proof in branding

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Here’s the thing. Hyundai did an amazing job in America with its long game of winning minds and market share. The low price point, 10-year warranty is the stuff of which Harvard Business School cases are made. I say long term, because that’s how you build a car brand – over time.  It’s a considered purchase, an expensive purchase. Hyundai did it the right way and consumer perceptions of quality and value were growing more and more positive.

Then came Genesis. The car designs were amazing. The ads, off-the-charts well-conceived. But the brand strategy was lacking. America wasn’t ready for a luxury brand from Hyundai. Just wasn’t. (And don’t go all focus group defensive on me.)     

When Peter Arnell did a branding assignment to make Samsung more a mainstream electronics brand 30+ years ago, it felt wrong. But it worked. The timing was right. The proofs were baked. Today Samsung rocks.

Genesis might have worked had it not been a Hyundai brand. Or if introduced 10 years down the road. But Alas, Poor Yorik, it was not.

Peace.

 

 

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A foundational element of my branding practice is “proof.”  When I start out, sans strategy, I am seeking proof.  Proof of what? I do not then know. I’m also on the lookout for deeds – the things people do in pursuit of commerce advantage. I filter out all the flah flah, adjectives and marko-babble about quality and people, and I mine for evidence.

In Lucent Technologies first ad after breaking off from AT&T, it claimed “Invented the Transistor.” Now there’s a pregnant piece of proof. An example of a question I might ask executives during discovery is “What business practice is uniquely yours?” Hunting for deeds.  

Today it was reported in the NYT that a Viking site may have been found in Newfoundland by archaeologists. A site that could help re-write North American history. They used input from oral Viking history but it is proof that will seal the deal: Smelting evidence, fire broken boulders, wall remnants.

If you are doing a branding project and your brand strategist curls your hair with talk of symbolism, authenticity, and customer journey you are likely in for a long ride.  But if you can tell the brand planner is on the hunt for proof, deeds and evidence, you’re know they are mining in the right place.

Peace. 

 

 

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Rebranding.

I met a midsize business owner last year who spent a great deal of time and money refreshing his brand. The catalyst for a rebrand is often a creaky website. When your website looks like a brochure, hasn’t been updated in 3 years and has more stock photos than an art director’s attic, it’s time for a new site. This is often when small marketing companies or agencies try to sell you a new logo and tagline. Voila!

A logo and website — a new set of clothes — make you look sharp. A tagline energizes and organizes you, but after that “Has anything else really changed?” Has your strategy changed? 95% of the time the answer is a resounding no.

In the case of my friend, he worked with some smart people who knew a thing about marketing. The tagline, a de facto brand strategy, was alliterative making it memorable by design and, more importantly, was based upon something customers wanted dearly. But did the company do its part to deliver on the strategy? Did it operationalize the strategy? Did the company work hard to prove the strategy or the claim? Not yet. The story is still to unfold.

Rebranding is not a paint job. It’s a business-building. Brand strategy is an organizing principle for product, experience and messaging.  

Peace!

 

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