Identity and Brand Strategy

CVS Quits Smoking, Scores Rebrand Win

CVS Quits Smoking, Scores Rebrand WinMy mom quit smoking recently, after fifty years of it. The fact that CVS is no longer selling cigarettes had nothing to do with this, of course. But the company’s decision to go smoke-free, now—a month ahead of schedule—had particular resonance with me.

Opponents of this move argue that it’s hypocritical, a stunt. They have a point—but in that case it’s a pretty expensive stunt (more than $1 billion in lost annual revenue). This is a clear example of a brand-driven business decision. In addition to pulling tobacco, CVS has changed its name from CVS Caremark to CVS Health, indicating a commitment to something bigger than themselves.

So how much financial loss is CVS willing to sacrifice for a bold brand promise? Does that mean they’re pulling Frito’s and M&M’s off the shelves? (I hope not.) The store will still carry plenty of products that contribute to major health problems, so can it really be the flagship of health it’s aspiring to?

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Why Large, Complex Organizations Need a Strong Brand Identity

If you read a lot of the branding and naming advice that’s out there on the Internet, it would be easy to think that the only time an organization should worry about its brand identity is when it is first getting started. What should you name your company? How should you position it against competitors? These are important questions for startups and new brands, but the truth is that large, complex organizations are just as often in need of identity strategy.

 

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The Benefit of Organizational Identity

Having worked on more than 300 identity programs over the course of our careers—for all types of clients, ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies like GE, Boeing, Apple and Walt Disney—we’ve seen that the value of a strong brand identity cannot be underestimated. It can be the difference between success and failure for an organization, no matter how big or small.

From marketing and advertising to operations, investments and recruiting, everything you do begins with identity. It’s the organizing principle that makes your organization unique and meaningful. And because it is of such strategic importance, a strong identity drives tremendous value through your organization.

We recently made a video that distills our thinking about the value of organizational identity—why it’s important and what it can do for you.

Please take a look and share to anyone you think might be interested in learning more about why identity matters.

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Relevance: A Brand’s Fountain of Youth

Relevance: A Brand’s Fountain of YouthRecently I read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle by Leah Garchik. She recapped a story that involved a pilot, who, while navigating a flight to the East Coast, suggested over the intercom that passengers look out the window for a scenic “Kodak moment.” As Garchick reported, one flight attendant then asked, “What’s Kodak?”

Once a ubiquitous tagline, “A Kodak Moment” made its way into casual speech to describe a moment worth remembering, but awareness of Kodak’s popular tagline, as well as its brand relevance today, has almost completely evaporated.

This is a huge lesson. Success can be fleeting, even for the most iconic brands; The question is, how can you prevent that from happening?

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Brand Diversification: When Is it a Good Idea?

Brand Diversification: When Is it a Good Idea?In April I posted a SlideShare presentation (below) about tech startups and key brand considerations as they grow. In it I described Facebook’s decision to retain the WhatsApp and Instagram brands as part of a brand diversification strategy. Retaining acquired brands (rather than renaming and assimilating them into the parent brand) can be useful if they appeal to audiences, or deliver services that are not aligned with your core brand. While Facebook has 1.2 billion users, both Instagram and WhatsApp have hundreds of millions of loyal users. Since many of these users prefer these acquired apps over Facebook, it may make sense to keep those brands separate.

I also remarked that Facebook could continue to grow by following this type of diversification strategy, although it risks cannibalizing some of the popularity of its flagship brand. Now Facebook has publicly committed to this diversification strategy, which has been dubbed by some as “unbundling.”

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Lessons on Being (and Staying) No. 1

Lessons on Being (and Staying) Number OneAt Marshall Strategy we’re fortunate to work with many clients who are ranked No. 1 in their fields. These range from Caltech (No. 1 on the Times Higher Education World University Rankings  for the last three years) to Google (No. 1 in search) to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (the No. 1 rehabilitation hospital in the U.S. for 23 straight years).

Many of these companies enjoy status as household names. What unites them, and what lessons can others learn from them?

