Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is Your Brand Believable?

I'm struck lately by large companies who say one thing but clearly speak out of the other sides of their mouth. It strikes me that some PR person or ad agency is advising them to put a great spin on everything. Say it enough times and the masses will believe them. Reality has nothing to do with it. It's all about the spin. It's also timely that it's election season in the U.S. and many of the negative ads are also following this pattern. It doesn't matter that Anderson Cooper is "Keeping them honest," drive it home enough times and it sticks. Sometimes.

Oil companies are incredulous how, on one hand their spin tells us how much they care about us and their beloved homeland (whether that's Canada or the United States). They proudly outline how many jobs they create, how they support community, how much they influence innovation and on and on and on. Then they jack up the price at the pumps and collectively drive the economy into the ground. Everything comes from oil. If they "really" cared, they would charge a fee that allows them to make an honest profit, but not hold the world economy hostage. They would be an honourable citizen partner. But greed is really their brand. Wait until gas is $15 -$20 a gallon, wow, just think of all the great things they'll be able to do for us.

Airlines too are heavy into speaking out of two sides of their mouths. Siting in your seat watching the CEO of the airline on the video spew out how much he appreciates your business, and then rambles on about how great they are and how wonderful they are -  blah, blah, blah. What is incredulous here is that while you listen to this tripe, the hostesses are trying to sell you a pillow to use. A few dollars more for a headset. Earlier in your trip you were subjected to: pre-boarding fees, extra luggage fees, long lines and the humiliation of security. I had a friend recently who clicked the wrong button by mistake when purchasing a ticket online, only to be told it would cost $250. to make a correction. Today the worst part of any trip is the flight. They have sucked the pleasure out of it.

None of us can afford to have a brand that relies on spin to try and fool our customers. Airlines and oil companies know that for the foreseeable future we have no choice. They can play their games and win. BUT, there will come a time where they will fall, and fall hard. When faced with a choice our customers will show their dissatisfaction with their feet. You'll get no second chance. If it is your intention to make your brand shine for years and decades to come it has to be built on authenticity. Your values have to be rock solid. Thank heavens most brands do exactly that. 

One thing that greed brands do is is serve as an awesome mirror for everyone else. They reflect on how not to do it. Holding your brand up to them, allows you the opportunity to do the polar opposite and be great.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Fiverr Comes Through in Branding promotion

I'm in the throws of developing a promotion strategy for my new book, "101 Branding Tips - practical advice for your brand that you can use right now." I was browsing through fiver.com and came across this dynamic duo who made me chuckle and I decided to give it a go. Well all I can say is see for yourself. I think they did a fabulous job. I aim to make a series of six. Let me know here what you think of the idea. I wanted something on Youtube that was light-hearted.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Designing A Very Public Logo For London, England

I read with great interest the very public way London, England is developing it's new logo. It has at its basis the tried and true "I Love NY" logo. After the public out-cry and backlash the city fathers received from their Olympic logo, they decided to involve the public in this next one. I believe this to be a very bad idea. Look beyond the fact that you simply can't satisfy everyone. Designing a logo has much more going for it than simply coming up with an attractive image. A lot of the brand has to be incorporated into it. And any reputable designer will tell you that designing by a committee is a recipe for failure. Mediocrity can result in playing it safe to appease a public. And you couldn't get a bigger committee than Twitter. To their credit, the powers that be, have assembled a panel of designers to flush out all the comments and suggestions and come up with a consensus design.

I'm sure the public are loving this one. They get to be a part of the process, all be it - a process they keenly don't understand. Frankly, I believe it is wrong headed. Asking the stake holders at large and because it's Twitter (the world) is asking for trouble. Professional designers can do exactly what is needed without input from the entire world. Many would argue, including the public that their opinion will deliver to them what they want. I contend that the public doesn't know what it wants. In this case they know they like "I Love NY" so of course they try and "copy" that. The public en mass have no imagination. Given the public's love of all things Apple these days, it might come as a surprise to many that the great Steve Jobs NEVER asked for the public's opinion on any of their products. Apple never holds focus groups or surveys to determine product and design decisions. Henry Ford summed it up perfectly, when he said, "If I had asked them what they wanted, they would have said Faster Horses." The most powerful way to engage the public (stake holders) is to invigorate them with powerful images that they would never have envisioned. Deliver the unexpected. 

