Tag Archives: brand management

Brand Management: What It Involves & How to Do It.

Management sessionEstablishing a brand management team can be a complex but very “personal” activity for a small or mid-sized comany. But the following article offers some guidelines and considerations that can prove valuable if it’s time to really be serious about brand management. Continue reading Brand Management: What It Involves & How to Do It.

Brand Management needs involvement and collaboration

So just how do you get brand changes approved by management and embraced by employees?

In a recent Forbes article, John Ellett interviewed Verchele Wiggins, Holiday Inn’s  Vice President of Global Brand Management, about the chain’s recent rebranding efforts. It’s a wide-ranging article that ends with this exchange: Continue reading Brand Management needs involvement and collaboration

Fully integrated brand for UPS includes the color

Several days ago I remarked in a blog post entitled “Brand vs Bland” how I thought UPS had fashioned a great brand based upon the concept of “logistics”, and how they now “own” that term.

Thinking a little further about their turn-around from “What can Brown do for You?”, it occurred to me that if you’re going to be logistic, there’s no better color for you than brown. Logistics is no-nonsense. Logistics comes from the military, and at least the US Army still wears brown. Brown is a “working” color.

According to those who study color psychology, brown denotes honesty, modesty and reliability.

So all along UPS had picked the right color, and I’m glad they ignored me and other critics for making such a big deal of their corporate color in the previous (still innocuous) What can Brown do for You? campaign.

The UPS as the logistics brand is, indeed fully integrated. There are no disconnects to turn prospects into scoffers.

What is branding? Apparently, anything you want it to be.

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.

Three Tagline Traps You’ll Want to Avoid

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.

Brands That Make You Scoff – FirstBank

Branding boo-boo by FirstBank, the largest regional bank in Colorado.

Bad branding: FirstBank's cloned lambTheir latest commercial says they’ll give you $50 if you open a checking account with them. That’s the good news. All the rest is downhill.

I wish I could let you view the entire commercial, but no one has put it on YouTube as yet. But the picture to the left states the gist of it.

This character, a regular used car salesman in a banker’s office, strokes this “clone-gone-wrong” throughout the 20 seconds as he presents the $50 incentive for those opening an account. Then he claims the money was not cloned. Throughout twenty seconds he “lies” about the money not being cloned, and as the camera pulls back, we see another “him” sitting off to the side, obviously his clone.

I’m sure the agency is excited because people have been drawn to the image of a double-headed lamb and the subject of cloning. I’m not at all surprised an ad agency proposed this. I don’t believe in agencies any more. These guys have sacrificed brand integrity for sensationalism. And FirstBank management approved it. Shame on them

Why would FirstBank, a regional leader, want this greasy character who’s obviously a liar, to represent the bank. Just his voice inflections make you not like this character. And why would you or I every think this bank would pass out cloned – read counterfeit – money?

And please answer me this: how is the negativism of cloned money, coupled with cloned lambs and salesmen, going to make a good impression? And how can it be relevant?

Thumbs down. I don’t want to do business with a bank that would hire this guy, or would approve such an inane commercial.

Brand icon should be relevant

I finally “got it.”

In the American Express commercial featuring Ellen DeGeneres on a movie lot, there’s a man costumed as a Roman centurion who triggers Ellen’s memory: call American Express for concert tickets. What?

Then I vaguely remembered that American Express used the icon of a helmeted centurion. And I guess they’re bringing “him” back as an identifier.

American Express CardI don’t know why. In fact, I don’t know why they used it in the first place. What does a Roman soldier from 2,000-years ago have to do with America (discovered about 500-years ago)? He represents neither America nor Express. The winged messenger, Mercury, delivering flowers for FTD works fine. It’s not only relevant, it makes a point about speed.

But American Express should be represented by a minute man or an Indian scout, not a Roman.

The official logoThey have used a square with the words American Express for several years while the soldier took a back seat in their branding. I guess their research showed customers wanted something a little more personal. So someone remembered they had adopted a figure from the past in the past – never mind that it never fit the company – so let’s revive it.

This is the same short-sighted decision-making that causes the improbable line extensions Ries and Trout lambasted in their book, Positioning – the Battlefield for your Mind.

Oh, well. People do get used to improbable and disconnected brand imaging. With enough money, repetition and consistency, American Express will probably succeed with their historic Mediterranean icon.

And what’s up with that name for a global financial and travel services company? I’ll save that issue for another blog.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975

Brands that make you scoff – Subaru

I’ve been doing a series of blogs about brands that make me scoff – that is, brands that are incredulous.

Usually this incredibility comes from specific ad campaigns rather than from a brand platform. How do I know? Because they’re vacuous.

Strong brands are built upon core values. They’re differentiated from competitors based on attributes the brands actually possess. Thus, believability and credibility are inherent in the brands themselves.

But let the ad agency “creatives” begin writing taglines and headlines as they interpret that platform and the research that accompanies it and the ideas get skewed and exaggerated.

Take today’s example, for instance.

Subaru’s newest TV ads depict folks, one after another, “lovingly” caring for their Subarus. The payoff is this insipid tagline: “Love: It’s what makes Subaru a Subaru

It’s a distortion. I’m sure Subaru research says that a certain percentage of their customers say they “love” their Subarus. That’s fine. But from there to the idea that love makes Subarus is a giant step.

I’d also suggest that the slogan does not differentiate Subaru from its competitors, nor does it resonate with car buyers who may admit to loving their vehicles but don’t switch to another make because Subaru says their cars are made from love.

No, Subaru was sold a bill of goods. Their agency short-changed them.

It’s a campaign and a brand without substance.

Martin Jelsema
303-242-5975