That’s what I conclude as I peruse the discussion, “In one sentence, what is branding?” started 14-months ago in the Branding Professionals group of Linked-In. People have been adding to it ever since. It will not die.
So far, 333 comments have been added. Not all offer a definition. Some just scoff at the idea of defining branding in one sentence. Others take exception to someone’s definition. Yes, there’ve been some ego clashes leading to vitriolic exchanges.
But mostly, people have thought through and crystallized their submissions. And they run all over the lot. Many view branding as tactics, but most approach branding strategically. There are thoughts about promises, personalities and products; about names, logos and taglines; about customers, employees and shareholders.
Are brands formed by companies or customers? Do they appeal emotionally or logically? Is it driven by marketing or management? You’ll get all sorts of answers to those questions.
Check it out for yourself at Linked In, and maybe even add your own one-liner to the discussion. But you’ll have to have a Linked In account and sign up for the Branding Professional’s group.
Perhaps you’ll come to agree with the scoffers – you can’t define branding in one sentence. But if you can, please leave that definition as a comment below, and then contribute it to the Linked In discussion.
It’s unrealistic to plan your positioning strategy in a vacuum. Remember, you’re positioning against competitors who also have positioned their offerings – with the help of their customers and prospects.
The idea is to find an unfilled position that is relevant and compelling to your target market. Those people actually position you – but you can only help them through consistent messaging and performance.
So to find the positioning of competitors “owning” the attribute customers find important should be the first step in a positioning program, and that really involves two steps: 1) identifying attributes customers crave, and 2) determining how your competitors (and you) are positioned against those attributes.
Identifying attributes customers crave
My handy desktop dictionary defines attribute as, “an inherent characteristic”. And since we’re talking about a brand, not just the product/service itself, we want to explore all characteristics associated with a brand. This includes impressions and feelings, heritage and reputation, associations and experiences as well as the things marketers control: package design, pricing, distribution channels, customer service, environmental impact and social responsibility. All those and others can be thought of as attributes of the brand, and can be influential in the purchase decision and brand loyalty level.
So first, identify those attributes your marketplace perceives to be most important. Focus groups can help in this effort. But I like to do Internet surveys. I get quick response to structured, sequential questionnaires. There are several providers: Survey Monkey, Zoomerang and KwikSurveys come to mind.
I structure the questionnaire by defining the product category and then ask an open-ended question: What factors are most important or desirable when selecting a _________?
Then I provide them with screens of certain attributes, one attribute at a time but rotated so each is presented first, second, etc. For each attribute I ask them to rate on a scale of 1 to 5 how desirable, how important and how beneficial the displayed attribute is for them.
After displaying no more than five attributes in this way, I provide a screen of all those attributes and ask that the respondent rank them in order of importance, desirability and benefit. I also allow them to enter a couple of “fill-in” attributes I hadn’t provided. If there are more than five attributes to measure, I rotate them through so that each attribute is presented an equal and significant number of times.
After analysis of the results – usually three-hundred respondents for each attribute – I am ready for phase two.
Determining competitive positions
This is a second questionnaire and research project, but I’ll use the same list as for attribute identification and ranking. Here I’ll first ask who provides the product/service in the category I’ve defined to get a top-of-mind measure of brand awareness. Then I’ll present the top five most important attributes from round one, one at a time. I’ll ask who provides that attribute. And for each competitor (and our brand, too, if I already have a presence in the category) they list, I’ll ask them to rate them against each attribute on a one-to-five scale. Finally, I’ll list their competitive choices along with other major category participants and ask respondents to rank them for each attribute.
From analysis of this data, I’m usually able to rank and position the players as shown in the star chart below.
Six attributes measured to determine a favorable position to occupy
This particular study was performed in a small market concerning sit-down restaurants, but any market, brand category or territory can be analyzed in this way.
Who “owns” what attribute?
As Reis and Trout expound in the pioneering book, Positioning: the Battlefield for Your Mind, a brand that “owns” a particular attribute – particularly if that attribute can be stated as a single word or phrase – will almost always be the market leader. This research can determine if such leadership exists in a particular market/category. If a brand already occupies a particular position in the minds of consumers, i.e. Volvo equals safety or Wal-Mart equals lowest cost, then you are advised to base your brand upon another attribute, even if that attribute is not as powerful as the leader’s ownership.
