By Chris Gent, APR, CPRC (Orlando Area Chapter)
Why is branding important? It tells a story that helps connect.
THE HISTORY OF BRANDING
- The word brand derived from the ancient Norse word “Brandr” which means “to burn.”
- In A.D.950 it was used to refer to a burning piece of wood. By the 1300s it was used to describe a torch and by the 1500s the word referred to a mark burned on cattle to show ownership.
- By the 1820s a rise in mass production and trade created a market for wider distribution so producers began burning their mark into crates and cases to separate themselves from their competition.
- The brand eventually evolved into a symbol of quality. Higher quality products could command higher prices.
WHAT IS A BRAND?
- It’s more than a logo.
- It’s every element that touches your audience.
- Social media.
- Customer service.
STEPS FOR BRAND SUCCESS
1. Develop a brand positioning statement
- Define your target audience. Who are your core customers that most represent your services offered?
- Define your category. This allows you to see who your competitors are.
- Define your Benefit. Why would your target audience choose you over another brand?
- Reasons to Believe. What reasons does your audience have to believe your brand delivers on its promises?
Brand positioning statement example – Amazon from 2001
For World Wide Web users who enjoy books, Amazon.com is a retail bookseller that provides instant access to over 1.1 million books. Unlike traditional book retailers, Amazon.com provides a combination of extraordinary convenience, low prices and comprehensive selection.
Breakdown of Amazon brand positioning statement
- They define their audience – World Wide Web users who enjoy reading.
- They define their category – retail bookseller.
- They define their benefit – instant access.
- They define their reason to believe – extraordinary convenience, low prices and comprehensive selection.
2. DEFINE YOUR BRAND
- What is your mission?
- What are the benefits of your services?
- What impressions do your customers already have about you?
- What qualities do you want your customers to associate with your brand?
This is a self-discovery phase that every organization should go through. It will involve a little research, but in the end you will discover the needs and desires of your customers.
3. TAKE A BRAND INVENTORY
- Examine your logo.
- Have a concise brand positioning statement.
- Evaluate every touch point of your brand to your audience.
- Develop a clear voice.
- Create a tagline.
- Develop templates and a brand standards guide.
- Deliver your brand promise.
- Be consistent.
EXAMPLES OF BRAND SUCCESS AND FAILURES:
THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: A Brand 2000 Years in the Making
One of the most recognizable icons/logos in the world – the cross – why? It’s simple and it has a story that makes it connect to people.
They use icons and imagery that tell stories and make connections – saints and the madonna. They also do a great job at evolving and changing style depending on time and location. They have always evolved the brand imagery.
Dress – it doesn’t matter if you are in Rome or New Jersey – they have dress that is consistent. It creates ceremony that allows individuals to connect to the church and participate.
Location – just like Saks Fifth Avenue – in ancient times churches were put in key locations.
Maximize investment vs. exposure. This allowed them to create grand, awe inspiring structures that inspired people. As the saying goes – location, location, location.
The Vatican – the world’s greatest headquarters – an understatement. Apple (the largest company in the world) couldn’t even dream of having its own country as its main office.
Last but not least – the Bible – the greatest brand standards guide ever created. Every single participant in the brand can own it and become ambassadors – word-of-mouth has always been the most important promotion.
One thing to remember is at the end of the day the church isn’t selling a tangible product. I think it’s important to explore how they have been able to be successful over time.
Apple: A Brand Revolution
A company that’s less than 40 years old has had some amazing historic moments in its brand.
Exploration of logos over time
Started out as a simple computer kit for hobbyists. Apple I kit sold for $666 in 1976.
By 1976 Steve Jobs wanted to control the product so they created an all-in computer that was in a case and had a built-in keyboard – just plug it in to a monitor. The Apple II was born.
In 1983 Xerox was a piece of the company before it went public so they allowed the Apple team into its Palo Alto facility. They walked away with the ides for the graphic user interface – what almost all computers today use to interface with the user. That computer was paired with a mouse and became known as the Lisa and eventually became the Macintosh.
In 1984, Macintosh was going to be introduced to the public, but Steve Jobs had to market and brand it – it was know as “the computer for the rest of us.” From the beginning Jobs knew he had to separate himself from all of the other PCs. Macintosh did that with two simple plugs and you were up and running with your own keyboard and mouse.
To introduce Mac, Jobs created the infamous 1984 commercial that was aired during the 1984 Super Bowl. This started what we know today as Super Bowl commercials. The commercial was not approved by the board – they were horrified when they saw it but it was too late to pull. The commercial was aired and Mac became a huge success – the demand was so strong the price was changed from $1,995 to $2,495. Going behind the board’s back and creating the 1984 campaign eventually led to disagreements and Jobs was fired from Apple.
Apple plugged along with mild success of the Mac brand – but it was a niche for designers and producers. In the early 1990s signs of financial trouble where showing.
In 1997 Apple rehired Jobs – he inked an agreement with Microsoft that allowed them to drop a lawsuit and Microsoft would invest $150 million in non-voting share stock essentially saving Apple. Apple also agreed to use Internet Explorer as its default web browser.
