Tag Archives: Branding

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.

Brand extensions: formula for diluting mother brand

Way back in the late 1970’s, Al Ries and Jack Trout introduced the concept of “positioning”. And one of the precepts they espoused was to stay away from product line extensions because they tend to dilute the mother brand, and often cannibalize it.

But people keep introducing brand extensions, some successful, some not. The latest to come to my attention is a line of body washes, deodorants and soaps exclusively designed for men introduced by Unilever under the Dove label. Yes, Dove products for men. Dove, the brand that has been catering quite successfully and exclusively to women for decades, has now consciously diluted their brand with this extension strategy.

Here’s the Dove Men+Care line.

Note they’ve incorporated the Dove logo, though the typeface is a little different, as well as the famous dove icon. The color palette is masculine, but I’m not sure the features promoted for the line are particularly compelling to men. Here’s their pitch for a body wash:

Dove® Men+Care™ Clean Comfort Body and Face Wash with MICROMOISTURE technology is clinically proven to fight skin dryness better than regular men’s body wash. This ultra-light formula rinses off easily for a refreshing clean and total skin comfort.

Below are soap packages for Men+Care and regular Dove.
Female Dove - Male Dove

I’m just amazed that the people at Unilever would extend a franchise brand based upon a very loyal and dedicated female market into a male-oriented product line. It dilutes the messaging of Dove, including their “Campaign for real beauty” self-esteem program for teenage girls. It also hopes to appeal to men who have heard the Dove story and positioned the brand as exclusively female in their collective mind’s eye.

Now I’m not against doing some line extension as Dove has done from soap to other feminine products like body washes, lotions, deodorants and shampoos. But this new line, well I’m afraid they’ve stepped over the line here.

I would rather they had established a brand new line based on a product exclusive or in some significant way differentiated their product from other male-oriented toiletries. Yes, they did differentiate by adopting the Dove signature, but it’s the wrong differentiation because it’s not relevant or creditable. I’d have advised them to begin from Ground One rather than take a chance on diluting the Dove brand with women and on convincing men that Dove can mean masculine, too.

But they didn’t ask.

Brand vs Bland

Branding can be game-changing for a corporation.

Several years ago I bashed UPS for their “What Can Brown Do for You?” campaign. I thought it was vacuous and certainly did not position UPS in the field of FedEx and DHL. What’s more, just like the color, the slogan and the idea behind it were bland. Except for voicing the color there was no differentiation, no relevancy, no idea expressed.
UPS logo

But how things have changed at UPS. Their current campaign, “It’s Logistics” is 100-percent better and on target. They have found a differentiator, a word upon which they are positioning themselves as more than a fast, reliable delivery service. I’d go so far as to say this was the absolute best branding strategy exhibited this past year.

The idea that UPS now owns the word “logistics”, and that it is a function admired and wished to be attained by the corporate world, makes their messaging most compelling to their markets. I’ll bet they’ve found the board room doors open to UPS reps since the campaign began.

UPS is growing strong

But like all great branding victories, I’ll bet this one began by UPS looking at their business – their corporate aspirations, their strengths, their assets and their culture – and developing a strategic plan to make logistics an overriding feature of their services. If need be, they changed the way they were delivering their services (both literally and figuratively). Only then would UPS enjoy the benefit of messaging about their differentiator.

Substance, not sizzle. Relevancy not ruffles.

That’s branding based on corporate strategy and corporate willingness to be customer oriented. It’s what makes brands strong and long lived.

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.

Can luxury brands stand out?

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.

luxury logo array

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.

What makes a strong tagline?

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.

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.

Branding with a USP is Short-Sighted

From the late 1950’s, the term Unique Selling Proposition, more informally known as USP, has been part of the advertising and marketing jargon. I believe it was coined by Rosser Reeves, head of Ted Bates Advertising, and best exemplified by the commercials for Anacin. Bate took the major advantage of this headache preparation, speedy relief, and presented over and over and over. It demonstrated the headache by a hammer to the side of the head with an animated diagram while the word “FAST” was flashed un-screen time after time.

Anacin USP was fast relief, but where are they now?

Thus, Anacin claimed and defended this USP for a number of years. But along came Tylenol, followed by Advil, and then Aleve and a host of others. Anacin couldn’t keep up. And look where that brand is today. I don’t know the numbers, but one indication of its popularity: no longer does it advertise on TV.

The USP is a tactic

The unique selling proposition should not be confused with a positioning statement. The USP is just what it says – a sales proposition that no one else is promoting at the time. It’s a short-range competitive tactic. It may take competitors quite some time to discover that a particular USP is helping a marketer boost market share, and another little while to counteract that USP with an offering that’s even more attractive. Devising and broadcasting a new theme (USP) is done very well by most advertising agencies. I’m of the opinion that that’s the only value provided by today’s agency. (That’s the subject for another post rater.)

The positioning statement, though not necessarily a consumer message, is a statement of what you’d want your brand to be. If Anacin had adopted a positioning statement that read: We will do all in our power, through research, development, production and packaging, to always have the fastest pain reliever on the market, then Anacin would have won that position in the minds of consumers by consistently demonstrating their dedication to fast pain relief through their actions. With that kind of mind set, let the agency develop a USP that reinforces the positioning statement.

The positioning statement is strategic

The commitment of any organization to provide a consistent level of performance, and to dedicate major resources to accomplish that performance, builds the brand, not a USP.

But today, we still hear those connected with branding use these terms interchangeably. They miss a major difference between a brand strategy and a sales tactic. They also confuse those that aren’t paying attention, namely the executive staff who’s wondering anyway why marketing can’t seem to be held accountable.

I might have stepped on a toe or two with that last paragraph of rant, but it rankles. And don’t get me started on the ad specialty salesperson who wants to sell you a couple gross of imprinted pen because it’s “effective branding”.

Anyway, there’s a place for the USP. It can enhance the brand if it adheres to the positioning statement and the branding platform. And if one isn’t increasing sales, just ask your new agency to create another.