This is more than theory. We’ve seen how successful Target has been since they stopped competing on price with Wal-Mart and made “design” their position.
And it can happen in the smallest of markets. In my restaurant example, a gap was discovered that led my entrepreneurial client to open a family-style all-you-can-eat establishment instead of the linen-tableclothed, high cuisine restaurant he had first envisioned.
Research really is cheap when it can help you position your brand advantageously.
Tags: Market Research · Positioning
Perception mapping is a tool that can aid in visualizing how people perceive a product or service as measured by product attributes. They are usually arrayed on an X-Y axis that compare two different attributes such as quality and price. Here’s a typical example using local restaurants.
A typical, 2-attribute perception map
This graph circles depicts American cuisine establishments with O’s and foreign food restaurants with X’s. This example also shows a spot where a new restaurant is considering placing itself. As far as it goes, this depiction can be of use, but more often than not, more than two attributes need to be considered.
So I like to array the attributes in a star diagram. Below is one charting six different attributes based upon a telephone research study. It charts the group’s perceptions of eight different local restaurants.
Positioning using a star perceptual map
Then, specific comparisons can also be made as demonstrated below. I then can isolate various competitive types – foreign or American foods, high-priced or low priced, etc., and consider how they perform by other attributes as demonstrated below.
I just find this a more complete approach to evaluating, and ultimately positioning, category participants.
December 8th, 2010 · 8 Comments
My recent blog, “Does your logo stand out in a crowd?“, elicited a comment stating “Can a great logo that suggests refinement and sophistication stand out as well? “. Well I never thought that luxury brand logos don’t stand out so I did some on-line research. I went to the home pages of 12 luxury brands and captured their logos in the array you see below. I aligned them utilizing the “rule” that each sample must be the same height.
Now the first thing that popped out to me was the almost universal dominance of the brand name in the logo. Even the Rolls and BMW names are there even though not too prominently. The second thing: Seven of the 12 logos used reversed type (light colored type on a darker background). Third thing: except for Prada and Chris Craft, they used traditional type faces, and none used a sans serif face. Fourth thing: half of the samples use capital letters exclusively in their names. And fifth, Except for the Tiffany logo with it’s “Tiffany blue” background, there’s not much color represented in luxury logos.
As far as a small-sized logo is concerned, I’d vote Brooks Brothers being the worst of the bunch because of the lack of color contrast, the very fine lines of the type swishes, and the strange icon on the left that loses any recognition as it shrinks in size. Rolls comes in second. The only thing that saves it is the familiar RR configuration.
Now to address “anon’s” question, can a logo for a luxury brand stand out?. I’d say there are three or four examples of dominant logos in the group above, led by Prada.
Prada has the advantage of a short name which inherently leads to a clean and bold look when the typeface used is bold. Tiffany stands out primarily because of their traditional and world-famous use of the “Tiffany blue” background. The Broadmoor with the “small” A does not diminish no matter the size and is distinctive. Finally, the Chris Craft logo is distinctive and the type face imparts speed even in a much smaller size.
So in this small sample of luxury brand logos you have some that dominate and some that don’t. I’m not sure that this proves that the logo isn’t important, but I think it does state that for this class of brands there are many attributes more important than the logo that contribute to their success.
But if I may be so bold as to make a suggestion to luxury brands, get out of your “me-too” rut and dance to a differnt drummer if you want to differentiate the brand.
Tags: Logo Development
December 3rd, 2010 · 2 Comments
My thought: emphatically, no.
That doesn’t mean the tagline can’t accompany your logo, and you can even make it look as if it’s a single element in selected cases.
But please reserve the right to separate them and use the logo as a stand-alone element where necessary. I blogged about the logo standing out when grouped with other logos – Does your logo stand out? It just won’t stand out if must carry along a tagline.
For my own company logo, I integrate logo and tagline where I have a full line devoted to the two elements, but elsewhere I separate them and usually only use the logo itself. Below are examples.
