Branding Tag

What I Learned About Branding From Aristotle Onassis

Aristotle OnassisIn 1975, I had the enjoyable experience of being the guest of Jackie and Aristotle Onassis at the El Morocco club in New York City. It was New Year’s Eve, and while I had worked with Jackie previously, I was meeting Mr. Onassis for the first time. I explained my profession in corporate branding to him, and his subsequent advice surprised me. It was completely related to image; not a word he said dealt with financial or investment advice.

“Drink where the rich drink, even if it means sipping one drink,” he said. “Live at an upscale address, even if it is the worst accommodations in the neighborhood. Exercise. Stay tan, even if you use a tanning lamp.” To me, his advice was this: To be successful, act successful and network with successful people. This is good advice for building your personal brand.

Using Your Personal Brand to Engage Others

But Mr. Onassis’s advice relates to more than just your personal brand or image. It also relates to how successful you are at reaching your intended audience—both within your organization and externally. When you think about what your personal image is, it’s really a combination of four things:

  1. Appearance: How are you dressed? Do you have good posture?
  2. Personality: How well do you communicate? Is it apparent that you have a good attitude?
  3. Competencies: Can you easily fulfill what’s required of you?
  4. Differentiation: What traits or skills separate you from everyone else?

These elements must be suited to your audience and the milieu you—and your organization—operate in.

Over the course of my career I’ve spent time in Hollywood, New York, Washington DC and Silicon Valley. Each place thinks it’s the center of the world and each has its own values, styles and characteristics. If you went down to Google’s headquarters wearing a three-piece suit, you’d be rejected. So just as you need to think about the signals you’re putting out with your personal image, you need to do the same when it comes to your audience. You need to understand, attract, and engage your audience.

If you’re going to operate across these different arenas you need to be sensitive to each audience and understand what resonates with them. Only then will you be successful.

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To the New President of UC: Start With an Audit!

Janet Napolitano

Former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano was appointed president of the UC system on July 18. Her first day as president is today, Sept. 30. (Photo courtesy Steve Rhodes)

As many of you may have already heard, today is the first day of work for former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in her new position as president of the University of California system. We’ve worked with UC before, and we’re eager to see what Ms. Napolitano’s tenure brings to this great institution.

The First Thing Any Leader Should Do

As a student at the Harvard Business School, when my classmates and I aspired to one day serve as presidents of our organizations, I remember a professor of ours posed an interesting question: “What is the first thing you should do when you become president?” he asked.

For us, the first thing that popped into our heads was the thought of cracking open a bottle of champagne for our success. But other than that, we were puzzled. The advice this professor gave has stayed with me to this day: The first thing you should do is take an audit.

Here’s why:

  • To establish which assets you have been entrusted with and for which liabilities you have accepted responsibility.
  • To put a stake in the ground showing the condition of the organization when you took over, so that you can measure and demonstrate the improvements you’ve made during your term as president.

3 Intangible Assets That Should Be Part of Any Audit

For us at Marshall Strategy, we also recommend—and practice ourselves—to audit each organization’s intangible assets as well. If you know what you assets and liabilities are, then you know what your plan of action needs to be.

There are three main intangible assets we review with our clients:

  1. Awareness: When we begin auditing a company’s intangible assets and liabilities, we begin by listening to the executives about the issues they are facing, the challenges that lie ahead and what disadvantages they may have. You may have a great company in the public’s eye, but if there is low awareness about its potential obstacles among its executives, then that’s a problem.
  2. Image: We research our client’s image, which includes talking to audiences that are important to the organization, both customers and employees. We gather information on how they perceive the company. Whether employees have high or low morale, that’s something, for example, that gets sorted out in our initial analysis. Out of that we establish some identity objectives that would help alleviate the problems and leverage the advantages.
  3. Branding: Some of an organization’s strongest intangible assets deal with its brand identity. An organization’s name can be an advantage or disadvantage. Along that same line, its graphic expression may be detailed and intricate, but may also be meaningless. Our objective is to reduce those liabilities and increase the assets the company has to work with, which could be naming, messaging, visual expression or strategy.

My advice to Ms. Napolitano is to take an audit of UC, of both its tangible and intangible assets. Such an audit will not only help her understand the massive, intangible value of the university to the state, the nation and the world, but it will also help her identify the perceptual liabilities that threaten appreciation and support of UC’s great value.

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Secret Sauce As a Brand

Special SauceLast week, I wrote about B2B branding: Your audience may not be comprised of “consumers” per se, but it’s still made up of people. People have preferences, loyalty and affinity for certain brands.

So how do you make sure your brand communicates what’s unique and special about you? In essence, what’s the secret sauce that sets you apart?

