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Apple might be the most straight-forward, boring brand in the world.
But they don’t seem to know it.
Their emails and print ads have headlines. Headlines! Print ads! Email?!? And these emails! They always talk about product features and benefits. And have a clear call to action. Just one!
Talk about text book.
Don’t get me started on their videos! Their product videos show the products. They use employees for the voice overs. And they show the technology inside.
Talk about non-creative.
Their website shows products. Streams their live event where employees stand on a stage and demo products. Oh yeah, and a perfunctory celebrity shows up at some point. Talk about product launches for dummies.
What’s with these guys?
Haven’t they heard about creating branded entertainment, complex real-time brand newsrooms during red carpet events, or sponsoring big ticket sporting events? Don’t they care about being on the leading edge of marketing innovation?
I guess they are just a bunch of engineers too busy making products to care about doing anything creative with their marketing. Somebody really should tell them.
I made this video for a class I designed and taught for the Soderquist College of Business at JBU. The class is about customer value, and it builds from this model. The model explains how a great brand position exists at the intersection of three things:
What is meaningful to the consumer (the M)
What is unique from the competition (the U)
What is deliverable or do-able by your organization (the D)
If you only have 2 of these 3, then your brand will struggle in the market.
I’ll expand on this idea in future posts.
I bought my first one more than 13 years ago, but every time I get these hideous email ads, it diminishes my love for this brand just a bit more. That’s bad advertising when it reduces equity. Whoever is responsible for these, needs to take some clues from their product design team or needs to develop some equity guidelines to operate from.
Rule One in Brand: DO NOT CHANGE WHAT WORKS. The original GAP logo is iconic, fresh and relevant even after all these years. In retail, the merchandise is everything. And only a brand struggling with its image either because of consumer perception or because it just feels dated should do anything about it. I challenge anyone to find one thing wrong with their previous logo. It was near perfect.
The GAP brand stands for classics and the logo was a classic. This new version is a nod to…digital(?), update(?), shift in…I got nothing. It does seem like the fall collection is a departure from the fresh, relevant classics that they built their brand upon…remember when Old Navy tried this? Denim, khakis, white shirts and black T’s are the Gap. And the brand served as a neutral container for their apparel…now it is just getting in the way. The white studio like walls replaces with brand logo as artwork that is distracting…but I digress.
You cannot just sneak out a new logo. The fact that the company is not saying anything about it, and just emailed out the new logo on promotional emails without explanation or fanfare shows that at least the marketing department at the GAP may be out of touch with the new realities of marketing. Like the fact that the web is buzzing about it, and GAP is not at the party. Perhaps this is the most telling thing in all of it, and the reason why we might expect this kind of base-less left turn.
I’m a fan of brand refreshing, but for the right reasons, at the right time, and with the right rollout. This seems to be none of the above.
I just saw a question about branding from the inside-out on LinkedIn‘s Future Trends group, and I felt compelled to submit my two cents into the dialog. I’m including here for any who are not in that group.
******* ******* ******* ******* *******
Inside-out branding is the only way.
It all starts with identity — the core identity — of the organization. What is its reason for being. Because every company ships its culture. And culture is built from a shared identity and vision. Otherwise, why would a company exist? It is a group with a shared set of operating assumptions (i.e. values and identity) rallied around a common cause (i.e. a vision). When that identity and vision captures the imagination of anyone outside the company, a brand is born.
I think consumers today are craving authenticity in branding, but they are not getting it much. I think they are in places like TOMS Shoes or charity: water or Every Monday Matters, but they are not getting from the P&G‘s of the world and you are seeing subtle rumblings today that are going to trigger a tsunami at some point in the near future. But when a company knows who they are and where they are going, then they have a great chance.
Of course, there are tons of market dynamics that need to be overlaid onto this regarding consumer needs, attitudes and behavior. Then there’s competitive issues regarding the category the brand is entering. But these are technical issues and secondary to Identity and Vision.
The problem with the practice of branding is that the practice of branding today spends too much time on consumer and category dynamics and ignores Identity and Vision. In fact, it thinks of Identity purely in terms of logo and collateral design. Those are secondary. Get the foundation right, and the house has a better chance of standing.