Congrats on Being No. 1: Now, How Do You Stay There?
In some respects, you might expect our client roster to be made up of companies that are struggling. After all, aren’t they the ones who need the most help?

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What Is Brand Architecture?

What Is Brand Architecture?One of the corporate branding disciplines that we receive the highest number of inquiries about is brand architecture. We find that for many clients however, it’s hard to grasp what brand architecture really means. Some organizations think of it as market segmentation, others think of it in terms of rationalizing portfolios or acquisition strategy. These are all important concerns, but we think about it at a higher level. Brand architecture explains the degree of relationship that should exist between the corporate brand and its various product and service brands. Should they go with a monolithic Master Brand strategy, corral multiple brands into a “house of brands,” or some combination of the two? What is the strategic rationale for an approach? Without clarity on these issues, your brand promise can become unclear, which creates confusion and can even reflect a lack of confidence.

What is Brand Architecture?

Let’s First Understand The Root of Brand Complexity

Anything that is ever created, whether it’s an app, a product or a service, wants a brand. And why not? Every creator wants to draw attention to his or her creation. By this philosophy, however, one company could easily have numerous brands. Companies often revert to micro-market segmentation as a surrogate for brand architecture. Google, for instance, has set an unusual precedent. The tech giant has many independently moving parts (read: brands) within its organization, but the sum total of those parts doesn’t necessarily create a comprehensive sense of what is “Google.” This is the most common problem we see with brand architecture.

The 3 Questions That Lead to a Strong Brand Architecture

What you call your product and how you identify it is only a tiny percent of the brand experience. Brand meaning and value is based on the promise each product fulfills and how it delivers that promise. Creating a strong and sustainable brand architecture requires answering these three questions:

  1. Do your various different offerings add up to fulfill a promise?
  2. What does each offer say about you as a provider?
  3. How does each one of those offerings help you build your audience, or deliver on your promise?

In our experience, when a new brand is created, there’s not much consideration for the greater whole until it’s too late. A number of tech companies have spent years and millions of dollars cleaning up their brand messes. For example, we saw Sony lose its position as a premium brand partly because its many sub-brands fragmented product teams and distracted consumers from Sony’s core promise. We look at Amazon’s recent purchase of WholeFoods and wonder how strongly Amazon will want to associate their technology and commerce brand with a brick and mortar grocer. Any obvious association is likely to change perceptions of both brands.

Relatively few companies make the hard decisions that we think are necessary to grow their brands responsibly. By doing so, companies can avoid wasted investments and confusion among their audiences.

Contact us to learn more about creating successful brand architectures.

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Focus First on Your Brand Message, Not Appearance

Focus First on Your Brand’s Message, Not AppearanceSeveral years ago I took a Harvard Business School course on business thinking for design leaders. Toward the end of the course, one professor told us that what we do as brand strategists and designers frightens some CEOs. Why? Because what we do, while vitally important to their success, is not always directly quantifiable. It’s hard to measure emotional connection with a number.

This unsurety and discomfort can cause business leaders to judge brand expression solely on its aesthetics, rather than on the idea the expression is meant to represent. Ironically, this can increase CEOs’ discomfort; what sits before them does not appear to be immediately satisfying. Without a clear understanding and appreciation for the meaning behind the brand expression, executives will miss out on the value brand thinking can create for their organizations.READ MORE

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Strategic Identity and Your Corporate Image

Corporate Identity Branding and Strategy

Some people believe that “image is everything” when it comes to marketing their company. Others think “identity” begins and ends with a logo.

The reality is, both are important, and identity and image have a critical relationship in telling your unique story.

We believe that a strategic identity should help you clearly articulate who you are, what you do, and why you matter to your key audiences, in ways that are ownable, believable, beneficial, sustainable, and profitable.

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Corporate Identity and Branding – A Reality Check

Some people believe that “image is everything” when it comes to corporate identity and branding. Others think “identity” begins and ends with a logo.

The reality is, both are important, and corporate identity and image have a critical role within brand marketing strategy. Branding consultants are a great resource when designing your successful branding strategies.

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