBT activist. He is also “widely viewed as the greatest diver in the history of the sport,” according to a recent communication from the Wheaties maker, General Mills.
Calling it “a ground swell of love,” Louganis told Hollywood Today that a petition signed by 40,000-plus people brought the oversight to the attention of General Mills. At age 56, Louganis joins a highly decorated Olympian swimmer and hurdler, a woman and a black man, in the brand’s revamped Wheaties Legends series packaging, available on the grocery store shelves (one million boxes!) from May 2016.
Image via http://www.blog.generalmills.com
Lesson #10: A brand needs to stay relevant to stay alive. The brand must respond to feedback and act to correct an out-and-out mistake.
Case Study: What’s In a Name – Law School Learns to Study Harder
Experts highly recommend that even the smallest of brands invest time and effort in getting a name right from the start to avoid potential legal issues and massive upheaval if a change is required. That advice takes into consideration everything from spelling to acronyms to trademark and domain name. Later, a brand might tweak a logo, revamp packaging design, shift media channels, or even undertake a rebrand if necessary.
AdWeek reports that a recent study by U.K. research firm MillwardBrown found “many brands that change their names can expect an immediate 5 to 20 percent drop in sales, and that the new brand image ‘may not be as strong as it was before.’”
After U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia passed away in February, George Mason University outside Washington D.C. renamed their law school after Scalia upon receiving a $30 million gift to do so.
Several tweets later, the school realized the awkward acronym they’d created and made a swift change away from Antonin Scalia School of Law, or ASSOL. A crisis was averted at Antonin Scalia Law School before any signs went up or ribbons were cut.
Image via https://www2.gmu.edu
Spelling Counts: When Small Brands Make Big Mistakes
Branding experts point out that misspellings, bad foreign language translations and tricky signage is an area frequently causing trouble at small companies which attempt an in-house branding effort. Even big brands don’t always get it right, with sometimes alarming results.
Amusing examples can occur when random neon lights fail and the Essex House becomes Sex House and Dynasty Restaurant becomes Nasty Restaurant.
Image via Reddit
Even an airport parking garage can be considered part of the airport’s brand. Here’s a curious example of why details matter, right down to vetting your contractors and proofing the signage.
Image via Reddit
Lesson #11: Seek professional assistance in naming a brand to avoid potentially disastrous errors and oversights.
Questions to consider:
• Would you agree that branding is even more important and valuable for small businesses than it is for big companies?
• Have you fully addressed your brand profiling, positioning and brand strategy prior to jumping into logo design or tagline development?
• Have you considered consumer research and due diligence of supply chain as part of your brand audit prior to brand launch or re-branding?
• Have you fully considered and defined differentiation within your brand? How is your brand really different distinctive and memorable?
• Have you determined that your brand rings true and authentic for its target audiences? Have you developed you purchaser personas for each of your different customer types?
• Have you seen other examples of common mistakes amongst other brands that you can learn from?
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