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What the Republican Party Really Needs – Neither a “Rebrand” nor a “Facelift”

What-the-Republican-Party-Really-Needs

What the Republican Party Really Needs

When the term “rebrand” is referred to as a “facelift”, (as it often is) it is a disservice to the work of brand strategists. Anyone who believes a facelift is going to fundamentally change how people see them is generally wrong. The same holds true for companies. When an organization decides to “tweak” its image, rather than address the fundamentals of its business, the resulting reactions range from ambivalence to cynicism to outright fury.

A facelift is a cosmetic procedure performed to change an appearance. When a “rebrand” is approached in the same way, it is about appearances, not reality. If the new appearance does nothing to change the reality of the organization behind it, the exercise is shallow and wasteful. In a recent Fast Company article* advising the Republican Party on “rebranding” themselves to win more support, the author suggests many ways the GOP could alter its appearance to be more appealing to voters.

We agree that the Republican Party will continue to lose momentum and credibility (as the 2012 election showed) until it can come to some consensus internally. But this article frames this problem from the outside, in, rather than the inside, out. It suggests that the party must change to please voters, rather than clarify and affirm what its members really believe in. This is a recipe for short term success and long term failure, because the party will just continue to tack its way from election to election. Clarity on who you are (and not just who others want you to be) is a requirement if your brand image is to be credible, sustainable, and ultimately, successful.

Identity and image are the yin and the yang of your organization’s brand. Your brand identity is who you are. It’s your purpose, what you care about, and why people should be glad you exist. Your brand image is how you are perceived by your critical audiences.  If these elements are out of balance, they need correcting. Many great organizations suffer because their images do not reflect the true value of their identity, and many so-so (or worse) organizations spend mightily to gloss over who they really are, setting themselves up for failure in the process.

Of course, politics is a challenging context –most politicians will try to be whoever voters want them to be in order to get elected. The drawbacks to this philosophy are clear today and represented by the lowest approval rating for congress in history. Consider this, Republican Party – if you worry only about how you appear on the outside, your insides will continue to eat away at you. Find your true identity, and your image will follow.

* http://www.fastcompany.com/3005471/rebranding-gop-can-marketing-facelift-overhaul-republican-party

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Ten Principles for Renaming

from Designing Brand Identity, 4th Edition, by Alina Wheeler

Designing Brand Identity

Designing Brand Identity

We’re pleased to be included in the fourth edition of Designing Brand Identity, by Alina Wheeler, a comprehensive guide and valuable resource for designers, marketers, CEOs and brand builders. Our contribution to the book was a list of important tips when renaming a product or a company.

Ten Principles for Renaming
by Marshall Strategy

  1. Be clear about why change is needed. You should have a compelling reason, and clear business benefits, for going through the name change process. Making a strong case for change – whether legal, market-based or other, will help rise above emotional issues and enable a more successful and meaningful effort.
  2. Assess the impact of change. A name change is more complicated than creating a new name because it affects established brand equity and all existing brand communications. A thorough audit of equity and communication assets should be conducted, to fully understand how a name change will affect your investments and operations.
  3. Know what your choices are. Depending on your reason for change, it can be very difficult to consider change in the abstract. It is much easier to commit to a change when you have alternative names to consider that solve your communication issues.
  4. Know what you are trying to say before you name it.  Naming is a highly emotional issue that can be hard to judge objectively. By first agreeing on what your new name should say, you concentrate your efforts on choosing the name that says it best.
  5. Avoid trendy names – By definition, these are names that will lose their appeal over time. Choosing a new name simply because it sounds “hip” or “cool” generally results in names that wear quickly.
  6.  “Empty Vessel Names” require filling. Made-up or meaningless names will require more investment to build understanding, memorability and proper spelling than names that have some inherent meaning. Compare the immediate meaning and relevance of names like Google and Amazon to empty vessels like Kijiji and Zoosk.
  7. Avoid names that are too specific. This may be the reason that change was necessary in the first place. Names that identify a specific geography, technology or trend might be relevant for a period of time, but in the long run they could restrict your ability to grow.
  8. Understand that a new name can’t do everything. Names are powerful tools, but they do not tell the whole story. A name change alone – without rethinking of all brand communications – could risk being seen as superficial. Consider how new taglines, design, communications and other context-building tools should work with the new name to build a rich new story that you can own.
  9. Ensure you can own it. Check patent and trademark offices, common law usages, URL’s, Twitter handles and regional/cultural sensitivities before you decide, and make the investment to protect your name. This is best done by an experienced intellectual property attorney.
  10. Transition with confidence. Make sure you introduce your new name as part of a value-oriented story that conveys clear benefits to your employees, customers and shareholders. The message “we’ve changed our name” on its own generally falls flat. Commit to the change with confidence and implement as quickly and efficiently as possible. Having two names in the market at the same time is confusing to both internal and external audiences.

Supporting Quotes:

If you wish to make a meaningful statement, a name change is not enough. The name should represent a unique, beneficial, and sustainable story that resonates with customers, investors, and employees.

