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Brand Story Case Study: Shutterfly Success

Through an excellent brand story, Shutterfly continues to help consumers navigate their own path to personal expression, providing much more than products; they provide the promise of personal creativity, expression and shared experiences.

Since building and communicating their story through all they say and do, Shutterfly has been rewarded with double-digit growth year over year. It is a great example of how a clear, relevant story can help your brand elevate above others in the market.

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What is the Role of Research in Branding?

Managers and CEOs often want to base their brand decision on measurable market research. So, how much market research should you do?

Research can never give you all the answers, but it can be effectively used to understand how target audiences might receive a new idea, or to find a new market opportunity.

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Brand Decision Mistakes: The High Cost of Brand Reversals

Brand decision mistakes happen.

We saw it decades ago with New Coke. More recently with the Gap.  And most recently, Netflix reversed a highly unpopular brand decision after realizing their once successful branding strategies had been tone-deaf to the customers who had made their brand a success.

Brand Decision

How much do these reversals cost companies? The protests and general ridicule that erupted upon Netflix’s announcement that they were separating their DVD and streaming services were immediately everywhere. The new name for the DVD service, Qwikster, took the brunt of the punishment, however this was backed by a strong sense of customer betrayal. Customer defections, according to yesterday’s earning report, surpassed 800,000, due largely to unpopular price increases, but accelerated by this announcement.

The source of these feelings and actions came down to two justifiable points:  1) Netflix seemed to be putting its business priorities ahead of the needs of its customers, and  2) Netflix was trying to get out of the DVD rental business as fast as it could.  Reid Hastings’ letter to customers said as much when he proclaimed:

“We realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.”

This is what we would call “sacrificial lamb” branding.  By splitting the DVD business off, giving it a lowbrow name, and offering customers less for their money than they had received before, Netflix was signaling how little it now cares for the business. Having a different website with a different name would, hopefully, allow Netflix to disavow DVD rentals without tarnishing their own name.

Putting the business before the brand obviously did not work for Netflix, and it remains to be seen whether their brand reversal can repair the customer damage. What is clear, is instead of looking at pigeonholed brands like Borders and AOL when making their future plans, Netflix should have considered those brands that have successfully led customers along major brand transitions, notably Amazon and Apple.

Under astute leadership and keen customer insight, both Apple and Amazon have seamlessly transitioned multiple times from physical product to digital services, taking excited and faithful customers along for the ride each time.  Successful branding strategies like Apple redefined music, media and telecommunications with each advancing initiative, announcing each revolution in a trademark keynote address. Amazon has redefined how it sells books, music, media, and everything else under the sun without major brand reversals.  In the end, it is these brands, with the loyalty that they engender that will probably unseat Netflix.

The lesson learned here is, successful branding strategies never put the business before the brand. Customer engagement, understanding and loyalty to your business should be considered alongside decisions to cut costs, or streamline or evolve businesses. Not making these considerations can result in embarrassing and costly brand reversals.

Marshall Strategy

Do you want to tap into successful branding strategies and corporate identity efforts? Marshall Strategy has a proven track record of making a difference for our clients. Contact us today to find out what Marshall Strategy can do for you. Find out what we’re doing in the social world by “Liking” us on Facebook, following us on Twitter and subscribing to our YouTube channel. Also, find us on LinkedIn and follow our blog for more useful industry information.

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Destination Branding: Where to Start?

As visitor and meeting planner budgets shrink in a struggling economy, many cities have chosen to use destination branding in an effort to increase tourism and business travel to their location. Knowing where to start when developing a destination brand can mean the difference between success and failure.

Destination Branding

Understand Destination Complexities

Because the branding of a city or town is designed to not only bring tourists to the area, but also to assist in economic development, many voices must be heard in the development process. Business owners may have a different view on how to brand the city than the visitor’s bureau may have, while an economic council may have its own unique, bottom-line driven perspective.

Know Your Strengths

Often, cities forget to brand themselves as “something different” and focus on standard tourist attractions or on the business aspect of the location. In 2007, Santa Rosa, Calif., whose previous slogan was simply “Come Visit” found that visitors were choosing smaller, surrounding towns for conventions and vacations. City officials conducted research and learned that Santa Rosa was considered an excellent place to conduct business. With more than 200 wineries surrounding the city, Santa Rosa designed a new strategy to promote their agricultural heritage. The new campaign, “Place of Plenty,” was designed to attract business visitors who were looking for excellent food and wine venues in addition to business and convention amenities.

Use History and Geography to Your Advantage

Many cities rely on history or a unique geographical or historical attribute to promote the area. East Coast cities attract visitors to the Atlantic Ocean, while Williamsburg, Va., focuses on the history aspects of the surrounding area. One city that has enjoyed success in its rebranding effort is Lexington, Kentucky, the self-proclaimed Horse Capital of the World. In 2010 the city hosted the World Equestrian Games, and thousands of tourists visited from around the world. The Lexington Visitor and Convention Bureau worked with Pentagram Design to create a distinctive identity for the city centered around amythical blue racehorse named “Big Lex”, a cross between the famous Kentucky bluegrass and their equestrian heritage. The new campaign gave the city a memorable icon that builds off its unique heritage.

By knowing the strengths of your city or town, it is possible to develop successful destination branding strategies that will increase visitors and economic growth.

Marshall Strategy

Do you want to tap into successful branding strategies and corporate identity efforts? Marshall Strategy has a proven track record of making a difference for our clients. Contact us today to find out what Marshall Strategy can do for you. Find out what we’re doing in the social world by “Liking” us on Facebook, following us on Twitter and subscribing to our YouTube channel. Also, find us on LinkedIn and follow our blog for more useful industry information.

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