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Archive for February, 2012

Brad VanAuken Branding: Just Ask...

When To Save Or Abandon A Troubled Brand


Brand Strategy SAAB

We are happy to answer marketing questions of all types here on Branding Strategy Insider. Today’s question comes from Karen, a Marketing Director in Cleveland, Ohio. She writes…

“We have a decision to make regarding the fate of a specialty brand of hardwood flooring. It has been in the market for the past two years — failing tremendously. I am stuck on whether or not to start the brand over or to rebuild it. I personally feel that the brand has a reputation in the industry as a serious failure. Anytime anyone discusses it, they almost laugh about it. I think it would be smarter to abandon the brand and start over with a new brand. What do you suggest? Rebuild or start over?”

Thanks for your question Karen. As you have indicated, your options are to reposition/re-launch the brand or launch a new brand. Either way, it will require a significant communications effort over time to build awareness or change perceptions. And, it is far easier to build brand awareness than it is to change brand perceptions with marketing communications.

I would measure top-of-mind and other unaided brand awareness within your brand’s product category by your brand’s target customers. I would do this blind (coming from a third party, not your company) to get an unbiased read. Further, I would measure brand perceptions: (a) top-of-mind, open ended question (“Thinking of brand “XYZ,” what comes to your mind?), (b) against a battery of brand and product category attributes and benefits (close ended) and (c) against a battery of brand personality attributes (close ended).

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Product Naming Guide For Start-Up Brands


Brand Naming Strategy Pretzel Crisps

Trademarks, which are names or symbols associated with a specific company or product, are tremendously valuable to companies building a brand. This is especially important for start-up brands that may underestimate the importance of developing a trademark early in the game.

Developing a trade name for a product or service is a difficult process in and of itself. Outside of the creative aspects of naming, being able to “own” the name as a registered trademark is more difficult than ever. The sheer volume of trademark registrations each year in every product category is staggering – and that’s why the process of naming is so critical to start-up brands.

Developing a brand name is by itself a highly specialized marketing discipline. The process for creating a brand name strong enough to propel its unique value into the minds of customers and pass legal muster requires the skill and talent of experts. It’s not a casual exercise. Even when the process has been carefully executed, owners of start-up brands can run into unforeseen legal trouble from larger competitors who may use trademark law as a means of eliminating competitive threats to their business.

Such was the case for a start-up snack food brand whose owners thought was a routine move to register the trademark of their hot new product — a flat pretzel snack called “Pretzel Crisps” — and it was contested by none other than Frito-Lay, the 800-pound gorilla of the snack food market owned by PepsiCo. 

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Advertising Derrick Daye

Launching A Brand Movement


Brand Strategy Volkswagen Think Small

It’s 1960, and you’re flipping through LIFE magazine. You’re stopped by an advertisement that doesn’t look like any of the other ads in the magazine. There’s lots of white space, a tiny off-center image of the car itself (which, by the way, is an odd-looking little vehicle), and an understated two-word headline, “Think small.”

The ad stands out because this isn’t what ads are supposed to be like in 1960. It’s neither splashy nor dreamy; it has none of those familiar ad images of folks laughing and frolicking, women’s hair blowing in the breeze, gorgeous scenery—all those too-good-to-be-true images that were associated with ads at the time. Moreover, the ad seems to be speaking a new language: it’s more straightforward and down-to-earth than ad copy is supposed to be, but at the same time, it’s also smarter, sharper, and more clever.

Just from reading the ad, you feel like maybe you get some sense of the people who made it, as well as the people who made the car. They’re not like everybody else; they seem to be zigging while all others are zagging—which is kind of the way you see yourself. In a time of conformity and “keeping up with the Joneses,” this ad is about going your own way. You may or not buy this car, but there’s something going on in this ad that you’re connecting with, and that you might want to be part of.

The Volkswagen “Think Small” campaign is widely recognized as the ad that helped launch advertising’s creative revolution of the 1960s. But I think it was something else, too. It may well have been the first time a marketer successfully launched a movement behind a brand.

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Branding and Social Media Derrick Daye

Brand Management: Beware Of The Little Mistakes


Brand Strategy Jeremy Lin New York Knicks

With New York Knicks point guard Jeremy Lin dominating sports headlines since his February 4 debut as a starter in a winning game against the New Jersey Nets, perhaps it was inevitable that the biggest controversy surrounding Lin would itself be a headline.

Following a February 17 loss to the New Orleans Hornets, ESPN.com’s mobile site posted a story with an offensive, racially-tinged headline that immediately set the Twitter-sphere afire and sparked days of outraged commentary and reaction. ESPN scrambled to recover, especially after learning that the very same phrase had been used earlier during an interview by an ESPNEWS anchor and, separately, by an ESPN Radio play-by-play announcer. Multiple apologies, one dismissal and one suspension later, ESPN is trying to put this ugly, unfortunate incident behind it.

But in a broader sense, this incident won’t go away because it is emblematic of a new concern worrying brand marketers these days – the power of instantaneous social indignation to blindside brands with consumer wrath and retribution. The ESPN controversy followed hard on the heels of other high-profile controversies, including the BP Gulf oil spill, the Netflix split and partial rebranding of its product offerings, the Bank of America debit card fee and the Susan G. Komen decision to discontinue its funding of Planned Parenthood. In each of these cases, angry people took to social media, and the ensuing tempests roiled these organizations and threatened their consumer goodwill and loyalty.

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Brand Engagement Derrick Daye

Brand Engagement Wins At The Academy Awards


Brand Strategy Billy Crystal Academy Awards

The Academy Awards are considered to be one of the biggest entertainment draws of the year, sometimes called the “Super Bowl for Women.” True, female ratings have been down. Overall ratings too. Last year’s viewership was down about 10% from the year prior. And they haven’t been doing all that well with those yearned-for younger viewers either.

As to that last point, last year the Academy went with the youngest co-hosts in its history – Anne Hathaway and James Franco – who received very bad reviews and didn’t bring in the younger, hipper viewers, who, one can only suppose, were supposed to have identified with them. The Academy was going with Eddie Murphy this year, but he bailed and Billy Crystal stepped in. Well, what can you say about that choice? Mr. Crystal, a 9-time host, can entertain with the best of them. But he’s 63 so not precisely a poster child for that coveted 18 – 34 year engagement Madison Avenue’s always looking for.

Which brings us to Brand Keys annual Academy Awards Engagement study. The way we approach the business, “entertainment” and “engagement” are two, very different things. Just like movies and advertising are two different things. One is there just to entertain. The other is there to convince viewers to behave positively toward the brand in the ad. You know, buy something. At the very least think better of the brand. Not to just sit there and laugh or be amazed at blue-screen special effects. In these days of fragmented media and titanium-strength consumer gate-keeping, this has become something of a tough assignment.

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