Philip Durbrow, Chairman & CEO, Marshall Strategy

Companies change their names for many reasons, but in every case, a clear rationale for change with strong business and brand benefits is critical.

Ken Pasternak, Managing Director, Marshall Strategy

Notable Renaming

Old Name New name
Anderson Consulting Accenture
Apple Computer Apple
BackRub Google
Banker’s Trust
of Des Moines
Principal Financial Group
Blackwater Acedemi
Brad’s Drink Pepsi-Cola
Comcast (Consumer Services) Xfinity
Computer Tabulating
Recording Corporation
International Business Machines
(renamed IBM)
Datson Nissan
David and Jerry’s Guide to the World Wide Web Yahoo!
Diet Deluxe Healthy Choice
Federal Express FedEx
Graphics Group Pixar
Industrial National Bank Fleet Financial Group
Kentucky Fried Chicken KFC
Kraft snacks division Mondelez
Marufuku Company Nintendo
Philip Morris Altria
Quantum Computer Service AOL
ShoeSite.com Zappos.com
TMP Worldwide Monster Worldwide
Tokyo Telecommunications Engineering Corporation Sony
United Telephone Company Sprint
Value Jet AirTran

 

 

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How Does a Brand Become a Beloved Institution?

Brand as a Beloved Institution

Giants make fans feel like a million

Last week, the San Francisco Giants won the World Series in a sweep of the Detroit Tigers, and the city exploded with excitement.  The victory parade, held on Halloween Day, drew more than one million fans in their orange and black, to cheer and bask in the glory of “our” victory. The Giants are truly one of San Francisco’s few beloved institutions. They are respected and adored by men and women, young and old, in winning and losing seasons.  People want to wear their colors, they know the players like neighbors, and they internalize the team’s struggles and celebrate its victories. This highly emotional connection is the envy of most brands.

Are there business benefits of being a beloved institution?  The Giants have sold out all 89 home games for the last ten seasons. Lines regularly form outside the Giants’ official merchandise store in the hours before the store opens. AT&T Park and the restaurants and business that surround it have seen a decade of strong revenue, and condos in the neighborhood command premium prices. The Giants are a major attraction for out of state and foreign tourists. Win or lose, Giants fans are behind the team in every way, emotionally and economically.

How does a brand become a beloved institution? If we think beyond sports teams, what other brands can truly say they carry this esteemed mantle?  Certainly many universities could make the claim – whether you are a Harvard Man or a Cal Woman, your alma mater is often a beloved institution worthy of your lifetime support. Other brands are a beloved part of their communities and even the world at large.  Coca-Cola energizes Atlanta GA; the NYFD has become one of New York’s most beloved and respected brands, (beyond its sports franchises); Disney is a beloved brand trusted by families and their children around the world; and Chevy and VW have captured our imaginations and elevated our pulses more consistently over time than other car brands have been able to manage.

What do these brands all have in common? Each satisfies a universally human motivator.  Sports teams ignite the thrill of victory. The Fire Department embodies bravery and valor. Beloved consumer brands provide happiness and escape. These motivators are deeply and universally felt and part of our shared human experience. Brands that are successful enough to become and remain beloved are those that most consistently address, and fulfill, these instinctual needs. They become a part of how we define ourselves.

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With No Apparent Brand Strategy for this Election, Is “Hope” a Failed Brand Promise?

With the election looming, and Obama and Romney neck and neck in the polls, each is trying to maintain momentum in his base and influence the undecided voters out there – especially in swing states. But something critical has been missing.  Throughout this drawn-out campaign, both candidates have lacked a single clear idea that voters can rally behind, a true brand strategy. Instead, it’s been an election season filled with attacks, memes and rhetoric, like Romney’s “binders full of women,” but no emotional core.

In a recent blog post, “The Election in a Word,” Daniel Pink talks about how in the final days before the election, both campaigns are trying to keep a single, simple idea in voters’ minds. With Obama, “Forward” is appearing in almost every speech, photo or sound bite, and with Romney it’s the platitude “Believe in America.” Both are hollow, because it seems as though they’re being forced on voters, and because they seem to be more about de-positioning the other candidate than delivering an idea for the future.

2012 Election Brand Strategy

2012 Election Brand Strategy

The rules for political communication have changed drastically. In the past, campaigns like Reagan’s “Morning in America” could frame a candidate emotionally instead of rationally, and broadcast this emotion through television advertising, essentially the only game in town. Contrast that with Obama’s message of “Hope” from the 2008 election. Shepard Fairey’s iconic “hope” image didn’t come from brand experts and political strategists, but from the groundswell of political dissatisfaction with the status quo. It spread virally across the social media landscape in part because the Obama campaign so deftly took advantage of the message of “hope,” and in part because people connected with it. It was a clear idea, and it spread because it connected emotionally.

In today’s world, it’s no longer effective to simply craft a positioning and stay on message – you need to connect with voters emotionally, so that they’ll spread your message for you.

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