Making Your Own Secret Sauce

Many clients hire us because they’re having trouble articulating exactly what it is that makes them who and what they are. A lot of our identity work gets to the heart of this—helping clients tell their stories. Even if you aren’t embarking on an identity project, you can still follow some simple principles:

  1. Realize that you never have nothing: If you aren’t widely known for your secret sauce, that doesn’t mean you don’t have it. It can be difficult to pinpoint, and even harder to communicate (and often it’s easier to engage someone to help you find it—which is why it makes up a lot of the work that we do). But there is something worthwhile that sets you apart, and finding it is worth the effort.
  2. Don’t try to be something you’re not: If what you’re attempting feels inauthentic, it’ll be hard to make a shift that will turn employees (likely your most important audience) into brand ambassadors. Take Marshall, for example. We may not the hippest kids on the block, but we’re thoughtful, strategic and big-picture thinkers. Because we know this, we’re able to focus on what we do best.
  3. Don’t be afraid of aspiration: You may need to consider how well your identity tells a clear and cohesive story about your company. When you set out in a direction that is aspirational and authentic, you’ve turned identity into a strategic priority, not just a communications tool.

You’ve got a secret sauce baked in there somewhere, and it’s an essential component of your identity that you should use to your advantage.

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B2B Buyers are People, Too

You might think that in the business-to-business space, brand awareness and loyalty is less important than it is for consumer brands.

VMware tattoo

One of VMware’s customers tattooed the company’s logo on the back of his head, a move that demonstrates a pretty personal commitment.

But some branding experts believe that brands matter even more in B2B than in B2C. Why? Many B2B companies compete in a confusing or fragmented marketplace. Often they’re trying to differentiate highly technical offerings by focusing on functional aspects. It’s a cliché of B2B marketing that it’s all “speeds and feeds,” and that connecting on a more personal level is for the consumer realm.

But initiatives that focus on creating value for B2B brands can have tremendous payoff. A Harvard Business Review study on B2B brands concluded that the corporate brand is responsible for an average 7 percent of stock performance. Depending on your market cap, brand equity can mean hundreds of millions of dollars.

People Make Emotional Decisions

Preference and loyalty decisions are not unemotional, logic-driven events—even in the B2B space. Forrester analyst Laura Ramos, who blogs about areas of concern to CMOs, wrote that many B2B marketers still don’t understand that “B2B is really about the people.”

When I was studying integrated marketing in graduate school, one exercise came up time and again: Answer the question: “Do you have a favorite brand, and why?” Responses were mostly consumer brands, and explanations were always fascinating. Ask yourself about anything “Why do I want this or not want it?” Is it the color? Is it the ingredients? Is it what you feel in your hands? Is it the price? Is it the name? You can apply what you learn even to complex B2B products. A client of ours sells sophisticated scientific instruments and faces a competitor whose arguably inferior product has benefited from significant brand investment, best demonstrated by its sleek-sounding name. Even a marketplace filled with highly logical and analytical thinkers can be swayed by the sense that a cool brand makes the product inherently more desirable.

Some of our B2B clients inspire fanatical loyalty that most consumer brands can’t match. One of VMware’s customers tattooed the company’s logo on the back of his head. A tattoo is a pretty personal commitment, but the product enabled this person to feel like a rockstar in his professional life. Professional decisions are emotional choices. What matters in the end is that you’re offering your customers something that matters to them.

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Allegheny Health Network

Allegheny Health NetworkWe are pleased to announce the launch of Allegheny Health Network, a revolutionary model for healthcare delivery developed by our client, Highmark, with brand strategy, naming and identity development by Marshall Strategy.

After acquiring the West Penn Allegheny hospital system, Highmark assembled a patient-centric, progressive new network for delivering affordable, high quality healthcare within western Pennsylvania. Highmark chose to name this new model Allegheny Health Network, to take advantage of existing equity and a tradition for excellence at Allegheny General Hospital. In its new incarnation, we recommended communicating the key attributes of expertise, progressiveness and teamwork.

In partnership with renowned designer Jerry Kuyper, Marshall developed a cohesive brand strategy, naming architecture and visual identity system for Allegheny Health Network. The resulting system is fresh, engaging, and immediately recognizable. The new symbol arches upward, suggesting optimism and a fresh, progressive approach to health and wellness–its green and blue diamonds compose a larger mark that conveys both teamwork and patient-centricity.

When used in combination with a hospital or service name, the symbol, color palette and Allegheny Health Network endorsement create an immediate sense of presence and connectivity, enabling a variety of distributed facilities, services, and physician groups to build awareness for the overall network. The new system will connect seven hospitals, multiple specialized outpatient care centers, and 7,900 professionals from more than 200 physician practices into one of the strongest networks in Pennsylvania.

