Showing posts from July, 2007

5 key steps to crisis planning for the brand

Kami Watson Huyse recently wrote a useful article published in Communication World Bulletin (membership required to read the fulltext).The article is called "Crisis Planning in a Digital Age: Beyond Tylenol" and makes the following point: Modern crisis planning has to happen faster than ever. Johnson & Johnson responded to the Tylenol crisis within a few weeks. Today we are operating on a "30-minute news cycle, driven by the wild card of the Internet." "All it takes is one influential blog to take up the story, followed by accelerated coverage by online and mainstream media."
Huyse offers a number of ideas for communication channels for dealing with a crisis in today's accelerated environment. Most of them make sense to me; here are my top picks (see the full article to read all 10):
Be ready to send email blasts out as needed.Connect with important online blogs and forums before a crisis ever occurs.Create an online communication center (like a blo…

Build your brand with ONE image, not many

When you are building a brand, it is critically important that you project one singular image. This may sound very simple and intuitive, but it always amazes me when companies get this wrong—and it also amazes me how powerful it is when they get it right.

An example of a company that gets it very wrong is GEICO, the American insurance company. GEICO is represented by two different advertising campaigns with two completely different messages. One shows a gecko (lizard) featuring the message that a 15 minute phone call can save you 15% on your car insurance. Here the message is “convenient savings.”Another shows a caveman who is insulted when he hears the message that the insurance is so easy to use “even a caveman can do it.” Here the message is “easy.” It’s a shame because both campaigns have the potential to be enormously effective, but when you put them together, they cancel each other out. An organization that gets it right is the American cable TV channel TNT, which runs the taglin…

The brand council -- an indispensable tool

The implication of being a brand-driven organization is that the organization becomes driven by the marketing function. This is sure to elicit hoots and howls from Finance, IT, Human Resources, and the other back-office mission support functions, each of which believes that it can and should be primary in the organization. The job of the CEO is to look all those other functions in the face and say NOT that they’re unimportant, but rather the opposite: “Your support is critical if our image is to be presented effectively to the public.”

This is where the concept of the executive brand council (or brand council for short)—a multidisciplinary team of executives from each line of business and support function—comes in. (This is strategic thinking item #4--see previous post.) The CEO cannot lead the brand forward alone—the informed advice of key leaders from across the organization is all-important. As Paula Dumas, a senior-level brand marketer at Kodak, says (quoted in Prophet--see previou…

What the CEO needs to do to build the brand - good points from Prophet Brand Strategy

Going back to the Prophet Brand Strategy document referenced in the previous post, this is to summarize what the CEO of the brand-enabled organization must do in order to lead it forward effectively. Basically Prophet says that the leader must do two things: strategize and execute. Not a wondrous insight there, but it’s the “how” that matters: By strategize they mean that the leader must bring “world-class strategic brand thinking” to confront “market opportunities and business challenges.”By execute they mean the ability to “deliver,” or “operationalize,” the brand “in the face of limited resources and the need for prioritization and tough choices.”Strategic thinking, they say, involves four actions (two of them have to do with portfolio management so I’ve combined them under #3):
Knowing the customerDeveloping a brand identity and positionManaging the range of brands represented under the major brand and shedding them when necessaryManaging the brand from…

When the CEO dismisses the brand

To brand an organization effectively, you have to start at the top – with executive leadership. The CEO (or equivalent) must be totally committed to the concept of branding and must drive the brand throughout the organization. Otherwise the organization cannot effectively display the right image at all the points at which it reaches its stakeholders. If you understand the concept and the importance of brand, this much is obvious. But there are still leaders that “don’t get it.” I believe that there are basically two reasons why.
The first is that they literally don’t understand branding at all. To them a brand is Coca-Cola or Disney or Starbucks. It’s a marketing or an advertising gimmick. It doesn’t apply to the widgets they produce. It’s flighty and self-promotional and frankly, stupid. It has nothing to do with the organization believing in anything, or communicating a unified image to the outside world. Branding, to them, has to do with creating a TV commercial and maybe buying som…

When to say that "brand is reputation" and when not to

When I was a brand consultant, we used to tell our clients that brand is the same thing as reputation. Primarily, it was a way to get them comfortable with the idea of assessing where they stood in the eyes of their stakeholders (you can't do a brand analysis without understanding what image people have of the organization). And frequently this strategy worked: After all, who does not want to know what others think of them--what their reputation is? And in fact, brand does share some things in common with reputation, most importantly that both result from the perception of the organization by its stakeholders. In other words, when you ask the question "what do other people think of us?" the answer you get back could either be your brand or your reputation.

