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BRANDING | 10 Ways Marketers Hijack Branding…and How It’s Killing Companies | Part Four


But you’ll still find DROVES OF MARKETERS who literally DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN a BRAND POSITION and, “Hey look at the FUNNY MONKEY.” Company marketing departments and their agencies often don’t infuse and inform marketing with any core brand story, essence or promise. While each NEW SHOCK and awe CAMPAIGN may see SHORT-LIVED upward BLIPS in SALES, the brand goes dark in the spaces between. BRAND EXPERIENCE IS LOST, and the OVERALL PROMISE FEELS FAKE or unconvincing.

Remember the Quiznos ad campaign featuring horribly disfigured rodents called spongmonkeys? Probably you’re trying to forget in order to regain your appetite. That off-brand marketing campaign managed the steepest decline of any major fast-food chain in history, thousands of franchisees sued, and Quiznos just barely avoided bankruptcy.

You may remember Quiznos. You may have chuckled. But likely you didn’t buy their sandwiches.

BRAND + IDENTITY is about DEFINING a TRUTHFUL and AUTHENTIC PLATFORM about WHO YOU ARE COLLECTIVELY as a COMPANY, and THE LEADERSHIP DRIVING YOUR VISION. Beyond making money, beyond the next logo, slogan, tagline, or marketing tactic. LIVING YOUR BRAND PROMISE includes INFORMING MARKETING with BRAND MEANING. And aligning marketing with brand promise is greatly more exciting, not to mention PROVEN TO BE BOTTOM LINE EFFECTIVE.

After the 1990s APPLE “THINK DIFFERENT” campaign launched, Steve Jobs said, “It only took 15 . . . 30 . . . maybe 60 seconds to RE-ESTABLISH Apple’s COUNTER-CULTURE image that it had lost during the 90s”. The MESSAGE was IN ALIGNMENT with Apple’s CORE CREATIVE RENEGADE BRAND VALUES, and TRANSFORMED extreme CRISIS into one of the BIGGEST company SUCCESS STORIES in HISTORY.

BRANDING | 10 Ways Marketers Hijack Branding…and How It’s Killing Companies | Part Three


In fact, there’s a name for copying original designs, names, phrases and other assets in the USA. Attorneys affectionately refer to that as INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY or TRADEMARK INFRINGEMENT. Suing people makes them smile. It’s what they do.

Despite the SERIOUS BUSINESS and LEGAL CONSEQUENCES, you’ll find plenty of risky logo designs everywhere. Perhaps hundreds or thousands of CHEAP DESIGNERS and ONLINE LOGO FACTORIES eager to please. To quote a prominent colleague, “Any dolt with a computer thinks he/she can design.” If you’re wise, you’ll stay far, far away from those types. Your logos, designs, names and phrases are SERIOUS INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY and BUSINESS ASSETS. Don’t find yourself on the wrong end of a cease and desist letter.

Here’s a lovely and recent example of 7-Eleven suing 7-Seven for trademark infringement. Lawsuits abound for far less blatant examples.

And just for fun, Floating Banana convincingly shows how may have copied several trademarked logos––in addition to the cheesy, cliché, unmemorable, unremarkable, unintelligible and illegible ones that can devalue companies.

The MORAL is to BE AUTHENTIC, MEMORABLE and ORIGINAL. True to yourself and YOUR UNIQUE IDENTITY. Discover it. LIVE BY IT. Create quality in everything your brand touches. DARE TO STAND OUT. Otherwise, you stand to come across as a fake. A BORING CLICHE´. A CHEAP KNOCK-OFF. Suspiciously or blatantly masquerading as the real thing.

You’ll need professional branding help getting there, because it’s NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO BE OBJECTIVE with your OWN IDENTITY. Many companies have tried, and failed, to successfully rebrand in-house. TRUE BRAND PROFESSIONALS understand how to BRING OUT the EXCITMENTof WHO YOU ARE. They’ll help you navigate the twisty curvy path toward CREATING REMARKABLE (and trademarkable) BRANDS that PEOPLE DESIRE.

February 21, 2018

BRANDING | 10 Ways Marketers Hijack Branding…and How It’s Killing Companies | Part Two


Suddenly the world is teeming with merchandising and OTHER DESIGN FIRMS that SIMPLY SLAP A LOGO ON a promotion or trinket, and triumphantly call it branding. You’ll often recognize them by their websites plastered with gazillions of prominent COMPANY LOGOS they DIDN’T DESIGN or STRATEGIZE.