It is interesting to see how many people are responding to the LinkedIn question with answers about Social Media. Granted, most of them are social media consultants who are looking for a way to promote their business. But this kind of student body left thinking is what the Adjective Marketing business is all about. Bring out a new book – everyone follows. Here comes a new media vehicle – everybody jumps on-board.
Social Media is a sets of sites and tools that empower anyone to listen and engage in conversations with an audience. Brand-building is a discipline born out of the Identity and Vision of an organization. These are not the same thing. I guess the marketing profession will keep answering every question with social media until something new comes along.
He starts out by talking some very common ideas about how social is taking over the web. If you read Steve for any amount of time, then you’ll know his thoughts on Facebook swallowing the web whole. He talked about how the social web started out as “things” but will soon become “everything” and this is where he runs astray.
Things on the web are Social Objects. It is the stuff that we talk about online. These social objects become the currency for the online ecosystem. Sometimes it is an event we all know about and we get a sense of shared experience; sometimes it is an event that only you know about and you get a sense of being “in the know.”
Either way, the technology is not what is important here, the social dynamics are and the web is just facilitating those NOT creating them. It’s like we just met other human beings once Facebook arrived.
Second issue is luxury. This is economics 101 – supply and demand. If everyone can get a piece of Tiffany & Co, then guess what? It’s called Zales or “every kiss begins with K.” It will lose its cache and all of its brand power will flit out the window.
His screenshot of Tiffany’s fan page is shameful. I don’t know who at Tiffany thought that everyone needed to Fan them, but that is NOT a “Fan-able” brand. Starbucks is. Tiffany is not. Oh sure, they’ll have loads of fans, but none of that will translate into sales. And it is worse than just allowing window shopping. They have given their brand over to a co-promotion with Facebook.
If your brand does not fit with Facebook, then you should not be on Facebook. It’s a bad idea. Figure out another way to make luxury social. Take a note or two from the Sartorialist...oh, nevermind. He’s on there, too. Somebody make it stop.
I have not read any of the commentary about the Google ad yet, and for a reason. I wanted to get down my opinions of it untainted by anyone else’s opinions because I’ve rarely seen something that so defied my expectations.
Everyone talks about Google taking over every business that they move in to. Most of the conversation is about their dominance, their size, their goal to get all the world’s information. We speculate about their moves and their motives. Lately, we’ve even begun to take their search engine to task saying that keywords have run their course.
They know all of this, of course. But they did not address it. Not directly anyway.
What they chose to do is put themselves right in the middle of life. Not everyone’s life either – just their little part of one particular drama. They just showed how the simple thing that they do – help you find information on the web – helps in so many important moments in life.
This is brilliant advertising.
And it is by a company that did not need to build awareness or grow share. They have all of those that they need.
No, this was meant to show how something as simple as a search engine can help facilitate something elusive and tender and human as a budding romance come about. It is a brilliant piece of film. Fully branded, perfectly scored. Spot on emotionally.
For all the talk about the capital “c” Conversation in marketing, and all the hyperbole about the ruination of the :30 spot. This reinforced the power of the medium of film to deliver what no conversation ever could. It moves you emotionally. It conjured up a story – completely in our heads – that we all wanted to be a part of (even football guys in some small way).
It opened up the heart to emotions we’d never associated with Google.
And it didn’t need a baby or a monkey or a Clydesdale to do it.
Hmmm…we never like these changes, and it’s always easy to take a cheap shot at rebrands. I’m remembering back to Anderson Consulting’s shift to Accenture and how hated it was. Now, Accenture seems like it’s been here forever.
Same with this shift — Comcast to xfinity — it’s not hard to imagine how the selling of this went internally. Link to infinity and all the choices. The “x” is about a crossroads or intersection of services — or even alluding to an x-ray. I’ve done enough of these pitches to know the spiel.
At the end of the day, renaming does a couple of things. First, it gives us something to write, moan, complain, pontificate, critique about, and second, it does signal change. We can act like it doesn’t or that no one cares, but it does signal it and it works.
So, laugh or criticize all you like, but in a few years, we’ll forget that they used to be comcast. Because a name is an empty container that must be filled with meaning. If they deliver on promise to customers, then the name will be meaningful. If you don’t, then no name will save you.