First, logo and tagline associated:
Then the logo alone:
So, logo and tagline are separate elements that can be integrated as appropriate. The thing is, be sure you have the flexibility to do either.
Tags: Logo Development · Tagline Creation
December 2nd, 2010 · 4 Comments
Quite often you’ll have occasion to submit your logo to a medium that will group your logo with a myriad others as the images here demonstrate.
It’s a good way to determine just how well your logo stands out in relation to others, including your direct competitors. And two things become painfully evident to those with poorly designed logos.
NOTE PROPORTIONS OF LOGOS THAT STAND OUT
[Read more →]
Tags: Logo Development
Taglines may be the second most important branding element. Names are certainly first, but taglines can play an important role in conveying the brand message.
Most taglines, however, do not enhance the brand. They are afterthoughts. Names and logos and trade dress usually precede tagline. They are usually done by an ad agency as an element in an advertising campaign, and are advertising slogans rather than integral elements of the respective brands.
The difference between a tagline and a slogan
I’ve subjectively defined tagline and slogan as two different beasts with different objectives. The tagline carries the brand’s message and is part of the whole life-cycle of the brand itself. It is integral to the brand.
The slogan on the other hand, is a tactical “pay off” of an ad campaign. Its purpose is to help consumers remember the advertising message.
There will be a lot of people who disagree with me – they’ll suggest they are the same thing and that I’m just playing a semantic game. Okay, but I’ll stick with the definitions above because it makes explanations a little easier.
This difference between a tagline and a slogan for purposes of branding, then, is very simple. The tagline is a crystallization of a brand promise and is a strategic-based element. The slogan, is an advertising element just as a headline or illustration. In the case of a corporate identity ad program the tagline and the slogan can and should be the same.
But my experience concerning an agency-created tagline is that its life is just as long as the campaign it was created for, not for the life of the brand.
Positioning statement vs tagline
There may be some confusion about the difference between a positioning statement and a tagline as well. Again, this is my interpretation and opinion about them. Some will believe they’ve created a positioning statement with the finalization of a tagline. I don’t. For me they are two entirely different, though related, branding components.
The positioning statement is usually longer and more detailed than a tagline. It will quite often borrow from the mission statement, the value statement, the vision statement if it is a corporate brand. It is primarily an internal document but certainly not a confidential one. In fact, it is beneficial to espouse a positioning statement in the business lobby, in the annual report, as part of a proposal. It is an integral part of the brand platform, and drives the direction of the creative process when developing brand elements – name, tagline, logo, graphic standards, trade dress, brand messaging and packaging. It is possible for some positioning statements to be voiced as a tagline as well, but this will be a rare occurance.
So, the positioning statement precedes the development of brand elements and is usually a paragraph in length rather than a short phrase. The tagline crystallizes and furthers the brand story or promise and is usually connected to the name and logo as part of the company/product identification.
First things first: is a tagline needed?
Even though I’ve stated I believe the tagline to be the second most important branding element, often a brand may not even need a tagline. So the first question in the tagline development process: is there a need for a tagline in the branding element mix. A tagline may be superfluous. And on rare occasions, the name itself can function as name and tagline because the name communicates all there is to communicate in differentiating brand and suggesting a consumer benefit. So why guild the lily by making the same point using different words?
There are times, too, when a descriptive phrase is more appropriate. This is especially true with a product establishing a new category. In this case, you wish to “own” the category by being and remaining first in top of mind, for as long as the category exists. This description replaces the tagline as branding catalyst.
And finally, if you’re branding a feature or a brand extension, you’ll probably omit a tagline as being in conflict with the master brand and its tagline.
Criteria for a strong tagline
In my last post I pointed out three things to avoid when creating taglines, along with another two additional points about taglines. To reiterate, those five things, translated into evaluation criteria are:
Make an incredible (read unbelievable)claim (don’t)
Write a self-serving tagline (don’t)
Create a platitude (don’t)
Differentiate you from competitors (do)
Integrate with other brand elements smoothly (do)
To these five criteria I would add:
Make tagline instantly understandable. Many taglines are cute turns of words which you must think about in order for them to make an impact. (Here’s where a universal metaphor or meme can be quite powerful.)