These BRAND BOTTOM FEEDERS may try to con you into designing your serious intellectual property assets, like logo or design system. But most have ZERO BRANDING EXPERIENCE and provide NO BRAND STRATEGY, let alone understand your business challenges. The better ones will follow your brand guidelines and policies, but that’s about it.

So before you hire “ XYZ Branding ” firm, find out what they actually do. Make sure you consult with a PROVEN BRAND + IDENTITY FIRM that has IN-DEPTH EXPERIENCE defining, planning and executing critical brand and creative decisions—including KEEPING IDENTITY and PROMOTIONS ON-BRAND.

BRANDING | 10 Ways Marketers Hijack Branding…and How It’s Killing Companies | Part One

An infestation of ill-informed marketers, agencies and companies are creating a pandemic throughout the world of brands. Their motto? We know branding.

In reality, the universe is rife with marketers, companies or agencies who don’t have the slightest clue of what makes a brand insanely successful. Nor are they particular about which companies they kill mercilessly.

Want to keep your brand alive and healthy? Learn how rogue marketers latch onto a brand nucleus like a virus, hijacking a brand’s DNA—sometimes irreversibly damaging or destroying its host…


Companies and agencies frequently perform an empty visual exercise simply to stroke their own egos. Making trendy cosmetic changes without thinking through real business objectives or consequences.

KEY: Instead, companies need to define what is their brands promise. Then bring those promises to life in visual, verbal, and experience. For rebranding, that means redefine, reposition, and then Execute REAL TRANSFORMATION. That’s what drives real value and meaning to brand, and drives bottom line returns.


1. SIGNAL Real Change in an Organization.

2. SIGNAL Change in Vision, Culture, Marketplace Response, or Executing Other New Objectives.

3. OVERCOME Technical Challenges in Visual Implementation as a Company Grows, Creates New Business Relationships, Merges or is Acquired.

4. REALIGN Visual Expressions After Years of Disparate, Unclear Implementation by Users of the Brand or Poor Brand Management.

5. CREATE A Branded Ecosystem of Sensory Experiences that People Want to Make Part of Their Lives.

6. MAKE Your Products or Services More Desirable and Easier to Understand and Buy.

7. TRANSFORM Mere Commodities into Valuable Brands that People Will Pay a Premium For.

8. REDUCE Advertising and Marketing Costs.

9. REDUCE Brand Management Costs.

10. ENABLE Expansion into New or Different Markets.

11. ENABLE Wisely Planned Brand Extensions or Disable Cannibalizing Ones.

12. IMPLEMENT Important Changes to a Well-Planned Brand Architecture System that Creates the Right Mix of Distance or Unity with Other Branded Offerings.

13. ACT As a Beacon or Constant Reminder of Who You Really Are and What You Truly Represent.

14. CREATE Valuable Intellectual Property Assets.

15. CREATE Other New Functional or Emotional Benefits.

BRANDING | Consider Your Brand’s Opacity to Develop a Winning Brand Strategy | Part Three

Why This Difference?

The transparent nature of service brands means that most customers can perceive distinguishing characteristics of a brand during both the production and consumption process. Unlike the opaqueness of CPG brands, the production and consumption of services brands is inseparable. It literally takes place in the full view of its customers. It’s transparent.

Because of the inherent intangibility and inseparability of services brands, the services marketing mix must include the four additional strategies in its toolbox. It is through these strategies that services marketers are able to ensure the consistent quality of their services offering and better manage customers’ perceptions of their brand’s distinguishing characteristics. People strategy and the extent to which front-line services interactions are supported through enabling business processes and information technologies are crucial in this regard.

This is Why Marketers of Services Brands Often Say, “Our Culture Is Our Brand.”

The Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts is A Case In Point

Renowned for its leadership in transforming the hospitality industry through its unique focus on offering only experiences of exceptional quality, Four Seasons makes this statement about its service culture on its website:

“Our objective is to be recognized as the company that manages the finest hotels, resorts and residence clubs wherever we locate. We create properties of enduring value using superior design and finishes, and support them with a deeply instilled ethic of personal service. Doing so allows Four Seasons to satisfy the needs and tastes of our discriminating customers, and to maintain our position as the world’s premier luxury hospitality company.”

Given their artfully conceived brand strategies it’s no wonder that both Dove and Four Seasons continue to win in the marketplace.

