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.


Naming Systems that Enhance Your Brand

What makes some brand naming systems stronger than others, and what’s the benefit of a system when naming your products and services?

Because your company will likely establish multiple products or services over its lifetime, it’s important to think about the system your product names create so your products will reinforce your brand promise.

Ask yourself these questions:

1. How does the new product deliver your brand promise?
2. How does each product deliver uniquely?

Contact us to learn more: Contact Us


To Universities: Don’t Let Rankings Define Your Brand

Don’t Let Rankings Define Your Brand

Don’t Let Rankings Define Your Brand

The annual flurry of university rankings has recently flooded the media. These lists serve mainly to sell magazines, not meet the needs of the reader, and they do little to convey the true value a school offers to its students, community and faculty. The statistics employed can be – and have been – distorted and manipulated. If your school’s brand strategy is centered on rankings, your brand strategy needs rethinking.

The flagship of college rankings is U.S. News & World Report’s ‘Best Colleges’, which, the magazine says, is built using “quantitative measures that education experts have proposed as reliable indicators of academic quality, and on our researched view of what matters in education.” [].  As a recent NYTimes op-ed pointed out, the results are counter-intuitive to much of what education needs today, positive long term returns on a significant investment. The U. S. News rankings reward the opposite, and schools spend money hand over fist to improve their score.

One of our clients, U.C. Berkeley, produces remarkable facts and figures, and demonstrates a solid rankings performance year after year. These rankings were not doing enough to avoid concern for the school’s reputation, however. We helped Berkeley develop a brand story that is built on the intangible attributes that differentiate it from its peers. This essence is timeless, not reliant on rankings, and will not be compromised as long as Berkeley is Berkeley. Facts and figures can help validate a brand strategy; they shouldn’t define it.  Our expectation is that communications based on what makes UC Berkeley a uniquely great place will draw students, researchers and donors for the right reasons, not just for rankings.

A college is more than a number – when your school understands what makes it great, it does not need to rely on magazine rankings to communicate its value. Brand value is inherent in your students, faculty, culture, history, reputation, and community. If you don’t define your university’s brand by taking all of these into account, you’re losing out on an opportunity to demonstrate your value in the education marketplace.


Brand Focus: Standing For Something

Apple sold over 5 million iPhone 5’s the first weekend they were made available, setting records once again. We can count on Apple to be successful because they stand for something specific, valuable, and desirable, and because they deliver every time. Over the years Apple has mastered simple, compelling, and direct brand messages. When they launch a product like the iPhone 5, the campaign is memorable, disciplined, and focused. There’s no ambiguity as to the message or the target audience, and their sales numbers prove the power of this approach.

Brands differentiate themselves in the marketplace by clearly articulating what they represent, who their audience is, and why they matter to that audience. By developing a brand strategy that is focused, simple, and meaningful, they deliver a message that connects with consumers. This brand focus lets them stand out from the crowd.

American Express is another great example. By portraying themselves as the card of choice for the sophisticated, smart, and worldly, they have become one of the world’s top destination and travel industry brands. American Express entices consumers to be a part of their world, and they have become one of the most recognized brands in the market.

Developing brand focus is only part of what it takes to be a strong, differentiated player in your market. Once a brand takes a stand, it must maintain that position by providing a clear voice, creating compelling and succinct messaging, and ensuring that all behaviors are on strategy. And of course, like Apple and Amex, they must deliver. When brands try to be everything to everyone, they end up being nothing to anyone. Brands that establish a strong position and deliver on their promises are the ones that make a difference in the market.

[photo credit: TheQ! via photopin cc]