Make the tagline enhance the main brand idea. If the tagline just restates the “big idea” already conveyed through name and/or logo, it is redundant. The tagline should support and extend the brand promise or theme, not just repeat it in different words.
Make the tagline communicate a major benefit of doing business with the company or of buying the product/service. (But be sure you’re creditable.)
It should appeal to the targeted audience. By that I mean use their language to convey the thing your product or service does for them specifically. It is sometimes advisable to call out the audience by name in the tagline.
Keep it short: seven significant words or less.
As an example, here is a pretty good tagline – it’s the one I use for my branding consultancy, Signature Strategies. Helping smaller companies profit from the power of branding.
If you’re looking for help with your tagline, or any and all parts of the branding process, why not contact me. Just click to go on over to Signature Strategies, or give me a call at 303-242-5975.
Tags: Tagline Creation
It’s really easy to create – or approve – an incredulous, self-serving platitude as a tagline.
It’s done every day, even by people who should “no” better.
I’m not going to be naming names in this post, but even without my help you’ll conjure up examples from your own experiences; examples from companies big and small whose advertising and promotion you are exposed to on a daily basis.
If you’re like most of us, you’ve learned to filter them out of your consciousness after a while because you realize they’re meaningless.
Lots of taglines are adopted as part of the branding process because folks think they’re critical to their marketing efforts. Certainly a tagline can crystallize a brand promise and make it memorable, but just as often you get an incredulous, self-serving platitude. In those situations, the tagline distracts and detracts from the brand’s promise and image.
Anyway, here are three questions I raise whenever I need to evaluate a tagline.
Is the tagline creditable?
Quite often taglines make sweeping claims that are not, or cannot be, substantiated. They sound good on the surface, but are too far from reality to be believed. Okay, I couldn’t resist naming this name: Dunkin’ Donut’s “American Runs on Dunkin’ Donuts”. Really? And all this time I thought it was gasoline. The point is that the statement just isn’t creditable. It’s an ad slogan straight from the ad agency’s “creative” department. (As an aside, someday I’ll share what I think are the distinctions and functions of taglines vs slogans vs headlines. That may take several blog posts, in fact.) Now I do expect a tagline to have a little zest to it. And some humor or even a double entandre will help make the tagline memorable. But claims to be first when it’s patently not true, declarations of superiority when your brand is number three or four, statements of capability that no one possesses: these are tagline traps that need to be avoided if credibility is to be prized.
Is the tagline self-serving?
This type of tagline was probably written for a fast approval by an egocentric executive. Well, maybe not all of them, but I’m pretty sure a great number of the self-serving lines were third or fourth attempts to get an approval from in-bred managers. So the creators, in desperation, serve back what management would like to think the brand represents when “the market” knows better. These taglines will usually begin with “We”, and then go on to claim whatever this year’s “hot button” (is it still “being green”?) happens to be – or at least what management has spent the most money developing most recently. The question is: “Where does the consumer fit in?” Quite often what management considers important is of no relevance to the consumer and this is reflected in a lot of self-serving taglines.
Is the tagline a platitude?
According to my copy of The American Heritage Dictionary, a platitude is “a trite remark or statement”. And “trite” is defined as “overused and commonplace; lacking interest or originality”. Platitudes do not make good taglines. Yet you’ll find a lot of taglines in this category. The folks from Y2 Marketing had a sure-fire way of identifying platitudes. They said if upon hearing or reading a tagline your reaction was, “Well, I should hope so!”, you’re experiencing a platitude. We run into these kinds of taglines all the time: “We care about our customers”, “Quality is what we strive for”, “Our people know ______”.
Two more ways to evaluate taglines
Here are a couple more criteria you can use in judging taglines. First, does it differentiate our business from our competitors? If not, back to the drawing board – no explanation required. Second, does it reflect and summarize the one idea our brand wants to communicate? This second question goes back to the branding process and has to do with having all the branding elements integrated in lock-step. There should be no disconnects
So, these are the negative points to keep in mind whether you’re creating or approving a tagline. Now you know what I suggest you not do. Next post I’ll attempt to provide some positive approaches to writing taglines.
Tags: Tagline Creation