The next time you find yourself tasked with conceiving a brand strategy you now have a better idea of some of the important tools in the brand strategy toolbox and also their potential utility for brand building within different arenas. Most important, you now know that it is useful to consider your brand’s opacity if you want to develop a winning brand strategy.

While this post has considered only two examples of brands at opposite ends of the brand opacity continuum, contemplating where your brand fits on this continuum will help you to develop your marketing mix to build your brand and business.

BRANDING | Consider Your Brand’s Opacity to Develop a Winning Brand Strategy | Part Two

So How Do Customers Perceive the Difference?

It is largely through the brand’s communication–the voice of the brand–that customers can perceive these differences. That is why brand managers in the CPG industry must develop such a thorough knowledge of branding. It is because of their expertise that these marketers can ensure customers can hear the distinguishing claims of their brands and are able to perceive them during the purchase and consumption process.

Dove is a Case In Point

Dove’s packaging informs and reminds customers of the brand’s difference at the product attribute level–one quarter moisturizing cream—which in turn allows customers to conclude that Dove soap cleans without drying your skin. Although this premise is central to Dove’s brand proposition, by itself it is no longer sufficient in the face of universal product enhancements by the other major players in the industry. That is why Dove has chosen to focus so much of its branding effort in traditional and contemporary media platforms on linking the abstract benefits of the brand with a higher social purpose—to help to bring about “a world where every girl grows up with the self-esteem she needs to reach her full potential, and where every
woman enjoys feeling confident in her own beauty.”

While it is true that every part of the marketing mix plays a role in shaping customer demand and can have a branding effect, communication strategies need to play a prominent role in the design of brand strategy if CPG brands are to be successful in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.

Services Brands Are Transparent

Brand strategy for services brands has historically focused on creating, delivering and communicating the compelling value desired by customers through the so-called services marketing mix and it includes four additional strategies to those used to formulate brand strategy for CPG brands: people, process, physical evidence and information technology strategies.

BRANDING | Consider Your Brand’s Opacity to Develop a Winning Brand Strategy | Part One

The crucial role of brand strategy in brand building and described it as “the means by which we associate a brand with a compelling promise of value in the minds of customers” and shape customer demand.

This Definition Poses Two Important Questions:

What are the tools in the brand strategy toolbox?
Are these tools equally valuable for brands regardless of the context in which brand building must take place?

While an exhaustive review of this subject is not possible in a single post, my intention is to highlight the important tools in this toolbox and their potential utility for brand building within two different business-to-consumer arenas:

Packaged Goods Brands
Services Brands

Packaged Goods Brands Are Opaque

Brand strategy for consumer packaged goods (CPG) brands has historically focused on creating, delivering and communicating the compelling value desired by customers through the so-called marketing mix: product, pricing, place
and communication strategies.

These strategies associate a brand with its compelling promise of value in the minds of customers and drive the purchase and consumption of the products that are at the heart of their attraction to these brands. A key consideration in formulating brand strategy for CPG brands continues to be their opaque nature. They are opaque because the manufacturing process of CPG brands is hidden from customers and removed from their consumption process by a long supply chain–customers cannot easily perceive the difference in efficacy between one brand and another during the purchase and consumption process. Universal advances in manufacturing and product formulation during the past ten years have all but ensured the commoditization of many CPG brands at the product level because product performance differences between competing brands are often difficult for consumers to detect. That’s why product innovation continues to receive such a high priority in leading CPG companies such as P&G.

February 1, 2018

BRANDING | Make Storytelling Work For Your Brand

Storytelling by itself is not a new concept. However as a brand strategy, it’s an effective way to engage with consumers and build bonds with them, and it’s something that more and more brands are starting to recognise and take advantage of.

Having something to say in the first place is, of course, the first piece of the puzzle. But what is being said needs to have some relevance to the product, the consumer and the overarching brand message, in order to have any level of resonance or authenticity. From authenticity comes trust and trust, as we know from the laws of attraction, leads to long-term relationships.

Steven Levitt, economist and author of Freakonomics, has said:

“In a marketing world where people are constantly being bombarded by false messages, authenticity is the one thing.”

Brand storytelling though, isn’t as simple as just having something to say, or just having a story. As with any effective communication strategy, to be truly successful, a brand has to have a thorough understanding of its audience, and as well as this, the narrative needs to be delivered in the most appropriate way for them – and for today’s brands, there are many choices of channels to use.

The media that consumers are using to engage with brands is changing all the time. Our use of technology brings with it another, different level of emotional engagement. This can be leveraged to deliver a story in a way that aligns and resonates with the way that consumers are experiencing the world around them.