So far, local business press has been positive. We look forward to seeing how Allegheny Health Network’s new market presence helps transform health care delivery for the better.

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Shifting Perceptions of Branding in Higher Education

Higher educationIn one of my colleague Jon’s recent posts, he wrote about one sign that you may need to reconsider your identity: your industry is changing. One industry we work in frequently—higher education—is currently going through significant change. Societal trends, shifts in funding priorities and emerging technologies are all contributing to increased competition: for the best students, for top faculty, for funding, for leadership and for reputation. Against this backdrop, branding and identity are increasingly important.

The Importance of Branding

“[A] properly constructed brand is essential for any university competing in the modern global education market,” wrote Ian Pearman, CEO of the UK’s largest ad agency, in a recent piece on the importance of higher ed branding (“Universities are brands whether they like it or not”) that accompanies a global study of the 100 most powerful global university brands.

But branding and higher ed have an often uneasy relationship. Research conducted at the University of San Francisco looked at the impact of branding on California institutions (including several of our clients) and found positive correlations between branding and campus identity, enrollment and foundation initiatives. In spite of this, many don’t see a role for branding and positioning in helping their schools achieve greater success.

Overcoming Reluctance

In our work with higher ed clients we’ve sometimes encountered a sense that academia should be above branding. For some, the word itself is synonymous with marketing or advertising, and there is the perception that this cheapens the important work that educators and researchers do. A development campaign created by our client UC Berkeley matched students’ portraits with quotes on what the school meant to them. The fact that “We are not a brand” was graffitied on a poster installation reveals strong opinions about brand in the context of higher education.

There are ways to navigate around this. When working with higher ed clients, we often refrain from using the word “brand” and instead talk about “identity.” This focuses the conversation on the key issues: who you are, what you do and why you matter. When put in those terms, we find that many in academia are comfortable with, even enthusiastic about what our work can help them to achieve.

Helping to Navigate a Complex Landscape

As the educational landscape becomes more and more complex, it’s increasingly important that higher ed institutions think hard about how they can frame their offerings for perspective audiences. I think back to my own experience as someone trying to decide where to attend graduate school. I was living in Southeast Asia at the time and ill-equipped to form a consideration set for what would be an incredibly important life decision. Institutions of higher learning may want to keep themselves above the fray of “marketing,” but by communicating a clear sense of identity, they can certainly help their audiences understand who they are and what they have to offer.

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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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The American Red Cross Unveils a New Brand Identity

The American Red Cross recently unveiled its new logo and launched a new brand identity campaign. The changes are subtle, but the message is obvious: The Red Cross is no longer just a disaster relief organization; it’s a group of local volunteers ready to make the world a better place.

Why did the American Red Cross feel compelled to update its image and brand identity? The organization’s leadership wants to reach a new generation of donors and volunteers. The goal is regain a stronger sense of relevance and approachability, and to share its message and mission with a broader audience by inviting them to take a look inside ‘The New Red Cross.’

“We want to show more people how they can be part of a Red Cross that intersects with their lives in many ways,” said Red Cross CMO Peggy Dyer. “The new brand identity is an important part of that process.”

The revamped logo maintains the important aspects of the Red Cross’s heritage while updating it to symbolize a sense of participation, belonging, and engagement. By refreshing its identity, the American Red Cross positions itself as a grassroots organization of greater breadth. It can tell its stories of the past to a new generation eager that is eager to listen and become actively involved.

This new brand identity initiative shows how the use of audience-specific messaging, and even the contextual use of a logo, can uphold the grander, more unifying ideal that the Red Cross isn’t just about disasters; it’s about reaching out to help neighbors, locally and globally, in times of need. Modernizing its image invites a whole new generation to get involved and take ownership of the organization to keep it viable and significant in the future.

Making only subtle changes to the logo was wise. If the Red Cross had drastically altered its identity, it would have risked alienating current stakeholders and scaring off potential donors. Even if it had managed to avoid that catastrophe, it would still have been an immeasurable waste of brand equity.

An organization’s brand is an expression of why it matters. The Red Cross’s new brand identity illustrates just how comprehensive a role the organization plays. It’s more than a provider of essential emergency relief—it’s a community of people mobilizing to enhance the world with its presence

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Branding vs. Advertising: What’s the Difference?

What’s the difference between branding vs. advertising campaigns? And, is it smart to have both a brand agency and an advertising agency for your business?

Do you want to improve your branding and corporate identity efforts? Marshall Strategy has a proven track record of making a difference for our clients. Make a business inquiry today to find out how 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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