Friday, January 14, 2011

From Bland to Brand! Eight New Branding Rules to Rock Your 2011.

With the new year kicking off so much consumer and business branding/re-branding activity, now’s the time to look at some new rules – all focused on a single thought:

Be bold – it makes selling stuff easier.

That’s not just my opinion: some ideas* here are based on a four-year-old blog post I’ve been saving. When you read ‘em, though, remember what Hector Barbossa (Disney pirate captain and MTV “Best Villain”) said as regards the Code of the Order of the Brethren? It’s “more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.”

1] Stand-tall branding sells better. So make a stand. A brand with no P-O-V has no point. Whether you hate Fox News or love it, you do know where it stands on the issues. Ben & Jerry’s is more than just ice cream; it’s a company (even though owned by giant Unilever) that stands for a cause. Younger consumers – even IT pros and refinery managers – have grown up in a consumer world. I think they want their brands to stand up and be counted.

2] Feed the leaders. Consumers are more selective, more experimental, more interactive…and they lead from the front. They have strong opinions on brands, and a lot of brands are getting consumers involved. Even with engineers: check out the Emerson Process Management blog for superior customer-generated involvement. Adopt the leaders as your brand stakeholders.

3] Customization is today’s thriller. Customize whenever you can, whether it’s for iPod tunes or oilfield control systems. Consumer-wise, the power of the Internet has all kinds of customers wanting something all their own. Customers say, ‘I need just what fits my life.’ The best examples are Apple’s iPhone app store or Starbucks.

4] Deliver clarity directly. Quicker information, literally. Tell customers (or website visitors) as concisely as possible what you are selling. Anything that simplifies understanding for customers is a big thumbs-up. Strong brands recognize you have to be concise about what you’re selling at the point of contact; even complicated Athens Group is pretty direct, for example.

5] “Brand” is the promise of an experience. It’s a simple mandate: find the best way to give consumers a brand experience. Manage the whole experience. Consumer brands like Coca-Cola and Coach have done it. Forget the transaction, even forget about the logo or the tagline; deliver an experience and sales will follow. Can big industrial brands say the same? Compare Apple and Schlumberger websites.

6] Innovation is still a boardroom favorite. Brands are inspired by Apple more than anyone else. They continue to transform the computer business, the music business and the telephone business. Smart branders watch them like hawks. Procter & Gamble, 3M and GE drive this too – they have made innovation the core of their corporate strategies as well as their brand.

7] Do be responsive. Are you getting bad comments about your most recent brand change? Boo-hoo. We live in a world where everyone not only has an opinion; each one feels free to express it online. Participate with your brand’s stakeholders, let them vent. Take it like Starbucks recently – in good spirit. (and see Rule 1.)

8] Know what’s happening to your brand. Our instant-on culture isn’t forgiving. More people know instantly when a brand makes a mistake or if a website isn’t good enough. Negative PR will stick no matter what you do to correct it. Brands like Nike and Walmart still suffer (somewhat) from negative PR about alleged abuse of workers outside the US; BP is still hammered by Macondo. Use marketing research to find out where you’re vulnerable. Be open about fixes.

Bottom line (IMHO) – being bold is good. When it comes to branding, though, be smart-bold. Try to avoid the stupids in 2011. Now feel free to share your own “rules of branding” with the rest of us, eh? And that’s your pieces of eight for today.

*Based in part on “New Rules of Branding” by Derek Day, Branding Strategy Insider. Day deserves all the credit for the good ideas; the bad ones are probably mine. Or you could read the McKinsey version. “Hector Barossa” is © The Walt Disney Company. All rights reserved.


Jim Cahill said...

Happy New Year to you, Richard and thanks for the Emerson Process Experts shout out!

Having the blog as a hub and connections in Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn help foster tighter communications with process automation folks and members of our trade press & analyst community.

These relationships are the foundation of business opportunities.

Hopefully we'll have a chance to catch up face to face some time in 2011!

Michael Francis Reiland Jr. said...

Nice job Richard - Happy New Year!