Part 3 on the Comm. Arch. model that I’ve been developing and using with clients. The reason I’ve been working on this is to try and develop a strategic dashboard that will help CEO’s and CMO’s manage their end of the communication, content and conversation of their brands, people and organization. There is a big challenges with this:
Organizations are built around an old model.
We have departments built around functional silos that do not recognize today’s communication realities. The marketing department handles brand advertising. The sales department does it’s own promotions. The PR department handles the press. Perhaps there is even an investor relations group. And within any of these you have sub-silos for internet, social media, events, even search has pure SEO/SEM people. It’s maddening to navigate and ends up barraging the consumer with so much confusing noise. But what is the solution?
For example, when people posted videos about Domino’s Pizza on YouTube who should respond — marketing or public relations? It’s a problem for both departments. Because it is showing up in the press, you need crisis response PR working on it. And because it is hurt the brand and potentially sales, you need marketing working on it. But doing what and how?
In this instance, we have an unusual response from an unusual source – the CEO himself on YouTube. It’s brilliant. The right response from the right person on the right medium. And then a campaign went into gear that addressed needs across the board: product, research, marketing, PR. It was not a “new media” or a “social media” campaign (as is so en vogue right now). It was an authentic response to real customer feedback. They listened, did something about it, captured content of them doing something about it, and then told that story. It hits all four quadrants on the matrix. But this is rare, and it shouldn’t be.
Top leaders need to own macro-message management of their company and brand.
Period. End of story. Show me a great brand and I will show you a fanatical leader behind it who is accused of micro-managing every detail. There are the obvious ones like Steve Jobs who’s brilliant secrecy around new product development whips people into such a frenzy that he needs very little PR staff to handle it. But there are lesser known brand geniuses like Herb Keller at Southwest Airlines who keep a company focused, on-message and relevant to consumers. Unfortunately, these leaders are the exception and not the rule.
This Comm Arch model proposes a structure to manage all communications.
It is a tool for development and a dashboard for reviewing messages. In fact, on the next post, we’ll deconstruct the Domino’s Pizza example into this framework to see how it works.
This model is a tool, but it is not a perfect one. For starters, I don’t like the name of it. And not just because it is too long and sounds a bit self-important (guilty on both accounts). No, what really bothers me is that it seems to be about communication, and so much of the world has shifted to content and conversation. Here’s the distinctions:
1. Communication tends to be static for the speaker-listener roles. Yes, it is a very broad sweeping topic, but in the world of marketing communications it has forever been a one-way communication. And now there are some tools around that allow a two-way street, but that does not mean that everything is going to be two-way. Takes movies for example. For all the hype about interactivity on Blue-ray, and the eternal promises of choose-your-own-endings, the movies that do best are created by people who know the craft and are talented at doing it. Same with television, books and plays. These one-way mediums are not going away. We’ll always have salesmen pitching, advertisers telling brand stories (of various lengths), and customer feedback. It’s that n:n category that has everyone talking (literally I suppose)…
2. Conversation has to be dynamically shifting the speaker-listener roles. Otherwise it is not a conversation, it is a monologue. And while the sales pitch needs some pitch time, it sure better have a Q&A at the end if anyone intends on actually selling something. Likewise on customer feedback. If there is no response, then the problem (and the customer) will just go away and a new problem will replace it – finding new customers and repairing a damaged reputation after they tell everyone online that you don’t listen. The good news is that the listening tools we have today are dynamic and robust. Which means we don’t have an excuse.
3. Content needs to be available on-demand. I think of this category as heavily in the Inform and Entertain modes. Information needs to be structured correctly so it can be navigated by an audience. Their experience of your content will form the brand impression. Not your delivery of it per se. Can I find out what I need to know, in the form I need it, and whenever I need it? You should be answering yes to all three of these questions. This is pull marketing. The kind that allows the user to direct the when and where. You just make sure you’ve anticipated all the questions, all the right media, and all the…oh, just put everything everywhere just to be safe. No, that wasn’t a joke. Don’t make me browse, unless it’s a catalog I love.
So, it will stay communication architecture. With the caveat that it covers the conversation and content paradigms that are pervasive in the halls of marketing departments and agencies today. Halls that are undergoing some tremendous changes right now.