Say what you will about the hated London Olympic logo, it IS original thinking. It did inspire conversation. Myself I'm not a fan. Focusing on the date not the location left me flat. BUT, I appreciate the effort and the process in which it was created. Sometimes you miss - that's all. 

I'm anxiously awaiting the outcome of London's logo experiment.  I have my favourite from what I saw. What ever they come with, I hope that it fulfills the goals set for it. I'd hate to see them doing this again in a few years. I'm also thinking out loud that if they have a problem with the brand - the logo is not the issue. Changing it will not resolve brand issues.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Branding Yourself Online

This is the presentation I use when discussing Branding Yourself Online.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Forget the logo, it's the brand that's costing you money!

To a lot of graphic designers and advertising agencies, brand and logo are interchangeable. To be clear they should be referring to your brand image or your brand logo - there is a difference. A logo is just a small part of your overall corporate brand. Simply put, your brand is essentially your reputation in the marketplace. It is affected by all of your stake holders (customers, employees and suppliers).  If I stop a person on the street and ask them what your brand is, I am looking for them to tell me what their understanding of your company is. If I were to ask you what you feel about Detroit and you reply, "Murder City". That is it's brand. The brand may or may not be true, but it is the perception at this point in time. 

The same is true with Detroit's brand. It may not be true that it is the Murder Capital, but over the years the city has allowed it's brand to be determined by outside forces. Movies, comedians and the media in general have used Detroit as their whipping post for all that is wrong with urban blight in America. Your ultimate job is to constantly have your finger on the pulse of your brand. You simply can't afford to allow the marketplace to define you. The goal is to have a strong brand - one that makes you money.

Cities have what is called a 'place brand'. It's been said that our own community has a poor brand. You don't have to agree with the assessment, but you'd be a fool to ignore it. We have allowed the marketplace to define our city's brand. Windsor has to address it's poor brand directly, it can't be 'spun' out of existence. The root causes must be addressed.  The problem with a less than accurate brand story is, the very audience you want to become advocates, feel betrayed and become ardent critics.  

All of these scenarios are brand issues and are why smart companies are sitting up and taking notice. Any smart company who brushes off branding as merely a buzz word is passing the baton to their competitors. It has been said that the fasted way to kill a bad product is with great advertising. You can't fool 'em twice no matter how pretty a face you put on it.

In the industrial heartland that is southwestern Ontario, smart companies are engaged in initiatives that position their brands as leaders. In discussions with Peter Berry, President of OB1 Consulting, a respected Risk Management Expert, it was pointed out to me that companies who want their brands recognized as leaders in Green Initiatives, Compliance issues and Cross-Border Efficiency are also companies who are serious about taking control of their brand and how it is used. Many of these risk initiatives are used as effective differentiators when promoting the the corporate brand image. These pro-active companies are not waiting for bad things to happen to their brands, things that will cost them an enormous amount of money to fix and in some case cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in potential lost revenue due to hits on their brands. They are reducing risk now and reaping the brand payoffs. Having a strong brand in the first place will determine if these storms can be weathered. 

Here are 10 things you need to do to gain an insight on your brand:

1) Resist changing your brand logo. The problem is much deeper than that.

2) What are your stake holders saying about your brand? Ask them. Stake holders include employees, customers and suppliers.

3) Tomorrow morning ask the first staff member you see, "what do we do here at...?" Their answer may startle you.

4) Do a risk assessment to determine if there are areas of compliance and opportunity that might increase your brand strength among your market.

5) Are you suffering from any brand negatives? Are these issues keeping you up at night?

6) If you are currently putting a happy spin on your marketing, make sure it reinforces your brand values. 

7) You do have brand values don't you?

8) Do you have an effective differentiator? (this is key to branding properly)

9) Do a visual analysis to address brand issues with inconsistencies.

10)  Strengthen your brand. It invigorates staff and makes them passionate advocates for you.

Remember you have a brand whether you want one or not, your goal is to define yourself.  If you don't, your competition will do it for you - and that's never a good thing. Where do you fit in, in all of this?

More blogs about http://brandcorral/blogspot.com.