The use of technology, especially social media, enables consumers to actively interact with brands like never before. Consumers are now, more than ever, expecting to connect to brands in this way, and what’s more, are willingly becoming part of the storytelling process.

Social media is very much about the here and now. But how does storytelling benefit a brand in the future? The designer, Vivienne Westwood has talked about the identity, longevity and life her products are given when stories are ingrained into them:

“One of the reasons some things I designed 30 years ago are still seen as edgy is because they tell stories”.

Westwood believes that stories are inherent in everything but that it is the consumer that edits that story when they engage with the product and makes it theirs in their own unique way.

“Everything has to tell a story. Somehow the clothes have this story integral to them. And for everybody that tries the clothes on it becomes a different story. But because it’s had the story to begin with, it adds character to the person.”

I hope your own brand story has a happy ending!

TYPES OF LOGOS | Text, Symbol and Combination Logos | Part Two


A symbol logo is the opposite extreme in design from a text logo. This type of logo includes neither words nor letters—only symbols, images and shapes.

A Symbol Logo Works Well When:

• Your company already has a high level of brand recognition. If who you are and what you do are already widely known, then you can use a symbol logo as an elegant and clean solution.

• You have been using a combination logo for some time and have now built up enough brand recognition for your symbol to stand alone. This is a common transition for a logo design to take when your company grows.

• You have a unique symbol in your industry—you wouldn’t want to be confused with or mistaken for anyone else in your industry!

• You have the time and energy to trademark your logo, and then to police and enforce that trademark. This is how you ensure that your logo continues to be uniquely yours.

• You have a global presence and can develop a universal, graphic symbol that speaks to you and audiences. Additionally, a symbol can have meanings on many levels, and can also have different meanings in different cultures

A Text Logo May Not Be The Right Choice If:

• You are a company just starting out, you must have the budget and desire to educate your audience on your new symbol logo. This can be a difficult task.


A logo that in some manner combines both a symbol and the company name. The symbol and text can be integrated together, side by side, or with one located above the other.

Combination logos Are The Most Common Type Of Logo For Several Reasons:

• A combination logo offers the best of both worlds. This type of logo offers a memorable logo graphic that tells the story of who you are, what you do, and what makes you different, all in conjunction with your business name for easy identification.

• A combination logo is an excellent choice for a small- or medium-sized company or a company just starting out, to begin to build brand recognition, because a combination logo is both visually strong and explanatory. The symbol can speak to the services that the company offers, while the company name increases the company recognition.

• Combination logos are easier to copyright and protect than a symbol-only logo, because the logo symbol will always be used in conjunction with the business name. This automatically makes the logo unique.

You can use this guide to determine the best type of logo to design or to have designed for your company, based on the size of your business, how well-known you are, your business name, and your business plans, among other factors. Choosing the right type of logo design is the first step in building your company’s visibility, credibility, and memorability.

TYPES OF LOGOS | Text, Symbol and Combination Logos Part One

There are three basic types of logos: text, symbol, and combination logos. The type of logo that will work best for your company depends on a number of considerations, such as the size of your company, the uniqueness of your name, and a variety of other factors.


A text logo (also sometimes called a logotype or word mark) is a logo largely made up of the text of the company’s name. This type of logo can have some graphic elements—lines, boxes, borders—that interact with, surround, or even form the letters. However, the graphic elements should be used as an accent to the text, not as a major or equally-weighted part of the logo.

A Text Logo Works Well When:

• You have a multi-word business name. If your business name is made up of many words, that are not commonly or easily abbreviated, or when an abbreviation may not be appropriate developing a text logo will keep the logo design as simple and clean as possible.

• You’re working with an innovative, unique business name, as with Yahoo or Google. In each case, the business name is enough to make the logo memorable.

• You’re designing a logo for a large company that offers many types of products, services, or a combination of both, that may be hard to define or “wrap up” in a single picture or symbol.

• You’re designing a logo “for the long haul”—there is less concern about your company “outgrowing” a text logo—they are timeless and classic.

• Trademark protection is highly important—as long as your business name is unique, then a text logo will also be unique.

A Text Logo May Not Be The Right Choice If:

• Your business name is not unique; this can mean difficulty for building your brand recognition. Then, without a symbol, the logo will be more difficult to remember or to associate with your business.

• Your business name does not describe what you do, it can be hard to tell what products or services you offer when just a text logo is used. Taglines or other graphic elements will need to be employed to tell your audience more about your business.