In 2001 the Ipod was launched. It wasn’t a new idea, but as always Apple took the product and made it pretty and the user interface was easy to use. Most importantly they separated themselves with one simple thing – the color – they made the cables and device white. This allowed anyone who could see the device to know you were listening to an Ipod because of the white cables – it became cool, a status symbol. A simple brand device made millions of people want to buy the product for more than just usability.
The Ipod’s success created financial stability for Apple and allowed the company to take more control of its brand. Next up were retail outlets. Just like the churches in ancient times Apple picked central locations in large cities for maximum exposure. Apple created a grand retail experience that highlighted the brand and introduced the public to Apple geniuses – total control of brand experience in one location. Take the middle man out. Obviously now Apple stores are at every mall and Best Buy.
The success of the iPhone and iPad only cemented Apple’s success to become the largest company in the world based on market capitalization.
Where Apple goes from here is tough to tell.
JCPENNEY: An Epic Rebranding Failure
Exploration of JCPenney logo changes over the last five years.
In 2011 JCPenney made the move to start changing its brand. One movement in that direction was to highlight JCP, which was a move to simplify the name and embrace something their customers naturally did – think Federal Express in the 1990s eventually embracing customers shortening their name – they officially changed their name to FedEx in 2000.
In 2012 JCPenney hired Apple’s VP of retail operations, Ron Johnson. He actually invested millions of his own money in the company.
Johnson approached his job of recreating JCPenney completely wrong. He brought in his own team and dismantled current management. He created an environment where people were afraid of losing their jobs, when he should have been involving the experienced professionals to examine what was truly wrong with JCPenney’s model. Johnson didn’t really care what the customers thought – he thought he knew best and started making changes to the brand.
The first order in his rebranding was to change the name to only JCP. He simplified the look and feel of all of the marketing collateral and advertising.
At the same time he started renovating stores. But instead of staying with the traditional department store model, he envisioned several little boutiques inside of a larger store so it had a feel of a market. Johnson thought if he created cool “boutiques” people would want to come and hang out – just like an Apple Store. He pictured staff walking around with a tablet or mobile device who would check you out anywhere in the store – no need for a checkout – similar to Apple.
Ron Johnson also instituted a huge change in JCP pricing – no more sales and no more coupons. He introduced fair-and-square pricing which was the low price that was printed on the price tag. He imagined a store where you’d walk in and know that the price on those clothes was going to be the same today as it would be next week – he thought it would make things easier for customers. The truth is Johnson didn’t bother to understand his audience – customers loved looking for sales and loved using coupons – they felt like they were getting the best deal regardless if that were true.
At the end of the day Johnson didn’t bother to connect with the staff or the customers of JCP. He kept himself disconnected – he even continued to live in California and only flew to Texas when necessary. Ron Johnson would never shop at his stores and that makes it tough for him to truly have a passion for what he was trying to create. His ability to take JCP to the next level was doomed from his first step. Hopefully this example can teach organizations how to avoid a similar situation in the future.
MTV: The Future of Branding???
Remember MTV from the 1980s? It was the original music TV channel that created a revolution. MTV created the “I Want My MTV” campaign targeted to the young generation of the time. MTV asked them to get involved, be part of the movement and tell all your cable providers that “I Want My MTV.” It was genius and created a form of ownership for that generation.
MTV transformed cable television – more that just by creating music television, but it also accidentally transformed the medium completely by creating reality television. It could even be argued that without MTV social media might look a lot different today.
Jump forward to today and MTV is losing viewers. It is competing with more than the other hundreds of channels, but is also competing with the internet. Millenials are consistently cutting the cord or many of them haven’t watched a television in years.
How can MTV keep its audience? It has to change its approach to give control of the channel – and the brand – to its audience. MTV is asking viewers to create content and hashtag it MTVBUMP, and they could end up on the air in as little as two hours. So basically it’s user-created content.
This could backfire greatly. How much time are Millenials and Generation Z going to really spend to try and get on the air? If they put effort into what they think is cool and MTV constantly rejects them, they can put it out on other channels themselves – Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, etc. They don’t need MTV to reach millions of viewers. They can reach them by themselves and also have the potential to get famous and make money at the same time.
Examples of MTV’s new branding direction.
MTV’s idea is new and fresh, but will it work? Will user-controlled branding be a “thing” in the future?
President, Popcorn Initiative
Chris Jones is a creative with a sense for business. After graduating from college with a degree in Graphic Design in 1993, he co-founded Backbone Design. Over the following seven years, Jones worked on accounts such as Walt Disney World Food and Beverage and helped develop the identity and collateral for NBA’s national theme restaurant, NBA City. In 2001, Jones founded Popcorn Initiative. Under Jones’ direction the company’s client list quickly grew to include: Florida Hospital, Sea World, Epcot, Disney Vacation Club, Rollins College, UCF, National Watermelon Promotion Board, Kissimmee Utility Authority, and Metroplan Orlando. With the belief that a strong concept and design are required on all projects, Popcorn Initiative strives for nothing less than their clients’ ultimate success. Jones’ concentration on providing his clients with highly effective work and excellent service has won him nothing but accolades from his clients. Jones’ work has won several design awards and has also been published in a number of national publications, including Print and How magazines, and has been featured in numerous books showcasing top design firms. Recently, Jones’ work on annual reports was recognized in Blackbook’s AR100, which features the best 100 annual reports in the world annually.