Brand Decision Tag

Spokespeople are No Substitute for a Strong Identity

Spokespeople are No Substitute for a Strong Identity

We have encountered prospective clients who believed that the best way to build awareness and enthusiasm for their corporate identity or brand was to find a charismatic and compelling spokesperson to represent them.

My personal favorite Spokesman is George Foreman. His delivery and personality are infectious (See his current TV pitch for Inventhelp), but when you sign up with George Foreman, you get a human being who could become inappropriate despite his charm.

Hiring celebrity spokespeople can be a dicey strategy. People, or their circumstances, can change. Consider the following situations:

When Lance Armstrong finally admitted cheating, he was dropped like a stone by all his sponsors. When Tiger Woods was caught cheating on his wife, however, Nike stuck by him.

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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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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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