However, routinely and unthinkingly equating brand with reputation is a slippery slope. Because reputation has to do with specific characteristics like those that Fortune uses to determine its most admired companies: &q…

Corporate communication: FIRST LISTEN, then talk (when internal branding has the opposite effect)

Is everybody sick to death of branding and brand messages at work? If so, does internal branding stand a chance?

I’m thinking of the popularity of games like buzzword bingo (or “B.S. bingo”) where people attend meetings and cross out buzzwords as they’re spoken—the fun part is you get to yell out “Bingo” (or scream it silently to yourself) when you get five in a row. And of course there is “The Office” and “Dilbert.”

I wonder if, to employees, brand messages—no matter how well-intentioned or expensive—have the exact opposite effect they’re supposed to. Recently I stumbled on this essay--it gives you the idea:
"When I was working at Pizza Hut, they used to show us promotional videos for the new pizzas they were unveiling. These were not for the customers; no one would ever see them but employees, yet they were still expertly produced with fancy jump cuts, jingles, lighting, sound, everything. I have no doubt that they cost the company thousands of dollars a year. The intent was to ge…

What is going on at NASA???

Update 8/9/07: NASA can't find anything to substantiate the allegations about drinking.

News just broke that astronauts were reportedly drunk before flying and a NASA subcontractor employee sabotaged the shuttle Endeavour. It wasn't that long ago, the report notes, that astronaut Lisa Nowak was accused of attacking her "romantic rival" with pepper spray. And let's not forget the shooting at Johnson Space Center in Houston by an employee who ended up killing himself. They better do something to repair their image, and fast!

Lindsay Lohan vs. Britney Spears: Whose career will survive?

Here is an interesting contrast between two celebrity brands...two female entertainers who are famously troubled, but whose brands are affected in different ways. First, Lindsay Lohan, who recently denied having done drugs. Honestly, even if she did, I am 99% sure it doesn't affect her brand. Why? Because Lohan has always been an out of control type party girl. That is her brand promise --trouble. I don't foresee any negative impact on her career at all. That doesn't mean that her behavior is OK, but it does mean that in the marketplace, you are judged on how well you align to your brand -- even if your brand is a negative one. Her movies will still get insured--no worries--and her movie "I Know Who Killed Me" is going to be a major hit. (Predictions are that ticket sales will be even higher than projected due to interest in her personal life.)Now, Britney Spears is another matter. Her career may as well be over. It's not because she keeps doing strange, out …

When obsession is good and bad for the brand

Steve Jobs hates buttons on computers and electronics gadgets, and even his clothes, reports the Wall Street Journal, because they create too much complexity. Read the article to find out the details, but one point stands out: Jobs is obsessed with getting rid of buttons.

My point is, this obsession has been good for the Apple brand in that it has created a point of relevant differentiation -- i.e. it's a different approach to technology and people like it -- but bad in that it's gone too far, especially with the lack of a keypad on the iPhone.

Results? Early iPhone sales are disappointing, although not everyone is concerned that this means the phones are a bust.

Marketing experts are having fun disagreeing on the prospects for the gadget. My prediction: it will be a big flop.

Harley Davidson marketing to women - what a mistake!

Harley-Davidson is ruining its brand. As reported by the New York Times, the company is chasing the female market, which is reportedly the "fastest-growing part of the motorcycle business, buying more than 100,000 of them a year." Harley is changing the motorcycles to be more comfortable for women, selling female-oriented clothing ("bright colors and with rhinestones"), etc. What a mistake! Harley is the quintessential brand for men. They should start a "sister" brand for women, not mess with the original.

Red Lobster - brand operationalization, at least in part

Red Lobster is setting itself back on course, reports the New York Times, with a major brand makeover that's taking it from "frumpy and downscale" to a more upscale operation. What's noteworthy to me is how intelligently they designed the change - first focusing on operational improvement, then on changing the image with the public. See quote from the story below:
"Kim Lopdrup, president of Red Lobster, says that the marketing initiative is part of a three-stage effort to revamp the brand. The first phase involved improving operations so that customers got what they ordered and did not have to wait too long. The second phase is aimed at changing the public image and perception. The third part will be dedicated to increasing sales at existing restaurants and perhaps adding locations."The only question I have for Red Lobster is, did they revamp operations in a branded way - did they educate employees on the new image and how operational changes would enhance i…

Repairing the image of the Justice Department

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez vows to stay at the Justice Department "to try to repair its broken image". In a prepared statement for the Senate Judiciary Committee he said:

"I believe very strongly that there is no place for political considerations in the hiring of our career employees or in the administration of justice," he said. "As such, these allegations have been troubling to hear. From my perspective, there are two options available in light of these allegations. I would walk away or I could devote my time, effort and energy to fix the problems. Since I have never been one to quit, I decided that the best course of action was to remain here and fix the problems."This is either a very smart move or a very misguided one. I say smart because through his actions he is showing that he feels he is in the right, an assertion that people may ultimately accept. I say misguided because if people believe he is in the wrong then no amount of effort on his…

Sprint's copycat ad campaign

Remember Microsoft's ad campaign - Your Potential, Our Passion? Sprint's new ad campaign looks just like it, with people surrounded by neon streaks. Every time I see the Sprint ads I think of Microsoft and wonder, did Sprint copy Microsoft on purpose or are they just clueless? The new campaign doesn't detract from Microsoft; if anything, it reminds the viewer of just how brilliant the Microsoft ads were (to me, anyway). But Sprint is reduced to far less than it could be.

Brand heritage and Ford

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who is trying to turn the company around. He said that he has spoken to everybody about what to do:
"You talk to all the stakeholders, starting with the customers. You also look at the macro economics, the economy. You talk to customers, dealers, Ford employees, UAW, your suppliers, your investors, everybody."I wonder, in all those conversations, did anybody talk about the brand? Because Ford's brand is dying. The "Bold Moves" campaign is a terrible betrayal of its brand heritage--affordable safety. ("Bold moves" are exactly the opposite of what a safety-conscious driver does.) Remember the Ford Taurus? A great car. And now there is talk of Ford selling Volvo, the brand that defines safety. What are they doing over there? Why don't they leverage the brand equity they have built up over time?

Federal agency branding - yes, it's allowed!

Some people may think that branding a federal agency is, quite simply, not allowed. This is because we are strictly prohibited from engaging in propaganda—meaning any activity done simply for "self-aggrandizement" or "puffery" of the agency itself. And isn’t that what brand-building is, simply the act of creating a well-known name?

Actually, no. Brand-building is about creating a very specific kind of relationship between an organization and its stakeholders, a relationship in which the stakeholders understand 1) that the organization exists 2) what an organization is promising to do for them and 3) what they must do in return to obtain goods or services from the organization (pay a fee, comply with specific rules, etc.). Ideally, to have strength, that relationship will be based on an image of the organization that is positive, high-level, and conceptually abstract—representing something more than just what the organization does on a day-to-day basis. For example, …

Transparency - key to a good brand

Today's New York Times has an item ("Let the Sun Shine," p. C1) that highlights the importance of transparency in government, and indicates that transparency is currently somewhat lacking. Apparently, a recent study by a private research group at George Washington University found that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests at some agencies have been stalled for 15 years or more. (The article goes on to say that there are two bills afloat that are aimed at remedying the situation, and to detail their status on Capitol Hill.)

I am not advocating one way or the other for the passage of legislation, but just want to note that from a brand perspective the FOIA problem is troubling. For in order to build a good relationship with the public, the agency must build up a relationship of trust with them. And that trust depends on a free flow of information to the greatest extent that is legally possible. After all, government agencies are entrusted by the taxpayer to fulfill ma…

Informal Influence

A new article in Fortune magazine, "What's Your OQ," (7/23/07) talks about the importance of reaching employees through their informal social networks rather than through the formal chain of command. These networks are seen as key in persuading employees to make needed cultural changes.
An old article from the New York Times, "Brand Blogs Capture the Attention of Some Companies," talks about informal channels of influence that people have on brands (such as Starbucks and Netflix) by starting blogs dedicated to those brands. Other consumers read them and the brand owners themselves sometimes turn to the bloggers for advice.
What both of these articles have in common is the recognition that formal corporatespeak, and formal rules, regulations, and channels of communication, are a turnoff. People want to hear from other people like themselves--that's what motivates them to listen and possibly change their behaviors. As the NYT article says, a Yankelovich marketi…

What is a brand?

A blog on branding should start by defining what a brand is.

Admittedly there are numerous definitions of brand out there.
Theclassic (or legal) view is that a brand is "A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller."My view is that a brand is also an image held in the mind. Therefore, I go with this aspect of the definition, from Wikipedia: "A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it."Key takeaway: It is important to develop and protect the name/logo/sound/etc. of one's product or service, but it is more important to develop and protect the associations that people have with that name.

What I am interested in is, how do people--including brand producers, br…